- Isaiah 11:1-10
- Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19
- Romans 15:4-13
- Matthew 3:1-12
During Advent we are called to prepare the way of the Lord. Through repentance we are able to prepare our hearts to accept the gift of Christ. The prophets were sent as messengers to preach repentance and to bid God’s people to prepare for salvation. In today’s Hebrew scripture readings we hear of the promises to come: Isaiah declares that God will send a wise and understanding Judge who will be righteous and faithful in his decisions. The psalm proclaims the expected Messiah as one who will rule with righteousness and justice, bringing peace to the end of time. Paul also speaks of the time to come, when the God of hope will fill the church in Rome with “all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” All of these are voices crying out to us in the wilderness. And this Advent, there are many voices crying out to us.
John the Baptizer prepares those who come to him at the Jordan River in a more radical way. He issues a strong warning to his hearers that they must repent and prepare for the coming of the Messiah. We have come to Christ through the waters of baptism. There we have been welcomed in grace and received the Holy Spirit so that our lives will produce “fruit worthy of repentance.” This spiritual confidence empowers us to work for peace in God’s world, living out the great visions of peace from Isaiah.
The challenge before us as we enter more deeply into Advent is an invitation to bring peace to those relationships that have been broken and to develop ministries that are intended to bring peace to the world. The call to defend the weakest of society and to stand for social justice is inherent in scripture as it is an integral part of the promises made at Baptism.
Water is a sacred gift and basic commodity for life. Our news is full of drought, tainted water (such as that in the city of Flint, Michigan), and especially the native peoples of Standing Rock who are taking a stand in North Dakota to stop an oil pipeline from going through their sacred land that could also pollute their water systems. How might we be called to preach this week on justice for those who are crying for the protection of their water?
God, you shape our dreams. As we put our trust in you may your hopes and desires be ours, and we your expectant people. Amen. A New Zealand Prayer Book.
- Imagine what it would be like to be a witness on the bank of the Jordan River as John preached and baptized those who came. Why do you think Matthew includes the specific details of John’s dress and diet? Why do you think people came to hear him?
- How do you understand the difference between the baptism John offers and that of the coming Messiah?
- Repentance involves a change of direction. Of what do we need to repent in the Church today? What new directions would lead us into a deeper understanding of Jesus the Messiah? In your own life, where do you need to change direction?
- How is water sacred? Why is water so central to baptism and other sacred rituals?
- Might you or your congregation be interested in participating in Trinity Institute’s 2017 conference (in person or via weblink) on Water Justice?