Immanuel Lutheran Church

Sermon

Advent 2

"John, Last of the Prophets"

Mark 1:1-8

December 7, 2014

If you were to observe our society, what things would you notice? Marriage is no longer held in high regard. Families seem to be unraveling. Politicians are corrupt. People have little confidence in either their political or spiritual leaders. Taxation seems unfair. There are no moral absolutes. People are looking for good news.

As much as life changes, it remains the same. This was the state of the world at the time of John the Baptist. The Roman Empire was already in the midst of its moral decline. The general consensus was that the best times were behind them. The Roman world was like an out-of-control skier avalanching down the steepest sloop trying to brace for the inevitable wipe out. It was doom and gloom.

In the midst of this darkness and gloom, a voice was heard. It was a strange voice bringing a message of hope but a hope predicated on repentance. It was a voice announcing the coming of the Light to those sitting in the darkness of their sin and despair. Into the doom and gloom, the light of the Gospel was about to dawn.

Mark 1:1-8. The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, "Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way, the voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight."

 John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel's hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. And he preached, saying, "After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."

We don't usually think of John as the prophet of hope. His message sounds more like old-fashioned fire and brimstone preaching. Yes, John also took stock of the society and world around him. Like us, he saw the pessimism. Yet, instead of trying to bring false hope and security, he blasted away at moral and spiritual decay that were permeating the life of the people, of their society and the world.

If you look carefully at John's message, it was not one directed to the political and spiritual leaders, to the captains of business and industry, or to any who were in some kind of authority. His message was not a general word of admonition to the "man." John wasn't pointing fingers of blame at anyone who could be labeled a scapegoat for the problems and despair of the people.

On the contrary, his message was intended for the individual. It was a personal message directed to each hearer's heart. Now, if some political or religious leader, if some government official or business tycoon happened to hear his message and take it to heart, that was a reason for rejoicing, But, it was no more cause for rejoicing than for any one who came to him to be baptized for the forgiveness of their sins.

John came to address the spiritual malaise of Israel. He was unusual in that he didn't seek out the crowds. He didn't go into the town and village squares looking for an audience. He preached in the wilderness areas of the Jordan River valley. It was here that the people first heard him. It was through them that the word spread like wildfire that the voice of the prophet was once again being heard in the land. The Lord had not forgotten His people even in these gloomiest of times.

The people flocked to hear John. Not all, of course, were moved by his preaching. There were always those who listened by rejected his word. Some chose to think the ills of society and the world had nothing to do with them. They were like many of these Ferguson protesters who are more than willing to blame all of the world's problems on someone else. It's the fault of the politicians or corporations or "the man." They have no desire to look at the gloomy selfishness of their own hearts or acknowledge their own lack of compassion or willingness to actually do something positive to alleviate the suffering of others.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Each one of us makes a bigger impact on the world by doing one small act of kindness than by picketing, protesting or occupying anything. John wasn't calling for boycotts or sit-ins or mob violence. He was calling for repentance. Any change in society had to begin with the change of the individual heart.

The crowds did come. Some came out of curiosity. Some came as spies for the authorities. Some happened by and wandered off again. Yet, many who came did hear and believe. They confessed their sins. With that confession, they received baptism from John. In that baptism they received forgiveness of sins and the power to live their lives as renewed, changed and reclaimed people of God.

John didn't simply call for repentance. His preaching was prophetic because this repentance was preparing the people for the greater blessing, the arrival of their Messiah. After years of waiting, the Messiah had come to His people. Sadly, most of them were looking for a military/political leader who would come to restore the ancient kingdom of David. They were not really looking for a Savior who would die on the cross for their sins. Although many of them would remain clueless, John pointed them to the greater one. This one was so great and important that John did not consider himself worthy of the lowest slave's job to untie his sandals.

The greater one has come to His people. Jesus has come in power and grace. He comes to the world not to occupy wall street or main street but to occupy the hearts of His people with the power of the Holy Spirit. He comes to bring us to repentance and cleanse us with His forgiveness. He calls us to live as salt of the earth and light to the world. 

Jesus comes to us today. He comes to hearts that have prepared Him room by repentance and faith. He comes to comfort us with His Word. He comes to strengthen us in the blessed sacrament. He comes to give us comfort, hope, and peace of heart as we live in a world that seems to be unraveling before us.

Although technology changes, human nature doesn't. Our history is filled with good times and bad, with prosperity and adversity, with hope and despair. In the midst of the world's doom and gloom, the Lord gives us His light and hope. By God's grace we will hear the call to repentance. The Holy Spirit will cleanse our hearts and prepare room for Jesus Christ to come and fill us with His peace, love, truth and grace. Amen.


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01/29/2017
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December
12/25/2016
12/18/2016
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12/04/2016
November
11/27/2016
11/20/2016
11/13/2016
11/06/2016
October
10/30/2016
10/23/2016
10/16/2016
10/09/2016
10/02/2016
September
09/25/2016
09/18/2016
09/11/2016
09/04/2016
August
08/28/2016
08/21/2016
July
07/31/2016
07/24/2016
07/17/2016
07/03/2016
June
06/26/2016
06/19/2016
06/05/2016
May
05/29/2016
05/22/2016
05/15/2016
05/08/2016
05/01/2016
April
04/17/2016
04/10/2016
04/03/2016
March
03/27/2016
03/20/2016
03/13/2016
03/06/2016
February
02/28/2016
02/21/2016
02/17/2016
02/14/2016
02/07/2016
January
01/31/2016
01/24/2016
01/03/2016
01/01/2016

December
12/27/2015
12/20/2015
12/13/2015
12/06/2015
November
11/22/2015
11/15/2015
11/08/2015
11/01/2015
October
10/25/2015
10/18/2015
10/11/2015
10/04/2015
September
09/27/2015
09/20/2015
09/13/2015
09/06/2015
August
08/30/2015
08/23/2015
08/16/2015
08/09/2015
08/02/2015
July
07/26/2015
07/19/2015
07/12/2015
07/05/2015
June
06/28/2015
06/21/2015
06/14/2015
06/07/2015
May
05/31/2015
05/24/2015
05/17/2015
05/10/2015
April
04/19/2015
04/12/2015
04/12/2015
04/05/2015
March
03/29/2015
03/22/2015
03/15/2015
03/08/2015
February
02/15/2015
02/15/2015
02/08/2015
02/01/2015
January
01/25/2015
01/25/2015
01/18/2015
01/11/2015
01/04/2015

December
12/28/2014
12/21/2014
12/14/2014
12/07/2014
November
11/23/2014
11/16/2014
11/09/2014
11/02/2014
October
10/12/2014
10/05/2014
September
09/28/2014
09/21/2014
09/14/2014
09/07/2014
August
08/31/2014
08/24/2014
08/17/2014
08/10/2014
08/03/2014
July
07/27/2014
07/20/2014
07/13/2014
07/06/2014
June
06/29/2014
06/22/2014
06/15/2014
06/08/2014
06/01/2014
May
05/11/2014
April
04/27/2014
04/20/2014
04/13/2014
04/06/2014
March
03/30/2014
03/23/2014
03/16/2014
03/02/2014
February
02/02/2014
January
01/26/2014
01/19/2014
01/12/2014
01/05/2014