Advent Sharpens Hearing Malachi 3: 1-4

Closet OrganizedSome things are easier to get straight than others.  In my golf bag, the putter sits next to the lob wedge, and my back-up putter sits near the driver when the other putter is misbehaving.  Some of you may have noticed that on my desk, only certain items are allowed, and they go in certain places.  My therapist thinks I am doing better.  If I could only keep things straight in life like my golf bag and desk.  I wish I could Sort out my feelings, so I would know when to speak and when to remain silent.  I wish offering forgiveness was as easy as passing out candy at Christmas.  I wish I could keep the church straight, so each one trusts everyone else.  All of us wish we could make all things right.

Years ago, I was telling a children’s story how the wolf and lamb will lie together.  As I was describing the promise a boy chimed in, “That will never happen!”  The child knew God had unfinished business.  We know there is more work to be done, so things may be right on earth as in heaven.  Lion and Lamb

Jesus was the messiah who came to set the world straight.  Yet, we know intuitively and visibly the promises of the one who came have not been fulfilled.  Not every valley is exalted and every mountain made low, crookedness and rough places still need to be straightene

dd and smoothed.  We have to accept we’re not what we wish; God isn’t finished with us yet. The Old and New Covenant depicts a messenger who announces one is coming who will make things straight.  Prophetic words in Malachi and Luke calls hearers to pay attention to the things in their lives and in our world that need to be made right.  God’s consistent word comes to us before God’s coming, so we may sharpen our hearing so we are ready to receive the one who has come and will come again to make things straight.

Malachi spoke of a forerunner to the Messiah who would speak refining words to the contradictory ways of the world, preparing the way of the Lord.  Luke spoke of a messenger who would utter challenging words to power brokers whose self-preserving actions spoke louder than their words of wanting to do the right thing.  The primary reason the messenger spoke was to sharpen the hearing of political bigwigs, like Tiberius, emperor of Rome; and Pontius Pilate, governor of Judea;and religiousrulers like, Annas and Caiaphas; and people of the land, like you and me.

John the BaptistThe messenger came to both powerbrokers and peasants, so that all might put themselves in position to receive the one who is coming to make things right.  That first messenger was a man who ate locusts and honey, wore camel hair shirts, and ranted of repentance.  Many of those with influence didn’t receive him; for they were not accustomed to hearing about such changes from someone with no apparent power.

During the most wonderful time of year, we equally have as hard of time hearing that Christ’s birth was only the beginning of the story and much of what is promised has not come.  Unintentionally, we imply all is as we treat these weeks before Christmas as a four week celebration of the birth rather than a time of spiritual preparation.  This is a season to consider what it means to anticipate one who has come and will come again to make things right.  This message is hard to hear, particularly if we need little or nothing.

The essential point of that first coming was God went to work from the bottom up.  God’s ways aren’t our ways.  The one we await to come again to level inequities, rectify injustices, polish the roughshod, and straighten perversities didn’t come with shock and awe; wrestling the world into crying UNCLE.  Christ’s first coming was certain, but it was also a bit clumsy and ended quite messy.  That is the way it has to be if you start with a baby and a hick couple from the Galilee with no credentials, but the truth of God. Mary and Joseph

We can hear the essential message again this year in its bare bone simplicity if we will assume a lower position, so we can sharpen our hearing.  This is a season to pay spiritual attention to our lives and world; noticing rough places that need smoothed, and crooked places that need straightened.  If our hearing is sharp, we will repent of our illusion God’s refining work is done simply because we have a good seat at salvation’s table.  God isn’t done until all can hear the salvation of our God.

Pastoral Advice-Don’t go grocery shopping on an empty stomach; you will buy Oreos and Blue Bell; I know what I’m talking about.  Send me to the store after a big lunch and I can step up on my imaginary perch and look down haughtily on the hefty souls stocking up on chips and dips.  Pride goes before the fall, and they say the higher you go the harder the fall.

Grocery LinesImagine what a mother may think about how others feel toward her when she uses her SNAP card in the grocery store line; knowing she and everyone else knows she is struggling to feed her babies.  Think about how a father feels judged when work is erratic and he is not sure each week if he can fully provide for his family.  It may be easier to hear the messenger that bellows that baby Jesus is not the end of the story, if we were sitting in a church of mostly unemployed people, meeting in a barely heated room, in a poverty stricken part of town.  It is from that position, we are sure God’s full salvation has not been made fully known.

Salvation comes from on high; but it arrives on earth.  We need to sharpen our hearing to hear of the saving message of God here on earth.  This can happen during Advent if we will attune our ears and prepare the way of the Lord by placing ourselves in positions to hear how God is making all things straight, little by little.  Time and again, the best place to go to sharpen our hearing are the crooked, dry, and low places where there are few comforts.  In those places, it doesn’t matter who we know or what title we hold.  These are places where we might not be completely secure, but often we are surprised to hear more clearly the ways God is standing the world on its head in order to make all things right. Humble Service

Consider some ways to sharpen your hearing.  Join us at the TRE station on December 19th.  Ask Sheryl Bunt or Deb Bellew if there is anything you can do to help with Family Promise.  Think of ways to share the abundance of your table with those who stomachs are not always filled.  Volunteer to a group that bears spiritual hope to those who need to hear the saving work of our God.  Make a commitment to do one thing that enables others to hear distinctly of the coming one, who will make things straight and right.

Plans for the Paris subway system began in 1845, but the actual work did not begin until much later.  A civil engineer, Fulgence Bienvenüe, was assigned the task of preparing the way for that great Metro Line.  His first task was to dig the network of underground tunnels.

Paris MetroThe workers hit many unexpected obstacles under that city inhabited by millions: caverns, springs, rock quarries, layers of chalk and sand, and prehistoric swamps.  The SeineRiver flows through the middle of Paris, so the subway had to be routed under the river too.  Removal of the riverbed mud was the biggest challenge.  The clever solution was to freeze the mud solid, then cut it into chunks with picks and axes, and haul it away before it thawed.  The project lasted forty years, and that persistent civil engineer in charge stayed on the job until the subway system was up and running.

The Paris subway is the finest in the world.  Millions of commuters depend on it daily to transport them, but few know the names of the engineer and workers who toiled to bring it to fruition.  They prepared the way for countless citizens and visitors to move conveniently about the city of Paris.

Preparing the way is not an easy task.  How will you prepare the road for the Lord’s coming?  A Mexican poet put it this way, Sojourner, there is no road/you make the road as you walk.  Hear the call God at Advent this year that beckons us to lower ourselves, so we can hear the message that compels us to prepare the way; building the road for Christ to come again.Prepare the way

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Published in: on December 9, 2012 at 3:44 pm  Leave a Comment  

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