READING: Philippians 1:3-11; Luke 3:1-6
SERMON : "This Is My Prayer"
Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
Today is the second Sunday of Advent - the Sunday of Peace,
the Sunday of John the Baptist,
John who called all Israel to prepare for the Messiah,
to prepare for Peace by preaching to them a baptism of
repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
This week as I thought about these ideas
and studied Paul's words in Philippians, the words that say:
And this is my prayer for you, that your love may
abound more and more in knowledge and depth of
insight, so that you may be able to discern what is
best and may be pure and blameless until the day of
I was struck by how these three things tie together: peace,
repentance and love - love that abounds in knowledge and insight.
I would like you to follow with me my thinking on these matters
for a bit -- for in this thinking - I believe God may speak to
First of all I think it is undeniable that all caring people
want peace in this world,
and in wanting peace they want more than just the absence
of war, they want true peace -
- peace that has in it justice,
- peace that has in it a sharing of the world's
- peace that has in it love, and joy, and hope,
in short a peace like that the people of Israel hoped for
when they hoped for the promised Messiah, for the Christ.
So how is it then that John the Baptist
- who prepared the way for Jesus by his preaching,
talked not about forming groups or parties,
that struggle for peace,
nor about writing letters to leaders,
and boycotting companies that harm the earth,
nor even about the relationships between
nations and groups as a way of getting ready for peace,
but instead talked about individuals getting right with God,
by repenting, and by showing to others the fruit of repentance,
by sharing with and caring for others?
Look at Luke chapter three sometime, or indeed the beginning
chapters of any of the gospels, and puzzle out for a while the
question: What is it that God is trying to tell us about being
prepared for his coming, when he speaks through John the Baptist
Prepare the way for the Lord. Make straight paths for
him. Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. The man
who has two tunics should share with him who has none, and
the one who has food should do the same.
What is the relationship between preparing the way for Christ,
for the Prince of Peace, in one's life and, indeed, in the life
of the world, and doing good works.
What is the relationship between love that abounds in knowledge
and depth of insight, and a world in which the Christ reigns so
completely that there is not only peace, but peace that is
Peace is perhaps the greatest social and political need that our
world has; and yet John, and indeed Jesus himself, never talk
about peace in social or political terms at all,
and this is not because these words and the ideas behind them
were unheard of in those days, far from it,
but rather it is, I think, because in the end the words
are true that say: peace begins with us.
How does the old song go?: Let there be peace on earth,
and let it begin with me
I believe that we can only prepare for the Prince of Peace,
we can only make his paths straight and the rough ways smooth,
by announcing through our own lives:
through our personal commitment to what Peace is,
through our commitment to who God is,
and what the kingdom of God is about.
the essence of peace.
We make ourselves ready, and the world ready, for the reign of
the Prince of Peace by striving to be peacemakers,
and we can only become peacemakers,
when we ourselves live by the laws of peace,
the laws given by our God,
and by Jesus his son.
Pamela Bondy, writing in the religion section of the London Free
Press a few years ago (December 7 1991) about why people do not
come to church as they used to, seems to ignore this idea (that
we need to live by the laws of peace) when she states that the
reason people do not attend church like they used to is because
most people within our society are unresponsive to God's call.
Ms Bondy asserts that this is not the church's fault - but the
fault of the individuals who fail to come to church, who fail to
respond to God. She further claims that people fail to respond
to God because they are in love with material possessions rather
than with God.
There is quite a bit of truth in these ideas - but overall
I believe that Ms. Bondy (and others like her), for all her good
intentions, is wrong in her views.
She is wrong because the scriptures themselves assert over and
over again that God's word must be heard before faith can come,
and how can that word be heard,
if there is not first of all a messenger of that word?
Just as John the Baptist was a messenger for the Living Word,
preparing everyone for Christ's coming by his preaching,
so we, as God's people, are called to be messengers of Jesus
- preparing his way in our own lives,
- and through our lives,
preparing his way in the world.
God's call to us and to others
does not normally occur by magical means,
indeed, most often, God's call comes to us,
and, indeed, God himself comes to us,
through the most ordinary means,
and through the most ordinary people.
It is a rare person who has a vision of God right out of the
blue. Not even the Apostle Paul, who had a personal vision of
Christ, was unaware of God's words or Christ's life, before he
met him on the road to Damascus.
Real people, and not just dreams, communicate God's call to us,
real people and not just visions, show us God's way of peace,
and real people, not just heavenly revelations,
lead us toward God's kingdom,
and prepare us for God's work in our lives.
The German philosopher Frederick Nietzsche,
a man famous for his doubt and unbelief,
once said to a group of Christians
"I will believe in your redeemer
when you act as if you have been redeemed."
This is the challenge that John the Baptist laid before the
people of Israel when he came out of the wilderness and went into
all the country around the Jordan preaching a baptism of
repentance for the forgiveness of sins and saying to them "I
baptize you with water, but one more powerful than I will come,
and he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire".
And this is the challenge that Paul believes that the people of
the church in Philippi will be up to when he prays for them that
their love will abound more and more in knowledge and depth of
insight, so that they may be able to discern what is best and may
be pure and blameless till the day of Christ's coming.
Paul believes that the Philippians are up to the challenge
because he believes that Christ is already working
in the lives of the people there,
and that he will continue to do so until his
second coming because God's grace is upon them.
God's grace, my friends is upon all of you.
All you have to do is lift up your eyes to see it,
and open your hearts so its power may operate in you.
We can prepare ourselves,
and we can prepare our world,
for true peace,
by living our personal lives under the guidance
of Christ's love and wisdom and insight.
All it takes is humility and the desire to walk in the path of
All it takes is the heart-felt desire to turn from holding
everyone else responsible for creating peace and sharing love,
and taking those responsibilities upon ourselves,
knowing that as we do so God, will work with us,
to bring this good work to completion in us by his grace.
In the Walt Disney movie THE SORCERERS APPRENTICE there is a
lesson for us about these things:
It is the lesson that Mickey Mouse, the apprentice,
learned when, taking advantage of his master's absence, he
tries out his skill at wizardry. We quickly discover that
Mickey has enough magical power to make things happen, but
he lacks the knowledge to keep that power under control.
As though to test the saying that "you can never have too
much of a good thing", the single bucket of water and the
mop which the apprentice animates to relieve himself of
the chore of scrubbing the floor, soon multiply beyond
expectation, until ocean-like waves of water flood the
sorcerer's chambers. Only with the return of the master
is control reasserted over these unruly elements. The
apprentice then picks up his mop and returns to doing his
job the hard way - hopefully knowing in the end the
limitation of his own knowledge.
So it is with us.
If we look for peace
if we try to build peace and prepare the way of the Lord,
by setting in action large social movements,
and lending support to great causes,
without first seeking the wisdom of God,
and the insight into our own lives that we need,
then these forces can overwhelm us.
Just look at what has happened to Unions to see the truth of
Unions came into existence in the 19th century
to bring much needed justice to oppressed workers
but now, instead of justice, unions often bring injustice
and not because the union idea is wrong,
or the power that unions have is wrong,
but because too many of the people in them,
do not exercise the wisdom and the insight that they need to have
if true justice is to arise from their actions.
Like the Sorcerer's apprentice, too many people,
both those in unions, and those out of them,
are looking for the easy solution to the hard work they must do,
rather than looking for the right solutions
- the solutions that prepare others for the coming of God by
first ensuring that God's blessings are first of all seen in us
and shared by us.
We can straighten the paths of the Lord,
we can prepare his way into the world,
making the rough places smooth,
when we commit ourselves,
to living by his love, and his love alone.
This is the only way that we can receive the our Messiah,
and it is the only way that the world can be readied for him.
And so it is my prayer, with Paul,
that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and
depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what
is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of
Christ's coming - filled with the fruit of righteousness
that comes through Jesus Christ - to the glory and praise
of God. AMEN
copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild - Spirit Networks, 1997 - 2006
please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.