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Prepare the Way

Matthew 3:1-12

The Rev. Jon Roberts

4 December


Calvary Episcopal Church

Indian Rocks Beach, FL

1 In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 3 For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” 4 Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair, and a leather girdle around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then went out to him Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan, 6 and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sad′ducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruit that befits repentance, 9 and do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. 10 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the granary, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

Prepare the Way

Jesus Christ Superstar, rock opera, 1973

Prepare ye the way of the Lord,
the hour is at hand for thy salvation.
Prepare ye the way of the Lord;
repentance is due for this and every nation.[1]

A young and new lay preacher was asked to lead an evening service at a church he had not visited before. A few days before the service he met a farmer who he knew to be a member of the church he was to visit. The hugely over-weight farmer was apologetic, saying that he would not be at church that evening and what was his sermon text? The preacher told him, and even went through how he was to expound the particular scripture. The farmer was delighted that he had shared it with him and went on his way.

The preacher decided that he would attend morning service that Sunday at the church to get a feel for the place and its ambience. As he took his pew he noticed a ladder left against the side of the pulpit. When the service began he was surprised to see that the farmer was the preacher. As he could not get into the pulpit by the narrow door the farmer had to climb the ladder and swing himself over the pulpit side. He then proceeded to preach the same sermon as that prepared by the young preacher. The young man was extremely annoyed after he had put hours of work into his sermon for that evening. When he eventually entered the pulpit that evening, he announced to the congregation, “My text this evening is St John, Chapter 10, verse 1, ‘Jesus said, verily, verily, I say unto you, he that entereth not the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber!’”

This is the season of preparation and sometimes we keep our thoughts to ourselves. It’s OK to share the good news of Jesus. It’s OK to share the testimony of how God has moved in your life in a mysterious and miraculous way. This is the time of announcing our salvation.

When we prepare for the way of the Lord let us not cheat or take a short cut. In the 1970 rock opera film, “Jesus Christ Superstar” set by Andrew Lloyd Webber, the opening is a lively song about preparing for the arrival of one we are not worthy as to tie his sandals. John the Baptizer takes the lead in the desert baptizing all who would come, repent and wish to be clean. There was great excitement of all these people running out into the desert singing that famous chorus line, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord.” Then, the Baptizer looks at a distance and sees a lone figure coming.

Now there are two ways to prepare the way for our salvation. One is about announcing, receiving the Messiah. The second is about repentance, rejecting and pushing back the things that hold us and keep us in bondage. We see this on the second Sunday in Advent and in the Gospel, we hear from the evangelist that, “He is coming.”[2] Many of us are rushing ahead assuming the coming is about the incarnation of the Christmas event, but it is actually the coming of God; the complete arrival. If we’re not careful we will personify it solely on the Nativity but Jesus wants us to look at his complete nature as he enters into our life.

Yes, there is hope. Yes, there is a new beginning, but most importantly we are being prepared. To prepare the way of the Lord means you have to go through that entrance. You are to prepare by rejecting the things that weigh you down; the sin. Sometimes they are so unbearable you can’t even hoist yourself up. But this is where you need God’s help. This is where you need to seek the coming of the Lord; not waiting for the moment of Christmas, but right now.

Jesus continues to call us individually. As our individual lives are transformed in the knowledge of Christ we take that chorus to heart. We need it during those times when the vipers try to destroy our lives. It is not certain we need to have that same charismatic nature as seen in that rock opera, but the feeling is real. Pray that God will share with you in some miraculous way that you can be found in the desert; in the desert of your temptation and fear.

Prepare ye the way of the Lord,
the hour is at hand for thy salvation.
Prepare ye the way of the Lord;
repentance is due for this and every nation.

[1] The Rev. Jon Roberts
[2] Matthew 3:1-12

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