Pastor's Sermons

Sermon for Advent 3 ~ December 14, 2014

John 1:6-8, 19-28

Have you ever been birdwatching?  The leader takes the group out to where the birds are.  Then there is a slow and quiet walk in the woods.  At a certain point he motions us to stop.  We all hear something. He looks through his spotting scope and then stands and points.  “There it is!” he says.  Twenty pair of binoculars turn in that direction.  “Where? Where?” people mutter to one another.  “There!  Don’t you see it?” someone says.  “The 3rd tree, 4th branch!”  Finally, there is a low murmur through the group as one person steers the view of another.  “Oh, THERE!  Now I see!”

I was in a group like that one time and eventually did see what everyone else was looking at.  My problem was that I was looking for something colorful and flashy, but it was only a little bird singing with a heart bigger than itself.


We are with John the Baptist again this week. He hears the song of the Lord and wants to show us who it is…


A Witness


As we heard last week, a lot of people were coming out in response to John.  They were looking for something.  I wonder what it was.  People are like that today.  Looking, wondering, debating, arguing, reading books, taking retreats, spiritual direction, meditation – all in search of something – like the crowds coming to John.


We’ve seen the extremes of this.  Recently there was a story in the news about a young man from Ottawa who was urging terror attacks on Canadian targets.  He had become convinced from online information that our society is corrupt and we are all wrong.  He was looking for something in his life and became “radicalized” by the witness of others.   As this shows, it is possible to sell ourselves out to someone else.  No wonder we are skeptical about what people say.


The people in John’s day heard many voices: the voices of animals at sacrifice, of priests and teachers instructing, the harsh voice of Roman soldiers, the hushed voice of rebellion, and the voice of their children wanting to be held.


You hear today’s voices too. People on TV and the internet tell you what to do and why it’s the best way to believe, to diet, to exercise, to invest, to travel and find relationships.  In most cases they profit in the end. 


The authorities considered John another self-aggrandizing pretender.  They thought he was touting himself as the messiah, as Elijah or a prophet who was trying to gather a following for his own reasons.  He said, “Nope.”


As John cries out across the valley, the world and the centuries, his is not a voice trying to manipulate or indoctrinate.  He is not condemning or radicalizing here.  What John tells us we need is Redirection.


The Voice…


He redirects to light.  That helps when you are in the dark, lost, sidetracked or if you have hit the ditch on winding and slippery roads.  He never said, “Follow me.”  He directed attention away from himself.  It was like he was saying, “Forget me.  I`m like a traffic signal: stop, watch out, go.  I’m nothing. The one coming… he’s everything.”


I think he astonished his critics by telling them, “Among you stands one whom you do not know.”  Do we know that?  The coming one is already among us!  That is what John’s Voice was about: the message, the Word that comes today is that the Lord is already with us – Emmanuel.


… among you stands one whom you do not know…


That’s why this Gospel tells us that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth.  It’s another version of the Christmas story: God, always present, takes shape right here among us.  In John’s day it was the person of Jesus.  And that body of Christ – where is it today?  Look around my friends: God takes shape here.  The Spirit is present here in much the same way as in Jesus who stepped forward up to John.


God is easy to miss if we are looking for some fantastic spectacle, or some throbbing inner vibration.  God is easy to miss if we dismiss everything small and ordinary.  Like that little bird in the tree … God is present, but I often don’t even know it.


Like Jesus, God takes shape among us in mercy for the rejected, time for the abandoned, and gentleness for the weak.  God takes shape among us in opposition to the violent, the pompous and conniving.  God takes shape among us as a child in a manger, as a host at table with friends, with so much forgiveness spilling out of him that it covers even those who hang him up on a cross. 


That’s what John is pointing us to.  That’s why his faith is important to him.  It brings light to his dark world.  In a conversation with a man at A&W this week, he told me, “This world is sure broken.”  Exactly.  John is a witness to light and to courage in a broken world.


Why is your faith important to you?  Why do you keep gathering here near the water?  Why do you keep coming to this little table?  Let’s take a minute of witness. You don’t have to try and explain what you believe – we are all at different points on that journey… Just tell someone near you WHY… Why your faith is important, why you are here again today.  Be a Voice.


(A brief exchange with each other)


My faith is important to me because it tells me that Jesus will never forsake us, come what may.


John said that he was a VOICE.  We are voices too.  Voices that testify to light, voices of redirection that help us see that God is present right here among us…


Like that little bird in a tree with a song of wonder and beauty for everyone.



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