December 15, 2012

Why Was John the Baptist In the Wilderness? (Advent 3, Year C)

(Homily notes for Advent 3, Year C, 2012 by Rev. John Gishler)

John was the son of a priest and would normally have become a priest in the Temple himself.
  •        We don’t know what happened – but we can speculate 
  •          John did not fit in, probably saw the corruption and hypocrisy
  •          John wanted something more – a real experience of God
  •          Decided to get away from the un-holiness of the Temple
  •          Cleansed himself through self-examination and repentance
  •          Removed his spiritual garbage, Holy Spirit could live in him
  •          Holy Spirit used him to prophecy the Messiah’s coming
  •          Warn people to prepare through the baptism of repentance

 1    1.   John’s message is ‘turn or burn’
·         Coming Messiah will baptize with fire and Holy Spirit
·         God is holy and cannot be around un-holiness
·         God has been described as a consuming fire
·         Those who are not prepared will be burnt up like chaff
·         Gets our attention, motivates us to change our lives
·         We do not want to ‘scare people into the Kingdom’
·         Objective is to start a process of self-examination that leads to repentance, confession and forgiveness

2   2.  John calls some of the people who came to him “snakes”
·         There would be two kinds of people coming to John
·         Most would be genuine seekers who wanted authentic faith
·         But ‘religious police’ were also curious about why crowds  were going way out into the wilderness to this holy man
·         John calls them snakes – vipers – deceivers
·         We know from Jesus encounters with the Teachers of the Law and Pharisees there was religious corruption in Israel
·         They had developed elaborate rituals and rules that were supposed to help people love God and their neighbour
·         Over time the focus shifted from personal love of God and neighbour to love of custom and rules
·         Religion became corrupted into maintaining a burden of rituals to ‘placate God’ - as opposed to ‘loving God’
·         This had evolved into a system of ‘self-salvation’ focussed on the Temple and priests – not God
·         John warned these people that God is not mocked and they would be excluded from the Kingdom if they did not repent their rebellion and turn to God in humility
·         Anglican liturgy always includes a time to examine our lives for ‘things we have done or left undone’ which we want to repent, confess and receive forgiveness for
·         This is the Advent process of cleansing our hearts so the Holy Spirit can come and live in us

3    3. We are challenged to prepare by living a life of love
·         John challenges us to produce spiritual fruit in our lives
·         How we live indicates what is really in our hearts
·         Love is a verb – more than a warm feeling
·         If we really love God we will love the poor
·         We will share our food and material wealth
·         We will not abuse or take advantage of others
·         We will deal honestly and fairly with everyone

4.    Advent is a time to prepare for Jesus Coming
·         Jesus will come to us anytime we invite Him
·         Readings remind us God is always reaching out to us
·         Christians await His Second Coming at the End-time
·         Advent  is preparing us to celebrate His Christmas coming
·         Prepare by examining our lives to see if anything is making our hearts unfit for the coming of the Holy Spirit

The Good News is that we still have time to repent and ask Jesus to forgive anything that might hinder our spiritual life

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