Monday, December 10, 2012
Preparing the way
A Collect for the Second Sunday of Advent
Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
These prophets were some crazy figures. We would do well do dive into these books of the Bible with gusto. Micah, Jeremiah, Hosea, Elijah, Isaiah. One scholar said that they would not be the kind of person you would want at your house at a dinner party. They suffered no fools, and were unflinching in the ways that they aimed their rhetorical arrows at injustice and iniquity.
When John the Baptist arrives in the desert preaching forgiveness of sins and begins talking about the Messiah who was coming, he was standing firmly in the tradition of the prophets. Wearing camel skin and eating locusts, he would have reminded the people of Jerusalem about the great Elijah who looked similar to John.
These prophets were not "predictors" of what would happen, or at least not primarily, rather they were the ones who called the leaders to a higher standard. They called the people to a higher standard, and their eyes were wide open to injustice and suffering - especially suffering caused by those who do not take care of others and who have no compassion or action for the poor and the oppressed.
John the Baptist appears in the desert and must have been one amazingly charismatic figure, because "all the people" went to him and were willing to get into trouble by circumventing the power base of the Temple to accept forgiveness at the hands of a strange holy man in the wilderness. The Temple had a whole process through which people could receive forgiveness, and this process was often impossible for the poor to afford. In addition, it set up the Temple hierarchy as the mediators of God's grace.
John preached the Amazing Grace that God's love and forgiveness is for everyone, and is available to us all - if we're willing to step up and follow. Perhaps we need to find ways to "go to the wilderness" and hear prophetic figures like John.
Loving God, help me to remember that your grace pours out upon us all, and that that that you call us to hear the prophetic figures of our time, who call us to love everyone. Amen.