Every so often:
A modern day prophet:
Makes the news,
Crying that Jesus is coming back soon.
And throughout church history:
Generations of people have been anticipating the Second coming.
In fact, after Jesus’ death and resurrection:
His followers thought that his return to earth was imminent.
Even Saint Paul thought that Jesus was going to return in his generation.
Yet here we are:
2,000 years later:
And still awaiting the coming of our Lord.
The Church continues to be filled with these expectations:
Not unlike those who listened to John the Baptist in today’s Gospel:
Wondering if the coming of the Messiah is soon.
Humans have this kind of longing:
For someone to come and deliver us from all that is wrong with the world.
And so it’s easy to see why the people gathered around John the Baptist:
And mistook him for being the long-awaited Messiah.
He was a great preacher:
Boldly proclaiming the coming of the Kingdom of God:
Warning people to repent of their sins in preparation.
And the people had such a longing:
For the redeemer to arrive.
On this day:
The first Sunday after Epiphany:
We are like the people in the Gospel reading:
Filled with expectation:
With questions burning in our hearts:
still waiting for the Messiah to return.
And It seems weird:
Because we just celebrated Christmas.
We were waiting in advent:
We celebrated the birth of the baby:
We saw the Wise Spies come and visit him:
And now suddenly, Jesus is a thirty year old man:
And we’re here in Church talking about waiting for Jesus to come again.
It’s kind of jolting.
But we do, indeed long for and wait for this coming of Christ:
Regardless of what season it is in the church:
Because it’s part of the Christian life.
And this longing is especially true In light of all of the pain that we’re seeing in the
When turning on the news shows us division,
Yet even in all of that pain:
We remember that Jesus baptizes us with the Holy Spirit and fire.
That the Holy Spirit comes not only to bring comfort:
But to empower us to carry out the work of the Lord in a world that is desperate
God’s beloved Son has already won the victory for us:
We only have to learn to walk in that victory:
As we face all the challenges that lay ahead.
It helps to keep in mind that the world has always faced great adversity.
Throughout history: every generation was convinced it was the end.
That’s why there’s been so many prophets:
Claiming that the end is near.
No generation has lived that hasn’t witnessed great social upheaval:
Indescribable suffering, or unthinkable disasters.
Yet the world continues to spin, history rolls on:
and the Church must learn to rise to the occasion and proclaim that God’s love
knows no boundaries.
But here’s another weird thing about today:
This no boundaries approach seems strange in light of Today’s gospel reading:
Where we hear that Jesus will separate the wheat from the chaff.
That the wheat will be gathered,
But the chaff will burn with unquenchable fire.
What does this mean for a God whose love knows no boundaries?
What separates the wheat from the chaff?
I think it’s fear.
When we allow fear to rule our decisions:
We give into irrational thinking and actions.
Fear tells us to shut others out.
To deny mercy:
And to hoard our resources.
Fear compels us to distrust our neighbors.
Fear allows us to think that the world is worse than ever before:
And that there is no hope for a better tomorrow:
Fear makes us believe that God is distant, or even dead.
If we give in to fear:
It becomes our prison:
Preventing us from living our lives to the fullest.
If we give into fear: we allow our lives to burn up like the chaff:
Rather than be fulfilled and birthed into bread like the wheat.
Those who have been empowered by the Holy Spirit have nothing to fear.
As Scripture reminds us:
“If Christ is for us, who can be against us?”
Fear tells us that God isn’t big enough.
But Jesus’ story proves fear wrong.
The one God calls beloved:
Conquered fear on the cross.
All out of perfect love.
The perfect love that casts out all fear:
Where love is perfected a little more in us:
Each time we face a fearful situation:
And declare God’s victory over all.
The love that gives us power over fear, is rooted in Jesus.
Just as God is well pleased with the Son:
So too is God pleased with all his children who put their trust in Him.
This is the central message of baptism:
The old being has been buried with Christ in baptism:
And the new creation has been resurrected.
No trial or tribulation we may face can separate us from the love of God.
Not even fear.
But fear can get in the way of our being able to see that love:
To feel it:
To believe it.
Thus says the Lord, in today’s reading from Isaiah:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you.
I have called you by name:
You are mine.
God speaks to each of us:
Just as he spoke to Jesus on his baptismal day:
When fire and water come:
I will be with you.
When it gets cold and painful:
I will be with you.
When life seems more work than joy:
More struggle than peace: I will never abandon you.
And I need YOU to be my presence for others in this way.
It will be a hard path at times,
But do not fear:
I will be with you.
Jesus has come into the world to separate the wheat from the chaff
To set us free from fear:
And he WILL come again as promised.
Until that day comes:
Let us continue to manifest God’s love for all creation:
In the perfect love that casts out fear:
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