Archive for December 2011

Pointing the Finger… to Christ!

December 5, 2011

Mark 1:1-8
The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
2As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,
“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way;
3the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,’”
4John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. 8I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

Children’s Time: Have you ever seen road construction? Like on the way to the Maplewood Mall, I can’t believe how long that project has taken! Every time I go there seems to be another traffic jam or delay. Some day it will be done… but that road is never quite finished. Because down the street there’s another hole just starting to crack open. The city is there to make sure our roads remain open and accessible so we can get to where we need to go. The same is true in the Bible. John the Baptist was sent to make a strait path for people to believe in God and in Jesus. It’s not a road that’s under construction – but the highway of your heart. Every day God is working on you to help clear a path for goodness to ride into your heart and out to everyone you meet. Let’s pray and ask God to keep that highway free and clear always!

Intro: Dear friends in Christ: grace to you and peace, from the One who is and who was and who is to come: our living Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

I was always taught that it’s not polite to point. How do you feel when someone’s pointing at you? Guilty? Judged? Maybe they’re talking about me behind my back? I point at the dog when I’m angry with him. “No! No, no, no.” It can hurt to be on the receiving end of someone’s pointing finger!

On the other hand, it can also lead people to you – a new client at work – an old acquaintance at a party – “Oh, he’s over there. Wave, hi!” That pointing finger just might lead you to “the one” you’ll be spending the rest of your life with!  So a lot depends on the person doing the pointing.

In our lesson for today, John is pointing at someone: “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

John has a role to play this Advent season as we prepare our hearts for the coming Christ child once again… He is the foreman on the construction team. But he doesn’t point a judging finger. Sure, he calls people to repent – to run away from their sins – and be baptized. But in so doing, he brings comfort and mercy… calling for repentance… pointing the way to the One coming after him…

There’s a statue of John the Baptist at St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville, MN. And you can’t really tell who it is at first. I had to ask one of the monks, “Who’s that?” Maybe I didn’t notice the camel’s hide he was wearing, or the honey & locusts stuck to his chin. “Oh, that’s John the Baptist,” the monk said. “You can tell because he’s pointing.” “Pointing at what?” I said, dumbly. “Point at Christ, of course,” came the reply.

How are we doing at pointing at Christ? It’s okay to point that finger. In fact, in this sense, it’s our calling as people of faith. Helping others find the way. Or, as Isaiah put it: “The uneven places will become level and the rough places a plain.”

Billy Graham has a new book out entitled Nearing Home. He writes: “All my life I was taught how to die as a Christian, but no one ever taught me how I ought to live in my latter years. Old age has its challenges and is not for wimps, but God wants us to embrace it as part of His plan for our lives, and to look for the Lord’s purpose in every circumstance and in every face or voice we encounter daily.”

For someone of his stature, a juggernaut of the faith (I used to watch him on TV all the time), to have the humility to admit he still has some rough places that need smoothing out… gives me hope.

People often don’t know what to do with this. Like pointing, inviting others into the faith may seem impolite or pushy. And yet that didn’t stop John. Nor should it stop us.

Is God is calling you to confess and come home? To repent and be baptized? If so, I want to invite you to come and be baptized. Come and see me. We’ll pray about it and set something up to celebrate your homecoming in the faith. Oh, I know it sounds embarrassing, especially since we typically baptize infants in the Lutheran church. But there is an increasing number of people who have little or no connection to a church – who weren’t raised in the faith – who perhaps are hearing the story of God’s redeeming love for the first time.

Others perhaps have heard it and have drifted away. There is a renewal for you as well. If you’ve already been baptized, then use this time as a remembrance of your baptism – or to simply dip your fingers in the waters on your way home and touch your forehead, making the sign of the cross.

“You have been sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever.”

Martin Luther spoke of his need to be walking wet each day – washed daily in the waters of his baptism. This day will be a rededication of your life to the Lord you have always known.

And yet, for others who have never been washed in those waters, I want to invite you to come. There’s someone I’ll point you to as best I can. Come and enter these waters of the Holy Spirit – this bath that washes away sin and make us whole – this meal of simple bread and wine that is given and shed for you, for the forgiveness of sins. Come and enter the life of this church as we find our way home… together… pointing in the most polite way we can to the One who gives life and salvation.

Amen.

Now, the peace of God which passes all understanding, guard and keep our hearts and minds together as one in Christ, Jesus, our Lord. Amen.

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