December 7, 2003

Luke 3:1-6

    In the fifteenth year of the rule of Caesar Tiberius - it was while Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea; Herod, ruler of Galilee; his brother Philip, ruler of Iturea and Trachonitis; Lysanias, ruler of Abilene; [2] during the Chief-Priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas - John, Zachariah's son, out in the desert at the time, received a message from God. [3] He went all through the country around the Jordan River preaching a baptism of life-change leading to forgiveness of sins, [4] as described in the words of Isaiah the prophet:

Thunder in the desert!
"Prepare God's arrival!
Make the road smooth and straight!
[5] Every ditch will be filled in,
Every bump smoothed out,
The detours straightened out,
All the ruts paved over.
[6] Everyone will be there to see
The parade of God's salvation."

[The Message]

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1. It is time to get the construction crew called "congregation" together to do a little road building. So often we get beguiled into thinking our task is that of "making disciples of Jesus Christ" (so widely interpreted, it sounds better than it means). We might do better to make disciples of John the Baptist who will build roads for the salvation of GOD-with-us to come to others and others to come to Emmanuel.

2. The road we are constructing is made by tearing up the soil to be able to lay a firmer foundation than simply paving over ground so prone to natural disruptions. Stability over time is important for a road that will aid a journey. Where saturation by rain and frost can warp and crack a poorly constructed road, depth of roadbed can smooth the way.

In our own lively journeys this means digging through the topsoil covering the bedrock. It means casting aside the illusion of goodness and dealing with forgiveness that will settle us into a better place. We need to confess our own acts needing forgiveness and our slowness in forgiving others. We need to claim the power to forgive and the joy of received forgiveness.

3. All this takes place in the desert while political and military power shows off just kilometers away. In the trackless wastes we find all ways and our way to healing of our bodies, minds, relationships, and spirits. In desert dryness the vision of voluptuous moisture becomes real enough to taste. So, who's emperor this week? this presidential term? this episcopal election? this pastoral tenure? In the midst of our desert experience, what do these markers have to do with anything?

Remember that Zechariah means "YAHWEH remembers." John comes from that remembrance. What is your vision remembering? What are you re-membering with your forgiveness? We are all sons and daughters of GOD's remembrance and it often takes a desert experience to begin remembering we are remembered.