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Jesus is the True Messenger: Repent and Follow Him!!

04 December 2022

Year A

Isaiah 11:1-10

Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19

Romans 15:4-13

Matthew 3:1-12

Sunday Cycle of Prayer

The Episcopal Church in Jerusalem & The Middle East

St. Barnabas Church, DeLand

Church of the Advent, Dunnellon

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Last week, I spoke about Advent moments. The split seconds during the course of your normal day when you recognize God breaking into your life reminding you of God’s presence, grace, mercy and goodness towards you.

This morning I want to talk about another type of moment. A Kairos Moment. A Kairos moment is when you recognize God is both breaking into your life and inviting you to become a messenger for Christ. A messenger, perhaps, like John the Baptist, joining with Jesus Christ becoming his hands and fee. Utilizing your gifts as best you can, sharing the Good news Christ’s light and love, justice and peace, judgement and salvation through your prayers, presence, and/or provision. Kairos moments are those times when you sense the Holy Spirit nudging you to be present and help a suffering friend notice words of Holy Scripture jump off the page to share with others, feel called, out of the blue, to pray for family or friends…

You and I both know God is always right on time and Kairos moments are God’s appointed times for God to work in the world. Moments when God nudges you and me to encourage us to wonder, to consider and to discern how, when, and where we are called to step up to join God at work in our world. Kairos moments invite us to seize the day, carpe diem. To trust God, as we join hands with Christ, has the power to change our life path and to shift our perspective about how to live our lives.

This is what we hear in John the Baptist’s proclamation this morning. John the Baptist the one who went before the Messiah preaching and preparing the way calls you and me to embrace Kairos moments, cautioning us that the Kingdom of God is already at hand working in our hearts, relationships, and world and we have a life-defining choice to make over and over again. Christ has come and Christ will come again. Will we choose to reject or to accept Christ? And if we accept, Christ will we confess and repent of our sins and turn around to invite Christ into our hearts and become messengers of his Good News? (373)

This morning’s Gospel lesson is a Kairos moment for John, the Jewish people then, and for us today 400 years before, Israel’s last prophet, Malachi, had predicted the prophet Elijah would return before the Second Coming of Christ to turn the hearts of parents to children and vice versa to restore right relationships. Back then the people’s understanding of holy living, being righteousness was to focus on keeping 648 Torah laws. Being perfect unkeepable at best and oppressing them under Jewish authority in a world already domineered by tyrannical Roman rule.

While you and I haven’t waited 400 years for a word from God near the end of 2022 as a pandemic lingers, economic uncertain threatens to deepen, political differences divide the country and war rages in the Ukraine many of us like the Israelites back then can feel discouraged, wonder can we ever get it right and question where God is at work anyway?

John the Baptist, of all characters, can inspire us as to how to live holy lives, righteous lives as messengers of Christ. As we look at both WHO he was and WHAT message he conveyed,

John the Baptist as you remember was probably Jesus’ older cousin older by a mere six months…born miraculously to elderly, faithful parents, Zechariah and Elizabeth, first to recognize Jesus in Mary’s womb and leap for joy, destined to act with the spirit and power of Elijah to restore relationships. John preceded Jesus to the mission field, waiting faithfully in the desert to be called speaking with authority of God’s truth in spite of having no power in either the political or religious systems, preaching Jesus message, God’s plan of salvation available to all people.

John was not just Jesus’ warm-up act, John announced the coming of the Savior, Your savior, my savior and his Savior. For while John’s ministry preceded Jesus’s ministry. John never made himself and his desires more important than Jesus’s, he pointed beyond himself to his Lord and Savior John knew who he was and that his role was to proclaim the coming of CHRIST and to PREPARE the people. John utilized God’s gifts to him as best he could to shine the light on evil to people of all social strata (at the cost of losing his head to crazy Herodias) and to summon men and women to live holy lives of righteousness by a change of heart, a big shift in perspective. John didn’t try TO BE MORE than he was called to be EITHER out of his own insecurity saying YES when he really was called to say NO, failing to recognize his own limitations. denying the reality of his situation to fend off his fear or by giving in to social pressures to keep up with the Joneses or succumb to believing and doing what others thought he was called as a good Jewish man.

And John also didn’t shrink away and be LESS than he was called to be. John trusted that while he felt unworthy to carry Jesus’s sandals. God had called him and would provide for him to empower him to fulfill his own role. John’s actions remind us God calls us to cultivate our gifts and talents to utilize our gifts in service to others and to give all the thanks and glory to God without stroking our own egos in pride for accomplishments of God working within us.

For as Isaiah reminds us today and Jesus cites in St. John’s Gospel, Jesus is the divine branch, the vine from whom the Lord’s spirit dwells to bring peace and justice, we can do nothing on our own, apart from God. (John 15).

John’s baptism of water usually an initiation rite for Gentile proselytes was for all persons willing to confess their sins, repent, and turn back toward God to have their bodies and spirits cleansed in the Jordans’ waters. To prepare them for Jesus’s baptism with the Holy Spirit and fire Jesus’ baptism would illuminate, warm, and purify the people’s hearts and souls from the hostilities, anger, and defensive walls which kept them disconnected from true relationship with

God, others, and themselves. John’s message inspires us to prepare our hearts for Christ’s second coming – Repent - bear fruit of repentance. To repent, or metanoeo in Greek, means “to change one’s mind...”

Kairos moments alert us that God has invited, and continues to invite, you and me to recognize when we need God’s help to make our life paths straight, to confess our sins, turn back, and bear our own fruit. We are not to rest on the laurel or accomplishments God worked in those who have gone before us or perhaps in our very selves in earlier life seasons.

God invites us to keep growing…growing into the people God created us to be, developing and utilizing our gifts to serve others, transforming our whole hearts to be God’s messengers on earth. John, the last Old Testament prophet is the first and resounding voice crying out in the wilderness inspiring us to shift our perspective from keeping external laws to opening our hearts to allow Jesus to dwell within all the rooms and to transform our hostilities and prejudices into the peaceable Kingdom.

Isaish writes about one of justice and peace within and among us. Repentance, as Pastor Phillip McLarty reminded me this week is not God belittling us, “you can do better” but rather God summoning us “Turn away from your vain striving, my daughter, my son and lean on my everlasting arms.”

To repent means that you are not necessarily doing more to please God but that you are letting go of your own desires to follow God’s plan, trusting that when you reach the end of your rope, the limits of your own strength and ability and have no one or nowhere else to turn to God will be there to shower you with grace and love.

We can never do enough to measure up to God’s righteousness but God summons us in Kairos Moments to turn away from the world and our own egos to trust in God and with God’s help

we will become the person God calls us to be and will utilize the gifts God has given us. For God wishes to bestow the gift of God’s Holy Spirit to provide the free gifts of empowerment, grace, and love to be His messengers.

In closing I want to share the story of the famous Rabbi Zusha on his deathbed, Rabbi Zusha cried unconsolably. One of his students asked why he was crying the Rabbi shared, "When I pass from this world and appear before the Heavenly Tribunal, they won't ask me, 'Zusha, why weren't you as wise as Moses or as kind as Abraham,' rather, they will ask me, 'Zusha, why weren't you Zusha?' Why didn't I fulfill my potential, why didn't I follow the path that could have been mine?

So this week stop and listen for where God is calling you to become God’s messenger and repent and bear fruit.


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