2 Advent – December 6, 2015
In the fifteenth year of the twenty-first century, when Barack Obama was President of the United States, and Tom Wolfe was governor of Pennsylvania, and Michael Trio the City Manager of Coatesville, and Michael Curry was Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, the word of God came to Church of the Trinity, in downtown Coatesville.
Somehow, we have a hard time believing that, if God were to reveal himself to the world that it would be here in our little city of Coatesville. We think that, just because we live in a small town, or go to a small church, or belong to a common, ordinary family, we don’t matter; that, if God were to come, he’d come somewhere other than here.
But just look at the witness of the scripture: Luke says, “…the word of God came to John, the son of Zachariah, in the wilderness.” That’s where God is likely to appear: In the most unlikely places. Just as God came to John in the wilderness, so also might God just come to us, in this place.
So, if you’re keeping notes, we’ve answered the when and where of God’s coming. Let’s ask, “Who?” To whom might we expect the Word of God to come?
Again, we have a hard time believing that it could be one of us. We think that, if God came into our world today, he’d reveal himself to some recognizable figure of authority, someone we all respect, someone deserving of the honor … which is to say, not someone like you or me.
Yet, according to Luke, God spoke to John, son of Zechariah and Elizabeth. And who was John? Truth be told, he was an extremely strange individual, who lived in the wilderness, slept in caves, dressed in a leather girdle and ate locusts and wild honey. As far as we know, he had little, if any, formal education or vocational training. He didn’t work, he didn’t support a family, he didn’t have credentials of any kind. As far as the Jewish leaders were concerned, he was a self-proclaimed prophet wandering in the wilderness blabbering some gibberish about repenting of your sins, for the kingdom of God is at hand.
The thing is, God often chooses the least likely candidate to carry out his will: He picked Abraham, an ordinary guy from Ur of the Chaldees. He picked Moses, who had been discredited both as a Jew and an Egyptian. He picked Peter, who smelled of fish and who flew off the handle with some regularity. He picked Saul, who had been murdering Christians.
When God comes, when God speaks, when God reveals himself to the world in a new way, you are just as likely to be the one God comes to, as someone else. The problem is you may miss God’s coming, if you’re not paying attention. That’s the message of Advent. Be alert.
Nadia Bolz-Weber is a heavily tattoed, angry person who swears like a truck driver. She has a past of alcoholism and drug abuse and promiscuity and lying and stealing. But guess what? God uses her in a powerful way. She is presently a Lutheran pastor and has written several books, the most recent one entitled “Accidental Saints: Finding God in all the Wrong People”. Think about it, finding God in all the wrong people. As Nadia says,
this is the God we are dealing with. This is a God who has always used imperfect people. This is a God who walked among us and who ate with all the wrong people and kissed lepers. This is a God who rose from the dead and grilled fish on the beach with his friends and then ascended to heaven and is especially present to us in the most offensively ordinary things: bread, wine, water, words. This God has never made sense. And you don’t need to either, because God will use you. This God will use all of us, and not just our strengths, but our failures and our failings. Your weakness is fertile ground for a forgiving God to make something new and to make something beautiful.
So don’t ever think that all you have to offer are your gifts, God uses our weaknesses in mighty ways.
John speaks to us today of making our paths straight, to prepare the way of the Lord. But, there really aren’t any straight paths in our lives, are there? We take a circuitous route trying to make a way for God, wandering all over the place. But perhaps in the process of trying to make a straight path, we do find God – or rather God finds us.
The fact is, we are all, at once, bearers of the gospel and receivers of it. We get to experience Jesus in that holy place where we meet others’ needs and have our own needs met. We are all, the needy and the ones who meet needs. To place
ourselves or anyone else in only one category is to lie to ourselves.
We meet the needs of others and have our own needs met. We never know when we experience Jesus in all of this. All that we have is a promise, a promise that our needs are holy to God. A promise that Jesus is present in the meeting of needs and that his kingdom is here. But he’s a different kind of king who rules over a different kind of kingdom. Being part of Christ’s bizarre kingdom looks more like being thirsty and having someone you don’t even like give you water than it looks like polishing your crown. It looks more like giving my three extra coats to the trinity of junkies on the corner than it looks like ermine-trimmed robes.
That is the surprise of the gospel, the surprise of the kingdom: it looks like the same crappy mess that bumps us out of our unconscious addiction to being good, so that we can look at Jesus as he approaches us on the street. (Nadia Bolz-Weber: Accidental Saints, page 48-49).
And that, my friends, would be a straight path – seeing Jesus in all the wrong people.
In the fifteenth year of the twenty-first century, when Barack Obama was President of the United States, and Tom Wolfe was governor of Pennsylvania, and Michael Trio the City Manager of Coatesville, and Michael Curry was Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, the word of God comes to you, at Church of the Trinity, in downtown Coatesville. Be alert. Pay attention.