Blue mountains Franciscan Church
Sermon preached by Revd. R.Suttie/ Br Simeon efo at Springwood
on Sunday 11th December 2016:
THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT. YR. A.
Gospel: Matthew 11:2-11
“Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.”
Two priests were going to Hawaii on vacation and decided that they would make this a real vacation by not wearing anything that would identify them as clergy.
As soon as the plane landed, they headed for a store and bought some outrageous shorts and Aloha shirts, sandals, sunglasses, etc. The next morning, they went to the beach, dressed in their “tourist” garb and were sitting on beach chairs, enjoying Mai Tais, the sunshine and the scenery when a drop dead gorgeous redhead in a tiny bikini came walking straight toward them. They couldn’t help but stare and when she passed them she turned to them, smiled and said, “Good morning Father Murphy. Good Morning Father O’Toole,” nodding and addressing each of them individually, then passed on by.
They were both stunned. How in the world did she recognise them as priests?
The next day they went back to the store, bought even more outrageous outfits. These outfits were so loud, you could hear them before you even saw them. Again, they settled on the beach in their chairs to enjoy the sunshine, and normal beach activity.
After a while, the same gorgeous redhead, wearing a string bikini this time, came walking toward them again. (They were glad they had sunglasses, because their eyes were about to pop out of their heads). Again, she approached them and greeted them individually, “Good Morning Father Murphy. Good Morning Father O’Toole,” and started to walk away.
One of the priests couldn’t stand it and said, “Just a minute young lady. Yes we are priests, and proud of it, but I have to know, how in the world did YOU know?”
“Oh Father, don’t you recognise me? I’m Sister Kathryn!”
In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Today we observe the Third Sunday of Advent, filling us with a sense that the time is getting short and soon our joy will be complete in the celebration of Our Saviour’s Birth.
But still we are waiting. Advent is the season of hoping and … and waiting wishing for some assurance that God does indeed love us and that God is in control of our lives and the future.
The picture of John the Baptiser in today’s Gospel is quite different from last Sunday’s thundering, charismatic figure preaching to the crowds along the Jordan.
But our Gospel lesson reminds us that Advent is also a season of impatience. Will everything come together the way we hope? Have we thought of everyone … will our gifts be appropriate, adequate, appreciated? Are we doing enough for those for whom this will not be a happy time of celebration … the poor, the grieving, and the discouraged? Always in the back of our mind is that dull fear that we have forgotten something … that Christmas will not unfold the way we anticipate.
John has been imprisoned by Herod for publicly denouncing the king’s incestuous marriage to Herodias. Left to waste away in prison, John knew that his end was near. John had staked his life on proclaiming the coming of the Messiah, and his witness will soon cost him his life.
Like any human being, John had to wonder if he had been deluding himself. John and the people of Judaism had been expecting a much different kind of Messiah than the gentle, humble Worker of wonders from Nazareth. And so, John sends friends to ask Jesus if he is, in fact, the long-awaited Messiah.
Jesus sends the messengers back to John to report all they have seen Jesus do, fulfilling the prophecies of Isaiah and the prophets of old. While praising John for his faithful witness to the Messiah, Jesus tells his followers that great things will come to all who become prophets of the reign of God.
I find the question John asked at the heart of a lot of unrest and disconnection in our world today. I think many good people, Christian people, share John’s pondering … Is Jesus the one, or should we look for another? The limits we place on our vision and expectation have a profound impact on whether Christ comes and makes a home in our hearts this blessed season. And a big reason why so many questions where God and Jesus are in their lives is that they have not been trained, their faith has not been formed, and, as a result, they cannot see God at work in the everyday dimensions of their lives.
Each week we gather in community, to hear the Scripture lessons read, try to follow the sermon, sing the hymns, and receive the Lord as he comes to us through the Holy Eucharist. Perhaps you even experience God in this sacred place.
But do you reflect your faith in the economy of your lives, in the decisions you make every day? Does the simple fact that Jesus is your Lord have any impact on how you live out your responsibility as a spouse, a parent, a child, a friend, an employee, a volunteer, or a citizen of this great nation?
And so I ask:
What are your expectations? Do you see the hand of God in the world today? Do you see any indication that Jesus was reality-based when he spoke of … the blind receiving their sight, the lame walking, the outcasts of society restored, the deaf hearing(except my own). [Matthew 11: 5]
Advent/Christmas is the season of hope: The birth of Christ restores our dreams for “blossoming deserts” and new harvests, for renewed relationships with God and with one another.
The Christ of Christmas comes to heal the divisions among families and friends, to re-create our world in the mercy and justice of the Messiah, to renew our lives in the joy and hope of the God of unimaginably endless love.
John’s question, Are you the Messiah? confronts us with the apparent silence of God in our secular, amoral society. We must come to recognise the Messiah in the humble, merciful, liberating person of Jesus, the healer and reconciler.
The question Jesus pose –What did you go out to the desert to see? – challenges us to take on the hard and never-ending Advent work of conversion and re-creation, of rediscovering what we want our lives to be for and about.
<-Second Sunday of Advent Year A 4 December 2016 – Br Andrew