Sunday Night Worship – 12/9/07

“I’m baptized. Now what?”

Matthew 3: 1-12

Who better than I to demonstrate to all the world the strangeness of God? People think it’s the locusts and honey, the camel’s hair clothing. It scratches. It’s not what most folks are wearing and eating. But this isn’t really what makes all this so odd.

Other people think in terms of real estate. Sure there’s a waterfront view, but the desert –the wilderness – is where our people have languished and left before. We’re not usually clamoring to come back out here. That’s, of course, why I came. To get away from what we were all expecting. To let God show me the enormity of what I might expect, if only I would listen.

Who better than I to demonstrate to all the world the strangeness of God? The way God bursts into time and places we least expect, hardly ever looking the way we assume. Take my family, for starters. My dad was arrogant enough to laugh at the news that my old and barren mother would give birth to me. He had nine long silent months to think about that laugh. He always told me he saw how funny it was only when he was forced to be quiet so long. He would say, “John, God’s good news always sounds like a joke but it never is and we always miss the humor anyway.” He’s said that my whole life but I didn’t completely get his meaning until I found myself wearing this camel’s hair robe, scrounging for locusts, and calling people to repent.

That one trips a lot of people us when they hear it. Too many televangelists, I think, mussing up the meaning and confusing seekers. Repent. You know, with God there is always room for talk about sin, but we often use the wrong words when we start that conversation. Repentance isn’t about getting bogged down in what we’re doing wrong and what we should do right. It’s about the turning around, turning away, turning upside down and inside out. It’s the poor who are blessed – just look at them! The hungry know God’s blessings and so do those who grieve. Woe to those of us who think otherwise, who like the order we have created for ourselves, the world the way we envision it and structure it. The house of cards we keep propping up. Repent!

It’s about the turning around, turning away, turning upside down and inside out. My aunt Mary put it really well, “God has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. God has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; God has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty” (Luke 1: 51-53). The kingdom of heaven has come near (Mt. 3:2) and it’s like those days out here on the sand when the heat waves make ordinary things look strange and beautiful. Sometimes water seems to appear in the sky. Upside down and inside out. Only God’s way is no mirage.

When I get going like this, they start using the “m” word: messiah. Tongues cluck and fingers wag. Maybe some are hopeful, maybe they’ve heard the beginnings of something they are trying to listen for.  Do I think I’m some kind of messiah? Are they really listening? “…One who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” I say it every day, standing in the Jordan, calling God’s children to upside down expectations and life cleaner and newer and more profound than they could ever have known. But it’s not I who can give that life. I simply point it out, point the way. My voice cries out in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight” (Mt. 3: 3).

I love the days when I can find even one person awake and listening. We stand there with our toes in the sand and silt, skin glistening in the sun with water. We give ourselves up to it, letting God wash over us, wash away our proud imaginations and wayward ideas. We let the Wind take us and topple our houses of cards. I love those days.

But I have to send these on at the end of the day because it’s not me calling but God. Baptizing them is only the beginning. It’s the answer to the first sounds of the call. It’s a strange call with upside down expectations and it comes at unexpected times. It’s a strange God, I tell you. This clothing, this honey, this river, this wilderness – this is my calling, but it’s not theirs. It’s not yours. We cross paths here and I stay. Where is God calling them when they put their sandals back on and start back on the road to town? Who is God calling to meet me here next? Where is God calling you?

Who better than I to demonstrate to all the world the strangeness of God? Well…Who better than you?

Thanks be to God!

© Deborah Lewis 2007

Weekly Meeting Schedule
  • Sunday
    • 11:00 Morning Worship at Wesley Memorial UMC (next door)
    • 5:00 Sunday Night Worship
  • Tuesday
    • 6:00 Tuesday Night Dinner
    • 6:45 Forum — Discussion/speaker on a variety of faith topics and student life.
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