Immanuel Lutheran Church

Sermon

Advent 2

"Repent . . . what's in it for me?!"

Matthew 3:1-12

December 4, 2016

As we read today's Gospel, we might wonder, "what's the big deal?" John the Baptist came preaching a simple message: Repent! Now, for us, repent is one of those church words we hear all the time. Wasn't it the same of the people who heard John? Well, yes and no.

Read text: Matthew 3:1-12. In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, "The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight." Now John wore a garment of camel's hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father,' for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

"I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire."

John the Baptist's audience was the "church people" of his day. Most of the people who came to hear John were Jews with varying degrees of piety. It seems the less pious were more receptive to his message than those who were considered more pious. Now why do you suppose that was? Why do some respond to the message to repent while others don't? Some heeded John, others didn't.

The Pharisees were shocked and angry when John called them out. What? Who me? You've got to be kidding! What are you talking about? Why, we're some of the most pious and up-right citizens you'll ever run across. The Pharisees were, after all, very spiritual. They carefully observed the Law of Moses. They went regularly to the Temple and were generous with their tithes and offerings. They probably thought that John's message was meant for others.

Isn't it the same today? How many American Christians would be shocked if John called them a brood of vipers? Think about it. Most American churches don't talk much about repenting. Why? Americans like to stress the importance of piety. It's all about appearances. Perhaps because they consider themselves pious, like the Pharisees, they don't think they need to repent.

Why don't pious people respond to the call to repentance? If you skim through the writings of popular American evangelists and TV preachers, you may find they quote many Bible verses and offer some practical lessons for living as a Christian in the world but something is missing. What I was looking for was word repent. Interestingly, these writers would freely use the words surrender and obey but not repent.

Why is that? I'm thinking that the authors assume that repentance is a given. Once you've repented, it's time to move on to living the sanctified Christian life. Maybe the very pious people who heard John the Baptist were thinking the same thing, "Repentance--been there and done that." Now we're focusing on the sanctified life.

What's wrong with working on being pious? Here's the danger in over-emphasizing piety. We forget that the heart needs constant monitoring. Satan attacks us in our point of weakness and in our pride. When we begin to think that our hearts are right with God and it's just our daily

living that needs some fine tuning, we setting ourselves up for trouble.

This was the problem the Pharisees had with both John the Baptist and Jesus. They saw no need to repent since they were so careful to observe the law and do the things they thought were commanded by God. Theirs was an outward observance. They thought they were in fine shape. Their problem was spiritual. They no longer thought of themselves as sinners. Therefore, repentance was for other people.

Yet, in their piety they broke the very commandments they accused others of breaking. For example, the law stated that it was the responsibility of adult children to take care of their elderly parents. The Pharisees would tell their elderly parents, "the money I would have used to help you out has been given to the Temple." In the minds of these guys, God would be more pleased and bless them more because they gave gifts to the Temple.

Jesus told them that their brand of piety stunk. He reminded them that God desires first of all that we show love and kindness to others. He told the Pharisees to repent of this bad attitude and follow the heart of God.

Perhaps the disconnect is the conflict between intellect and emotion. It may be that we view repentance as more of an intellectual exercise while piety flows out of emotions. Piety is often how we feel we are doing as we are busy trying to live up to our spiritual potential.

If we're feeling good about our lives, we begin to think we don't need to repent. To repent implies that you have done wrong. Many Americans seek change in the place of repentance. They do all kinds of things to improve their lives. They seek to discover what their purpose in life is. They pray for a life that will be properly driven. Yet, without repentance, you will still have the nagging feeling that you haven't done enough.

Advent is the time return to the basics. Not matter how pious you feel, we are sinners. No matter how hard we try, we can't get rid of sin. Sin continues to cause us to falter and fall. Sin continues to cause us confusion. It is sin that disrupts our relationships with God and with one another.

Repentance is recognizing the continuing problem of sin. Repentance is doing an about face. We turn from the direction we had been heading and return to God who is calling us back. Repentance is recognizing that we're not nearly as good, nice and pious as we want others to believe. Repentance is not false humility. Repentance is spiritual house-cleaning. Repentance is what Advent is supposed to be about--preparing to receive Jesus who died on the cross to bring you God's forgiveness.

With repentance, there is forgiveness. Forgiveness cleanses our hearts and propels us to live a purposeful life. Luther reminds us that your life is your calling. God has made you. He has given you talents, skills and abilities. Your purpose in life is to discover what these are and then develop them in order that you might serve God and others with them.

The call to repentance remains a big deal whether you're pious or apostate. By God's grace, we will hear the call to return to the Lord to receive His healing, hope and forgiveness. He comes to you this morning in the sacrament to strengthen you in your daily life as a Christian living in the world. It is only then that we will glorify Him in our hearts and voices with lives anchored in His love. The peace of the Lord be with you now and forever. Amen.


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

December
12/25/2016
12/18/2016
12/11/2016
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