Grace and Peace to you from God Our Creator, and from His Son Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord. Amen
How eerie does the chanting sound from the streets of Soweto on Thursday, as people gathered in the darkness, moving and swaying not in sadness but in celebration of the life of a man who raised his voice against the injustice of a people, of his people. These voices were raised as one, as if Mandela could physically still hear their praises. These voices, have been raised too, in protest and agony of the injustice within the wilderness of a land that almost had become foreign to them. These crying voices who had been ignored and almost silenced. These voices whom we had not been listening to.
Voices that were crying for repentance
Voices that were mixed with different flavors
Voices that rose and fell with song and with chanting
Voices that were calling out for redemption
Voices that sometimes were harsh to hear, because they stung at our core
Voices that shook loose the static nature, ripping up stakes that had been stubbornly hammered by humanity deep into the ground, refusing to budge.
Voices that jolt and urge us, challenge and confront who we truly are as people of faith
We struggle for the balance between the tormented struggle in our own journey and our mission that God has given to all of us, whether we accept it willingly or whether we continue discerning our ministry.
Sometimes we do not hear the voices crying out in the wilderness.
It is here where John dares to invades our hearts and minds by thrusting the Gospel into our lives, crashing his feet into the coming revolution, refusing to budge, calling to our souls…to.Wake.Up!
John called for repentance, for a changing of purpose, to returning to the Divine because the people of God have retreated from the Goodness of God.
John, this strange disheveled voice crying out in this wilderness is calling for in our Gospel text this morning.
He preaches not softness, but roughly grabs those who have been sleepwalking through life and demands
These ancient, chosen people of God have been struggling with staying the course and continuing the path of righteousness and faithfulness that God laid out before their naked, worn feet. These ancient people have strayed from the will that God had given to them; they have lost their sense of purpose and direction as a people of Faith.
We too, as people of Faith are wandering just as they in this same wilderness which sometimes seems to be abandoned too by God, Our Creator to be left in ruin and run over by humanity running wild. We who sometimes revert to destructive behavior, wandering aimlessly. We who sometimes remain in our own waywardness from God’s commandment of caring for our neighbors as we feel, through our birthright God should care only for us.
John brought the Good News to the people, “for the kingdom of heaven has come near” ; That God had been faithful even when these ancient people had grown forgetful about the Goodness of God’s Love; which remained a constant in their lives even when they were not aware, or were thoughtless towards their fellow brothers and sisters. Deep throughout this wilderness of the world, in places which are unforgiving, these ancient people ever so often would be reminded of who they were and whom they belonged to, as they stumbled over hidden places where perhaps they did not realize the kingdom of God flourished and blossomed, giving them pause and giving them hope.
It is those same places that call us back too, from the haze of humanity which traps us and trips us up; that shakes the debris and dust from our awareness and our spirit and focuses us once more on that one voice, the voice of God.
God calls us through John’s voice to change direction in our lives, because the coming of the Kingdom of God rains down upon us wholeness and hope. The air should be filled with songs of devotions and of thanksgiving.
Yet, there is a shift in the atmosphere when these are nothing more than hymns of empty praise.
The division ran deep within some ancient people as it does for us today, when heeding the call to be counted but ignore the waves of righteousness that should be swelling and stirring in our spirit. John wrestles loose the mantle of entitlement from their almost perfect hands and shocks their speech into silence. How embarrassing it would be too, if we approaching the baptismal font in haughtiness instead of humbleness, suspicion instead of serenity, thanklessness instead of thankfulness and John called out as he called out those Sadducees and Pharisees “You brood of vipers. Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” How exposing John’s words cut away at the masks and the armor that these ancient, entitled people protectively wrapped around their very being, dragging out the truth into the stark, pointed, clear light of God; that the Word of God was absent from their hearts.
John’s words come as a warning to us today, my sisters and brothers in Christ, because God already knows our brokenness! That there is nothing that can be hidden from the presence of God. That in order to “bear fruit” we must be willing to go through a radical transformation and restoration of our soul when this world turns us upside down and inside out, emptying us of any mercy and grace we have for our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and in Faith. We wander then on automatic pilot, going through the motions of living and absence from what the Good News of Jesus Christ can mean for our lives. That in the moments of pandemonium where this world scatters our sanity; when we struggle and strive all at once to fulfill the called mission and ministry that God has laid out in every aspect of this life; wherever we are, the Good News of Jesus Christ is that not only is the Kingdom of God near, but that it has firmly rooted itself in this world, and will never go away! The Good News is that Jesus Christ is coming to rain down upon all of us, cleansing baptismal fire not to scorch our very being but to erases and remove the chaff in our lives. The chaff, the sin that continually clings sorely to our spirits; that contributes nothing but emptiness and rings hollow; that yields no fruit worthy of our connection to God, Our Healer. Free from sin, cleansed to be made whole, we are fueled through the power of the Holy Spirit to be driven to be a presence into this world, which fuels the flames of our faith to raise our voices to go and tell it on the mountain what the Good News of Jesus Christ is: That we are not forgotten because God, Our Creator and Healer has sent His Son to be a gift and through the power of the Holy Spirit to eradicate anything that would keep us, from the Light and the Love of God.
The Good News of Jesus Christ echoes in John’s words, giving our ancient sisters and brothers and us too, hope in this wilderness that Jesus is coming. This Good News intertwined in the cleansing waters of baptism fills our spirits and leaves us shouting, testifying that Freedom is coming, because Jesus is coming. It pulls us into the streets marching and singing that Freedom is coming. We remain in these streets chanting, waving our flags of freedom because that is what the power of God’s mercy, grace and forgiveness does for us as God’s People. We remain in these streets calling out the desolate, the forlorn, the forsaken, and the neglected that regardless of what seems beyond our control that Jesus Christ stands in the center calling us back to life! We are reborn in the cradle of Jesus Christ of the cleansing fire that neither harms nor scorches who we are and destroys the sinful hold that this world can have on our lives.
Our voices too, are calling and crying for repentance from an injustice world. We are raising our voices for people to come out of the wilderness and back from stagnancy, from useless greed, from painful domination, horrific occupation and towards action and advocacy. We are raising our voices and calling for those who have been abandoned and are wandering the wilderness blind, frozen where they stand, for fear of falling into the vipers den.
The voices that reverberated over the radio, the television and the internet have been crying out for a millennia. They have been crying out for justice and for repentance from a people who have too, been wandering in the wilderness and away from the light of God, Our Peacemaker. There have been other voices too, raising awareness and calling to the nations, to those leaders reminding them of their commitment of being a light in the wilderness, being servants to the people. These voices belong to children in Johannesburg; to women in Haiti; to men in Egypt; to civil rights fighters and freedom fighters; to teachers fighting for education right here in Austin; to chaplains and pastors fighting for equality and care in prisons; to seminarians fighting for social justice on the streets of Chicago, Detroit and near the Borderlands; for Native Americans fighting for recognition wherever their paths may trod; to you and me fighting for peace and mercy for those who are homeless and forgotten.
These voices, our voices will not be silenced!
Listen to what we are proclaiming!
“Repent! Rejoice for the Kingdom of God comes in a renewing fire! See, the Revolution is at hand because the Son of Man comes to cleanse the damaging sins from our lives! We are released from death through the waters of baptism, and covered through the flames of the Holy Spirit!”
Listen! Jesus is Coming!
Thanks Be To God.