Third Sunday of Advent – “I’m not the one”

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Title Sermon Date Liturgical Scripture
First Sunday in Lent, Year B February 21, 2021 First Sunday in Lent, Year B 2021 Genesis 9:8-17, Mark 1:9-15
Ash Wednesday sermon – “This is the season to unlock the doors of our hearts” February 17, 2021 Ash Wednesday, Year B Isaiah 58:1-12, Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
Last Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B February 14, 2021 The Last Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B 2 Kings 2:1-12, 2 Corinthians 4:3-6, Mark 9:2-9
Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B February 7, 2021 Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B Isaiah 40:21-31, Mark 1:29-39
Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B January 24, 2021 Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B I Corinthians7:29-31, Mark 1:14-20
First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B January 10, 2021 First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B Genesis 1:1-5, Mark 1:4-11
Epiphany, Jan. 2021 January 6, 2021 Epiphany, Year B, Psalm 72, Ephesians 3:1-12, Matthew 2:1-12
Christmas Eve, Year B, 2020 December 24, 2020 Christmas Eve, Year B Luke 2:1-20
Fourth Sunday of Advent – Messages of Hope December 20, 2020 Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year B 2020 Luke 1:26-38, 46-55
Third Sunday of Advent – “I’m not the one” December 13, 2020 Third Sunday of Advent, Year B Isaiah 6:1-4, 8-11; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24; John 1:6-8,19-28
Second Sunday of Advent – Repentance December 6, 2020 Second Sunday of Advent, Year B
Isaiah 40:1-11, Mark 1:1-8
First Sunday of Advent – The Waiting November 29, 2020 First Sunday of Advent, Year B 2020 Isaiah 64:1-9, I Corinthians 1:3-9, Mark 13:24-27
Last Pentecost – Christ the King, Year A November 22, 2020 Christ the King Sunday, Year A Ephesians 1:15-23, Matthew 25:31-46
Pentecost 24 – Diocesan Convention (Rt. Rev. Phoebe Roaf, Bishop of the Diocese of West Tennessee) November 15, 2020 Pentecost 24, Proper 28 Matthew 25:14-30
Pentecost 23, Year A November 8, 2020 Pentecost 23, Proper 27, Year A Matthew 25:1-13


Third Sunday of Advent – “I’m not the one”

Sermon Date:December 13, 2020

Scripture: Isaiah 6:1-4, 8-11; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24; John 1:6-8,19-28

Liturgy Calendar: Third Sunday of Advent, Year B

“John the Baptist” – Part of the Isenheim Altarpiece
Matthias Grünewald (c.1470-1528)

In today’s gospel, John gives his testimony to the priests and Levites sent out by the Pharisees to ask who he is.    

John says, “I’m not the one.” 

If you grew up in the South, like I did, people will want to know who you are.  They’ll ask you for your testimony.  Their first questions will be about your family.  If they know your family, they’ll be sure to comment.  

Something like this—

Term of endearment for you—

“honey, dear, darling”

Acknowledgement of admiration for which family member of yours they know—

“I just love your grandmother”

“I adore that brother of yours”

“I have such great respect for your father” 

Superlative adjective to describe the person—“Kindest, the sweetest, the strongest, the most beautiful, the most amazing, the smartest person in…”

Mention of town or area where the family member resides, usually here, the name of a small town, community or county–

Resulting in responses like these regarding your lineage–

“Oh honey, I just love your first cousin, she is the most charming person in the whole world, she was my best friend forever in Willow Springs.”  Or, “Dear, your grandfather! My, he was so clever.  He was the most talented person I knew in Cumberland County.” 

But John the Baptist never mentions his pedigreed heritage to those who question him—he never mentions the fact that his father is a priest who belongs to order of Abijah, and that his mother is a descendant of Aaron, and that both of his parents are righteous before God. 

Now another thing that people in the South will want to know if they are trying to figure you out is to ask you about what you do. 

They get excited if you tell them something that ranks as important or smart in the eyes of the world.  So you’d be tempted to name the most important thing you’ve ever done but as modestly as possible. 

Something like, “Well, I’m retired now, but I used to be the CEO of Google,” and you’d also mention anything else that you can slip in that may increase your standing with the questioner.  And if you haven’t done something you consider worthy enough to share, you can claim another family member’s success and say something like, “Oh yes, my daughter is an astro-physicist,”  or drop the name of someone important the other person may know. 

But John just says who he is not—he is not Elijah, he is not a prophet like Moses, and he is certainly not the Messiah. 

At this point in the South, the conversation would lag, because where on earth would a polite person go in conversation with someone who doesn’t talk about family or work?  What on earth would one ask next? 

(Once, my sister asked a prospective spouse of one of our cousins at a family reunion if she liked collards, to see if she would fit into the family.  The next year, my cousin attended the family reunion solo, having been jilted by this girl, who no doubt did not like collards, and may not have enjoyed our family questions either!)

Since John is not giving his questioners any help at all, they point out that he is baptizing—that is important.   “So John, tell us about that!  Why are you baptizing?” 

That question doesn’t get them anywhere either. 

John replies with this cryptic statement.  “Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.” 

John wants them to know that “Y’all, this isn’t about me.  I’m here to testify to someone else–to the light.  And the light isn’t me, it’s the One who is to come.”

In this season of our earth, its plants and creatures reeling under the effects of climate change; its people reeling from the ravages of a pandemic which in this country alone death is claiming over 3000 people a day; in this nation, struggling with the meaning of all that has happened in our short history, how to deal with the past to create a better future for all, we need to offer up our testimonies, and to follow John’s example. 

The testimony we Christians can offer the world is to point to God and God’s work in this world—because that’s hopeful testimony. 

This world is desperate for hopeful testimony.     

But to offer hopeful testimony, we must be people of hope ourselves. 

Paul lays out what we can do to build up our own hope so that we can offer hopeful testimony regarding the One who is to come. 

Rejoice always.  Pray without ceasing.  Give thanks in all circumstances.  Open up to the power of the Spirit, rather than cower in fear.  Take the words of the prophets seriously.  Try to discern what is good and is of God and cultivate those things. 

All of these actions are hopeful actions, especially in the times in which we find ourselves.  If we open ourselves to doing these things, we will find our hope in God growing in us. 

And then we can witness to hope and encourage others to hope with us. 

The prophet Isaiah preached his words of hope to people whose dream had been realized, but the realization was not as wonderful as they had expected.  They had at last gotten out of exile in Babylon and had returned to Jerusalem.  But….

Jerusalem was in ruins. 

The people saw how hard its restoration would be.  The Israelites who had been left behind and had never gone into exile weren’t exactly welcoming back these strangers.  How would these people who had so deeply desired to get home survive in this unwelcoming and ruined place, much less rebuild it?  They felt oppressed. 

But Isaiah is hopeful.  The Spirit of the Lord has anointed him to bring good news to the oppressed. 

We too have been anointed!

When we get baptized, we get anointed to spread the good news. One of our baptismal vows says that we will proclaim the good news of God in Christ.

The good news of God in Christ is not simply words, but actions. 

God’s power will work through us when the Spirit of the Lord is upon us.

As the writer of Ephesians says, “Glory to God, whose power working in us can do infinitely more than we could ask or imagine.”

God’s power working in us gives us the strength to build up and to transform the ruins of the past, to raise up former devastations, and to repair ruined cities.  God empowers us to be God’s people on this earth who work for God’s justice to be done. 

God’s power will work through us to  heal those in need of healing, to comfort those who mourn and to transform those things in this world that block God’s work from getting done.   

In all we do, like John, we must remember, that what we do is not about us at all—our actions point to God and to God’s work in this world. 

Later in scripture, we learn that John gets arrested by Herod, thrown into prison and then beheaded. 

Jesus is cruelly put to death on a cross.

When God’s power works through us, life can get dangerous.

The forces arrayed against God will fight God’s power, and fight those through whom God’s power works. 

Our strength can crumble, but God’s strength will grow out of our weaknesses. 

Our will to pray can fail, but God will speak to us still, and in the stillness, will restore our desire to pray. 

Our joy may dry up, but God, living water, will fill us with deep wells of joy when we offer our testimony of hope in God, even in our own sorrows. 

In the darkness, God’s light shines, and the darkness cannot overcome it. 

And as the Prophet Isaiah says, “As the earth brings forth its shoots and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up,

So God will bring forth righteousness and praise to spring up in us,” even in these times of trial. 

New, resurrection life is on the way. 

So we live in hope.

And in hope, we testify, not about ourselves, but  to the one who is among us already.  We testify to the One who is on the way to finish the redeeming and restoring work that God has already begun.