Second Presbyterian Church
"Prepare The Way Of The Lord!
This morning you heard a voice crying in the wilderness! Perhaps it was singing; perhaps it was more crying than singing. But the message was very clear: PREPARE THE WAY OF THE LORD!
To the exiled people of the Lord, those exiled in Babylon, came this clarion call of a voice crying in the wilderness to prepare the way of the LORD. The LORD was coming!
Yea, right, tell me another one! Jerusalem is destroyed; its walls torn down. The Temple of Solomon had been destroyed and all the gold and silver and bronze utensils used in the worship of the LORD had been taken as booty from Jerusalem to Babylon. Judah was no longer a nation. Nor, did the people of God have any substantive way to worship the LORD, even if they still believed in Him.
It was a dark, hopeless, dismal, situation that the exiled People of God experienced. Hope and peace and redemption were unthinkable.
They were not ready for the Lord's redemption. They were lost in their despair.
Then suddenly there is a voice, crying out in the wilderness. Prepare! Prepare for the coming of the LORD! Come on! Let's get going here; we need a road, a highway in order for our Lord to arrive! In ancient times roads were built so that a king or emperor could travel from one place to another. Level that hill! Fill in that gully. Make the road straight! Have you ever been on a four-lane road? You can always tell which two-lane side was built first; it is the hillier side. The newer side usually has more grading and leveling of the ups and downs of the countryside.
Mark's gospel begins at a different time and history than Isaiah, about 500 years later, give or take a couple decades. The faithful had always believed that a prophet, like Elijah, would appear. And Christians have identified John the Baptist as that prophet, that voice that cried in the wilderness to prepare for the Lord's coming.
How? John's message was simple. Confess and repent of your sins, receive forgiveness, and signal your repentance by being baptized in the Jordan. And John was honest to the crowds that came out to him to be baptized. He claimed no more authority than what he had. "I am not the Messiah," he said. "Someone mightier than I will come. I am not even worthy to get on my knees and untie his shoes!" "I baptize with water. He will baptize with the Holy Spirit."
Each one of us, when we became a Christian, or were born into a Christian home, was baptized. We were baptized with water. We have been baptized with the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus Christ, Son of God.
How are we preparing for the coming of the Lord? Too often it is with all the hustle and bustle and shopping for the holiday season. There are parties to attend. There are presents to wrap. There are cards to write and send. The house needs decorating; the yard needs decorating. Alas, we have a Christmas pageant and a Christmas cantata for which to prepare! There is so much for which to prepare! But are we preparing for the Lord by all these activities?
How are we to prepare for the Lord? The answer is in the question: how much have we let Jesus into our hearts? Have we let Jesus come in and look at those closets where we tuck away our self-righteousness? Have we let Jesus come in and look at those cabinets in our minds where we nurse grudges against those who have wronged us? Have we let Jesus into the rooms of our lives and allowed him to reign in our pride, arrogance, and selfishness?
How we answer these questions is an important beginning for our preparation. And it is a preparation that will continue for the rest of our mortal lives if we take preparing for the Lord seriously. So, that is the first and a very important preparation for the Lord.
The second one naturally follows. Mark began his gospel with the observation that it is the BEGINNING of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. What exactly does he mean? He meant that what he wrote is a description of the BEGINNING of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He meant that the life of Jesus of Nazareth, from his baptism through his resurrection, is the BEGINNING of the Good News of Jesus Christ.
In other words, there is more to come - much more! What? What more is there? For beginners, we have noted that all the possible horrible ways that humankind can sin are continuing at a rapid, increasing pace. Where is the Gospel in all this tragedy? Where is the Gospel in all this injustice? Where is the Gospel in all this suffering?
The answer is this: It IS NOT FINISHED. It shall be, but it has not been completed. When the Gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God has been completed, then the following is the way things shall be: Justice restored, killing and hatred gone, selfishness and greed disappeared, no more natural tragedy, no more suffering of the innocent; in fact there will be no more sin, guilt, or shame. Every tear will be wiped away; every broken heart healed. And last of all, death itself shall be destroyed. Death, the result of sin, shall be the last death.
Then life, life at its richest, fullest, beyond any human imagination shall ensue - eternally. Are we prepared for the way of the Lord? Amen.
The Rev. Daniel E. Hale, D. Min.
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Second Presbyterian Church
419 West Washington Street Petersburg, VA 23803
(804) 732-6531 (804) 733-3275 (FAX)
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Last Updated: January 21, 2006