Monday, November 29, 2010

Be a Prophet!

When we start out in life none of us knows what will happen.
We don’t know the twist and turns, the ups and downs, the path that lies ahead.
We all could point to something in our lives that was unexpected that took us by surprise.
I was thinking about this week because it was my 10 year anniversary.
My wife and I were discussing what we thought might happen in the next 10 years.
What we agreed was that we had no idea.
The last 10 years was about twist and turns and living day to day.
It would be foolish to try and predict the next ten years.

This morning’s readings are about future events.
They are about things hoped for, things longed for, and dreams.
When will be that day of peace, when God will judge between nations, when swords will by beat into plowshares, when nations will no longer learn war?
When will be the day when all nations flow to the holy mountain of God?
When will be that day when we walk in the light of God?
When will be the day when Jesus comes again?
This is what advent is about waiting for that day.
Anticipating the day of spears becoming pruning hooks.
Of the prince of peace coming.
While we wait we need to be prophets of our own lives.
We need to see beyond today and into God’s promised future.

The job of a prophet is to be able to see through current circumstances into the promise of God’s future.
It is not about predicting future events, it is about reminding people of God’s promises.
Even though we don’t know what will be coming around the next twist and turn in the road, in faith we know that it will be God there with us.
Isaiah sees beyond the war torn predicament of Israel into the day when all nations come together under God’s rule.
Isaiah sees beyond the destruction and scheming of politicians to the day of peace for all.
Summarily, Jesus had a vision of God’s future, of a day of all things coming together.
He talked about it a lot.
He talked about the day when God’s kingdom would come to earth.
The problem is that Jesus is short on the details.
Gives no date or time, no predictable event, this morning he evens tells us that he does not know any more than we do when these things will happen.

And that is where we find ourselves in this advent.
We simply don’t know what will come next.
We don’t know if it will be joy or calamity.

This is why it is so fitting that James is going to be baptized on this first Sunday of Advent.
Here is a new life, and we don’t know yet what that life will be like.
We don’t know if all the things that his mom and dad have dreamed for him will become true.
We don’t know if he will be a lawyer, a doctor, a mill worker, a salesman, or whatever.
James’ life is yet to be written, it is yet to be seen.
Every day for him will be an adventure to what he someday might be.
We know that for him there will be twists and turns, ups and downs.

Today we can be assured of one more thing for James.
For the rest of his life he will have God as his companion.
In Baptism we receive the promise of God’s grace and love toward us.
What this does for James and for all of us is give us the ability to be prophets.
It gives us the ability to see beyond the moment we are in and toward a better day.
And there will be days in James life when he is going to have to see beyond the moment into what God is calling him to be.

When Jesus tells us to be ready.
This is what he is telling us.
Use the gifts of faith to see something greater at work in your life.

The world is full of stories where people started out doing something very small and it became something much greater.
For example, I once met a thirteen year old boy who was walking to school one day.
It was a day like all the other days.
He happened to see a man sleeping in the woods just beyond the sidewalk.
He also happened to notice that the man was cold because he did not have a blanket only newspaper to cover him.
He went home after school and took some blankets from his house to give to the homeless man.
Then he started to ask his friends and family for extra blankets.
Eventually he collected 100 blankets, and then 500.
He ended up forming his own charity that collects blankets for the homeless.
A small act of charity that ended up helping hundreds of people.
More than this it inspired people to be better, to hope more, to believe in the possibility of good.
It gave people a vision of a world where we help others, and that no one is too small or young to contribute.
It helped others see a way to beat a sword into a plowshare.

Perhaps that is what all of our lives are about beating swords into plowshares.
We have rough edges that kill others and our own lives.
And what God helps us do is beat those things down and smooth out our sharper edges.
This means taking the long view of life.
What we are today is not what we have to be tomorrow.
God will give us time to change to make ourselves better.
If we fail today we still have a chance to do better.

We see only in part.
We see finite things in this life.
And that is why we need the heart and mind of a prophet.
We need to see the bigger picture, the larger plan, the things that God will do through us.
In baptism we are called to that larger picture of God’s redeeming work in the world.
Through this water and God’s word we tie ourselves to Noah, Moses, the prophets, Jesus, the disciples, to our parents, our grandparents, and all those who have gone before us.
Our story becomes part of the narrative of God’s larger story.
Through James God is going to do something really wonderful and magnificent.
I have no idea what it will be, but I know that God will use James for a larger purpose then I or you can see.

One of my favorite movies of all time is Hoosiers.
It is about a small town basketball team that makes it to the state finals.
The actor who played the point guard in the movie was a local Indiana basketball player.
In real life he was a farmer.
His life took some unexpected turns.
He ended up getting divorced and then killing himself.
I don’t know all the reasons why someone would kill themselves.
I don’t know why this person killed himself.
I am sure that the reasons are complex.
His ex-wife had this to say about it, “that everything had gone right for him. He had a Midas touch. He didn't know what to do when adversity hit.”
It is important for us as human beings to be able to see beyond the twist and turns in the road.
Otherwise we get bogged down in the moment when things don’t go right, we get lost in the ways we fail, or in the way life does not measure up to our expectations.
We don’t give God a chance to change the course of our life for good.
It is important for us to be prophets and rely on God’s promises so that we give God a chance to beat those swords into plowshares.
We give God a chance to take our rough edges and make them into something good and useful.
Because we will experience some things in our lives that are not always good.
And it is important to see beyond them and see the larger picture.

So today I hope that James in his life learns to be a prophet.
I hope that he learns to rely on God’s word and is able to see the bigger picture.

May all of us learn to be prophets and see beyond the twist in turns in our paths, and may your path whatever they be always lead you to God.


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