2nd Sunday of Advent (B) – December 10, 2017 – Be Hope · Give Hope · Don’t Lose Hope
What gives with the crazy man in the Gospel? A man in dirty clothes with a scraggly beard who eats locusts for lunch—yet is smart enough to put honey on them. And he screams at people. He certainly stands out. Speaking of standing out:
I was in JoAnns’ Fabrics on Thursday; the only man among about 20 women. I stood out and had an extended time at the cutting tray. I was standing out, but there wasn’t much of a price to pay. I soon walked out the door, no worse for it.
Whereas John the Baptist becomes the ‘opening hero’ of the story of Jesus. We always cheer the hero, the one with virtue, values, and who stands up for beliefs. And most importantly:
GIVES HOPE
And we cheer him because we get a feeling that should be us (minus the camel’s hair and locusts for lunch).
When John comes along, he is a voice crying out in the wilderness. He mimics the Prophet Isaiah from 700 BC. Isaiah said:
“Make straight the road”
When referring to this, Mark’s version changes it to: “Make straight his paths.” Another version: “Make the crooked paths straight.”
Why the plural? Maybe it’s a typo that got translated into English.
It’s not just paths for God to travel down to find you! It’s paths for us to travel—to experience the power of God already present.
Jesus, the hero, wants to meet you.
In a world filled with division and a multiplication of empty choices—
Jesus brings HOPE.
His message: DON’T LOSE HOPE! HOPE IS ON THE WAY!
He says: I BRING GOOD NEWS that life can be lived with great purpose and meaning!
What we know for sure is that we identify with the hero, but our conclusion is that we are not that hero; we cheer from the sidelines…
And assume that the person who becomes the hero is not us.
But that is not the message of Jesus. He says:
We have to be the hero of our own story!
Our culture teaches us to be our own person, yet in reality we often try to be cookie-cutter copies. We don’t really relish being people on the edge; uniqueness is nice to notice….but not to be.
We think we are, but in the end we cave to the pressure of conformity.
So too we are with our spirituality and religious practice. We think what it means to be Christian and Catholic is to assent to the right beliefs, and worship the same way, etc., etc.
But we are to never copy someone else’s life—or spiritual awakening—or hero life.
We shouldn’t be a ‘wannabe’ that just imitates someone else’s path.
The BUDDHA obtained his enlightenment by sitting under a tree and thinking about life for months at a time (that’s his way, not ours).
Jesus’ life was transformed in his desert experience; that worked for him, but is not necessarily our path. St. Paul has to get knocked off his horse before he came to.
Each person here is unique and our quest in life must be unique.
None-the-less it remains the path of the hero
Our spiritual task is to find out why, how, and where the Lord is calling us to serve with our life. The church community and worship and formation serve a valuable purpose of support, guidance and ideas…
But those are not the final purpose.
The goal is to empower you to be the hero—to take steps in your personal journey, a journey that always intersects with the power of Christ:
to fully become your life—to share your gift—to make your statement.
Our goal cannot be only to seek our assent to what someone else did—even if it is Jesus.
Jesus said: I am the way; follow in my footsteps.
He didn’t mean, “just do what I did.”
Rather it is: follow my lead IN YOUR WAY. I will be on your path to guide you!
There is a great poem, I think Robert Frost:
“No matter how big is the field of your life, you are not really yourself if you always live on fenced-in land.”
God and the world, and our church, and each other, and the message of Jesus this week say that:
Your personal power is born from your ongoing journey on the path that has been leveled for you by Christ.
Jesus does not meet you on the boring interstate going through the state of Nebraska (no offense meant for Nebraska). Rather, he meets you on your crooked paths and empowers you there.
We gather here today to celebrate and share the common mission that it is together that we are most powerful…
not in trying to all be the same,
rather in uniting our uniqueness for the good of one another.
When added to others in a common mission, it is an awesome power indeed.
That is the message of Advent:
That there is HOPE that comes alive in us, through the power of the Christ who is HOPE COME ALIVE!
When we are dismayed, or lost, or frightened: DON’T LOSE HOPE!
Jesus proclaims that God is standing with you as you search your path.
So don’t let the mission of your life be dictated by the way that everybody else does it; falling into the trap of coming and going from this place and not being long remembered.
You are to become the hero:
The parents, the leaders, the family members, the friends of all ages; the ones who fight for Freedom and Justice and Compassion—and the rule of love:
YOU YOURSELF WRIT LARGE!
We must leave our mark by the gift of our lives—we cannot live fully without doing it.
I speak to you young people here with us:
Our world will not survive unless you LIVE your message with great strength!
It is ‘your’ journey; it is ‘our’ journey.
We are John the Baptist. We are the face of Jesus in the world.
Do not answer God’s call to you with a whimper and a whisper.
Speak your life loudly and forcefully!
(Some locusts and wild honey might be just the thing for you.)