1 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, 2 during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3 He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, 4 as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. 5 Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; 6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God. [NRSV]
If we heard this for the first time in our own historical context, it would sound like this: In the end of the second term and reign of President Barack Obama, when Nathan Deal was governor of Georgia and Wayne Phillips was mayor of Jackson, Georgia, and Scott Chewning was Mayor of Flovila, and during the time Bishop Mike Watson lead the North Georgia Conference and Dan Brown as District Superintendent… the word of God came to one of our youth when they were out in the wilderness.
The Word of God is not heard by the political and religious leaders. The inspiration and calling came not to the parents with their wisdom, resources and experience. The Word of God came to junior, who came to be known as the “Baptizer.” (A historical note from Church history: John the Baptizer was not a Southern Baptist as ‘they’ sometimes profess, nor was he a United Methodist.) John was able to hear God’s word when others could not or would not.
The dynamic message from this little noted introduction of John the Baptizer speaks of his spiritual relationship with God. He was INTENTIONAL about his spiritual growth. He left home and was in a spiritual retreat at Camp Wilderness. (Not a Disney World.) He had traveled to the south near Jericho and the Dead Sea to a mountainous region for the specific purpose of being apart from the world to be present with God.
You ever notice that God speaks to Moses while he is alone at work. God calls to Mary when she is not with her family, to Joseph while he was sleeping, Jonah when he is hiding, Seldom is God revealed calling out to send us when we are at church, all dressed up and thinking Godly thoughts and singing praising songs and lifting lofty prayers. (Just a reminder that worship is for what God get’s out of it and not what we get from it, counter intuitive to our experience, but we are not worshiping each other, we come to worship God.)
Finding, hearing and experiencing God often comes when we are away from distractions. Retreat: Stepping back, out of the battle to gain a better position to advance or change our goals. Retreat is not so much running away as it is being INTENTIONAL. Choosing to be with God, on purpose living,
This fits with John’s message: Repent the Messiah is coming, Get everything straighten up!
What John the Baptizer hears is not anything new. How disappointing.
It would be great if we could go on a spiritual retreat and God tell us how to repair the economy, how to restore our fortunes and stability of our nation. How to feed, clothe and equip the poor to care for themselves, How to transform the captive, the ignorant and the oppressors. OH, God has told us how to do these things: Trust and follow his example. Again, nothing new here.
What is different about John’s example for us is that he not only heard, but he responds with FAITH IN ACTION.
If being a Christian was only a matter using our noodle and thinking correctly about God and the theology of goodness and love and forgiveness and truth and hope and stuff like that.. We would simply need to find a comfortable chair and never leave it. Meditating Night and Day on the God and we’d go straight to the father in less than a month.
But God calls us to be living body, in the world.
John the Baptizer hears God’s word, and trust it enough to take that message to the homes, business, streets and pastures of the whole region until everyone had heard. Jew and Gentile, peasant and politician alike.
Facebook is an interesting phenomenon: People are willing to tell the whole world what they are doing at the drop of hat. How often do we use this open and self-revealing tool to tell people about God’s Word and power for real life struggles. I mean more than the, “I’ll pray for you..” I mean calling people to faith, to trust, to right-living, to hope, and back home. The catch is if someone starts being too bold, most folks with ‘hide’ or un-like of un-friend rather than hear the word.
John’s message continues to be our message to share: Christ is returning and we need to get things straighten out before he gets here.
Is he coming in a 1000 years? He said he was coming 2000 years ago. Did he mean it? Is he still coming? Is Christ here with us now?
Forrest Gump was asked, “Have you found Jesus?” to which he replied, “I didn’t know he was lost.”
Hear John’s Message Now?
Who is getting ready of Christ? Does that mean buying up stores of food waiting for the Mayan prediction? We will look into this next Sunday… So stay tuned
John’s message is to take action. Not just any action, rather making what is crooked, straight; what is raised up, brought low, what is below standard, raised up.
“And Order of Priority Please”
When you go out to lunch at a restaurant a waiter or waitress takes your idea of a meal and translates that request to the cook staff who transforms your words into a plate of nourishment. Have you ever been successful in simply speaking or thinking what you want to eat and it appear before you with no one taking any action? Nope, didn’t think so.
As the disciples, we are those who need to be listening for God’s Word (through study, prayer, retreat, Christian fellowship: because the world is telling everyone to be lazy or easy or afraid or dependent on the latest fade or idol.
Real people around us are looking for someone to tell them, teach them, inspire them and challenge them to share the heart and mind of God in their lives:
To that end: Here Goes: Fine a method that works for you and share the Word of God with 49 people this week. Print up cards, write letters, make calls, start conversations, give gifts or sing a song…that shares a meaningful bible verse with each person. (that 7 people every day for week). Be willing to tell them why it is important to you and why it just might speak to them.
Your assignment, if you do it, is to report back what you experience. and if you choose not to do it, then pray for the seven people you didn’t help and ask for their forgiveness.
Here is a sample: Did you know that Luke 3.6 promises that all people will see Christ, the salvation of the world. I want to make certain that what you see and hear when you see a disciple of his like myself. If I didn’t tell you that God wants you to know Christ’s love and life today, then you and I both might forget or not know. Thanks for listening, Is there anything we might pray for God to help us through right now?