Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
Advent 2A, December 8th, 2013
Does anyone here need encouragement? If you do, then this is the message you’ve been waiting for; it’s a message that will change your life, and for some, it will even change your eternity. Are you ready to hear that message? Good, here it is: ‘REPENT!’
That’s right, you heard me correctly… repent… do a 180 degree turn. Don’t turn away from joy turn into it. Turn away from what ever thought, mood, idea, or circumstance that is consuming you, and instead turn to the one and only thing that will bring you peace; peace that can only come through endurance. Endurance that can only come through the Word and work of God, a work that will continue to encourage you to repent!
When I was a boy, my Great Grandmother would tell me, “Brian, turn around. Let me see your smiling face.” This morning, God’s Word is inviting us to turn around also. He’s asking us to turn away from a life that is centered on ourselves and instead turn towards the cross of His Son Jesus Christ, and live a life that is centered on His grace.
Each of us here this morning, at one time or another in our lives have had an endurance problem. That is we want to give up on God’s work within and around us, and simply give into whatever issues seem to be competing for our attention. I can understand that; never have there been so many distractions vying for our attention. There is so much noise around us, especially during the Christmas season; so many voices competing for our attention. If you want to be heard, you almost have to shout!
I’ve read that during a typical lunch hour at the University of California at Berkeley, spokesmen for a dozen different causes can be found on the plaza, trying to out shout one another. One day a lone figure sat down defiantly in the middle of the crowd and held up a sign that said, “SILENT PROTEST.” Someone tapped him on the shoulder and asked, “What are you protesting?” The defiant figure held up another sign, which said simply, “NOISE.”
Now this morning, in the middle of all of this noise, all of the madness there is one message being shouted that you really must listen to; it is the message of God… REPENT!
If you’ve fallen in sin, even the same sin many times, get back up and turn around. Do a 180 and call out to the One who has come and shall come again.
I’ve had many folks talk to me about their faith. They love to talk about the life, the Christian life they use to live as children, but for many reasons have abandoned. They don’t go to church, they don’t go to Bible study, and they don’t even read their Bibles. “But” they love to tell me, “I still pray!” And to that statement, I ask them, “Well how do you know God is listening?” After a moment of silence, they usually will admit that because of their sin problem, they don’t know if God is listening.
Can I be honest with you? Those people like each of us here today, don’t have a sin problem; they have a getting back up problem; an endurance problem. They no longer seem to have the strength to get back up and call out to God. They think that because they keep sinning, God no longer wants to hear them ask to be forgiven. When folks like those come my way, I have a keen desire to help them see God the way they once did as a child. I want to reconnect them to the faith of their youth and the source of their strength, which is the Word of God and His church, so that they will turn back and know the beauty of repentance.
But then there’s another group of people that I have to pray to have a heart for. I as a pastor, have to repent and ask God to help me love them and share the same message with them. Even if I don’t feel like sharing the message with them, God still speaks it, even shouts it out to them: REPENT! Turn around; do a 180 and find your true Savior; your King and your Lord!
Who are these people? Well they aren’t that much different than the Pharisees and Sadducees that John singled out in our Gospel reading (Matthew 3:1-12). They are the ones who think that their Christian religion, or their status in the church makes them superior to other folks. They are the ones who make a show out of their worship so that they will be noticed, or the ones who sit quietly alone scowling at anyone who does not act like or talk like them. The religion they practice is for the observation of others and not a cry out to God for mercy or thanks. They too, like the other sinners have a problem. Again, they don’t have a sin problem, they sure can sin, no problem. No they have a getting back up and calling out to God in honesty problem.
We all have an endurance problem; our strength and self-reliance is not enough to complete the task that John the Baptizer has asked us to perform. Repent. Do you know what God is asking you to do when He calls you to repentance? Well John told us; he said to “Prepare the way of the Lord; make His paths straight.” That is destroy all of the mountains and fill in all of the valleys. But he isn’t talking about literal mountains and valleys; he is talking about our hearts. All sin must be removed. All evil selfish thoughts must be annihilated. All of your pride and your lust must be disintegrated. Those are the things that you have fallen into; those are the things that you now embrace as your daily reality.
By now, I hope that you can see that you could never on your own free yourselves from these things. They are a part of your sinful self. But there is One Who has come and is coming again who not only can free you, but has freed you. And all you need do is get up and turn to Him and call out to Him. That is not just the point of our message this morning, but it is the very power that enables you to do it.
This morning I point you to the cross of Jesus Christ. It was there that your hard stony mountainous hearts were pulverized and made low. It was at the cross that every dark valley of your sinful soul was filled and made level. And from the cross of Jesus Christ, I must now point you to your baptism where the preparations of the cross became your reality. You have not just been baptized with simple water, but with the powerful Word of God; a Word that is Spirit and truth. This washing of water and Word has been given to you as a gift of Spirit and truth. Truth to look within your heart and see the decay and agony of sin yes, but also truth to look outside of your sinful flesh and see an eternal reality. You have been bought with a price, a great price. With His own blood, Christ redeemed you and made you His own. He will never disown you. He who began the good work of recreation within you, is the One who will complete it, in His time and through His power.
This is the kind of repentance that John the Baptizer was calling for. It is a strength and power that can only come through the One who brings God’s Kingdom of Grace to sinners such as you and me.
Remember my childhood memory that I shared with you about my Great Grand Mother? “She told me, “Brian, turn around, let me see your smile.” She only said those words to me when I was being mean and naughty; when I was throwing a fit because things weren’t going my way. I did not want to turn around and look at her, but I knew I had to. I did not want to smile, because I was angry. So I turned around, because I had to, but when I looked at her, I smiled because I could not help myself. She loved me unconditionally and I loved her. And when I smiled, something unexplainable happened; I was no longer angry, sad, or unhappy. I was in love with my great grandmother’s love.
This morning, Jesus is calling to each of us; He’s calling to you to repent. He is saying, “Child, turn around and show me your fruit. Let me see the hope of repentance. WONDERFUL… NOW GO LIVE OUT THAT FRUIT IN THE KINGDOM OF GRACE!
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. In Jesus name… AMEN!