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3rd Sunday in Advent Year A - 2019

1. Back in 1987,

a. I lay in on a blanket with a group of friends

b. Near the Ludwig- Maximillian University in Munich, where I was a student.

2. It was a warm sunny day and we had the radio on.

a. President Reagan was in Germany;

b. and he was giving a speech in Berlin.

3. Yes. It was that speech at the Brandenburg Gate

a. In front of the Berlin Wall

4. The one where he challenged

a. USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev to “Tear down this Wall!”

5. My Friends’ reaction? They howled with laughter.

a. They said he was crazy

b. They said he was dangerous

c. They said he was completely out of touch with the political reality of Europe

6. But who could have dreamt on that day, that what he would really be was . . . successful?

7. That in the next few years

a. the Berlin wall would fall,

b. Germany would reunite,

c. and the USSR would dissolve?

8. This past October

a. Germany remembered the 30th anniversary of its reunification

b. with a nation- wide celebration.

9. Such successes are so memorable precisely because they are so uncommon.

10. For we know

a. that politicians often Can be Crazy and out of touch,

b. That speeches such as the one President Reagan gave

i. can cause a war as easily as prevent one

c. And that in Germany things could just as easily have gone in another, far more violent direction

11. And we know that because the world we live in,

12. is the world the prophet Isaiah lived in in the 7th century BC.

a. His world was a world where weak rulers

i. had been unable to protect them from foreign enemies.

b. It was a world where corrupt rulers

i. exploited the weak

ii. and wealthy people exploited the poor.

13. The world we live in,

14. is the world that John the Baptist lived in in the 1st century AD

a. Sitting in Herod’s prison, awaiting execution.

b. It was a world where weak rulers like Herod

c. Where unwilling to protect them from Roman power

d. And where Roman money benefitted the few and corrupted all.

15. It is a world where nothing ever changes.

16. Little wonder then that Isaiah speaks of the world he lives in as a desert

a. – but wait! What does Isaiah say will soon happen?

17. Change will happen.

a. Like one of those old nature shows on TV

b. which depicts what happens when rain falls in the desert,

c. Isaiah says that the desert in which they were living will suddenly blossom.

i. But not only plants flourish so will people

d. And those who will flourish are not the ones who always have;

e. but those who never could

i. The blind, the deaf, the dumb and the lame; all those who were excluded and lived on the margins of society,

ii. Uncared for by those at the center.

iii. They, and with them their land would be healed.

18. Imagine what this must have sounded like to Isaiah’s people! God was coming!

a. And how would they know?

b. According to Isaiah it would be easy to know

i. because things would change.

19. Little wonder this promise was remembered.

a. Its ideas would inspire countless prophets and preachers,

b. Revolutionaries and freedom fighters

c. from the day Isaiah first uttered them

d. until John the Baptist made them his own.

20. For one thing John was certain of

a. Was that God was finally coming,

b. and things would begin to change!

i. But then Herod had him thrown in prison.

21. When looked at in that light, it is little wonder that John sent his disciples to Jesus.

a. For he had believed God was coming

b. He had believed change was coming

c. He had believed that Jesus had come to destroy Roman power

d. and bring that kingdom they had waited for since Isaiah’s day.

22. And yet Rome still ruled. He is in jail. And so Jesus, are you the one? Or should we look for another? I mean, nothing has changed.

23. To which Jesus tells John to open his eyes, because he is looking in the wrong place.

a. Who cares about Rome? The blind see, the lame walk, the deaf hear - Just like Isaiah promised.

b. Moreover the dead are given new life and the poor hear good news.

c. Things are changing; God is coming, and God is bringing that kingdom.

24. We do not know whether John ever heard that bit of cheering up,

a. Because he was eventually executed by Herod.

b. And of course, we know what happened to Jesus.

25. And so maybe John was right. Things don't change. Maybe his question is really supposed to be ours. Are you really the one Jesus?

a. Because after all, John’s dead,

b. you were crucified

c. and nothing really changed.

i. But guess what? Jesus doesn't stay dead.

26. Now of course reports of anyone rising from the dead would be news –

27. But for the first people who first experienced it,

28. it was more – it was GOOD news.

a. not only because it was the fulfillment of the words

i. Jesus sent to John

ii. and Isaiah spoke to his people

29. But because it meant that in the face of the corrupt, unjust powers of this world,

a. who try as they might to stop change

b. In both John’s day and in our own

c. There was someone who was so powerful

i. that not even death could stop him.

ii. Or his kingdom.

30. Hearing today’s Gospel in this context

a. makes it sound more like an Easter sermon

b. than a homily for the third Sunday in Advent.

31. Except for the question that John asks Jesus this third Sunday in Advent – is still ours. Jesus are you the one? Should we look for another?

a. For after all things never seem to change.

32. But then maybe Jesus’ answer is also directed to us –

a. Oh really? Maybe just like John we are looking in the wrong place.

33. For if we look to the rich, to the powerful, to our elected officials for real change we are always disappointed for they have too much invested in the status quo

a. – after all it is what gives them their power.

34. But that is because real change happens elsewhere.

a. Often it is invisible at first and starts small.

b. Like the shower which brings a desert to bloom,

c. Like yeast in dough or a mustard seed.

d. Or a baby born in a manger.

35. It is there when people are healed of disease and infirmity,

a. Because whether it is by the hand of God

b. or by our faithful service - it happens.

36. It is there when the dead are raised to new life

a. Because whether it is the physical resurrection of Jesus

b. Or the breaking down of barriers and the restauration of unity, liberty and equality

i. to a people to whom it had been denied – It happens.

37. Watch for it, wait for it, pray for it and if you don’t see it happening, then work for it to happen.

38. Because to do so is to proclaim that Good news which Isaiah hoped for, John preached, and Jesus embodied.

39. God is coming! God’s kingdom is here;

40. and if we don’t see it, we are looking in the wrong place.

a. Look for places where things are changing,

b. and you just might glimpse the hand of God.

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