’s Mark Kurowski reflects on why the weird dude’s appearance in history makes a difference in what God is saying to US.  Is John so bad? Or, is John showing us the way?  Listen to this podcast of his reflection for the 2nd Sunday of Advent.  #GreatPreaching

For, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 12/9/2012The 2nd Sunday of Advent.

Please pause this audio and read Luke 3.1-6.
Have you ever had a party and knew you had to invite someone that no one liked?  That is how this person, John the Baptizer strikes me.  Just like last week with Jesus, we are in the midst of our parties–and the sins that go with them–and St. John the Baptizer comes along telling everyone to straighten up because the appearance of our Savior is near.
It should only figure, though.  What can we expect from a guy that St. Luke says, “he lived in the desert until he appeared publicly to Israel?”  He seems to me to be the kind of guy that would have a five o’clock shadow at nine in the morning, talk really loudly and cut you off at mid sentence.  If you lived in the wilderness all of your life, what need would their be to shave, talk softly and get along with a lot of people.
     If he were to be a modern figure, it would only figure that he would appear on in a big city, in a pick-up truck with a gun rack.  I wonder if he would chew and spit.  No doubt he would wear combat fatigues with a neon orange hat.  We would probably call him “Bubba the Baptizer.”
The one thing for sure would be that we wouldn’t miss the Baptizer in a crowd.  If not for his strange presence, his words would arrest us.  It would be obvious that there was something different about what he had to say from other people we would go hear.  He said, “Prepare the way of the Lord.”
How is it that we would prepare for the coming of the Lord?
One thing above all though, Luke wants us to know that God did something incredible here beginning with St. John the Baptizer.  God broke into human history.  Much like our grandparents would say, “I remember when Roosevelt was President,” or “On the day that President Kennedy was shot,” Luke says, “In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea and Annas and Caiaphas were in the high-priesthood.”  This means that this character has not just a space in our hearts because of our faith.  He has a space in time.
     That is the incredible claim that we make when we read this Gospel: God has broken into human history with a figure named John the Baptizer.  He called real people like you and me to prepare the way of the Lord.  He called each one of us to repent from the things that we do which are wrong and put on our best clothes and best behavior for our Lord.  St. John reminds us that faith is not an exercise in imagination, it is an act of history in our lives in the making.  Whether it is history on the grand scale or the history of touching our children’s lives, we are called to repent and prepare the way of the Lord.
One of the things I love about my daughter Ruth is that she looks just like my mother did in her youth.  I love having a living reminder of the incredible life my mother has lived.   That’s what happens in families, isn’t it?  We see the mannerisms of our parents in ourselves.  Maddening, isn’t it?
     But how often do we realize that “our mothers, brothers and sisters are those who do the will of the Father,” as Jesus says?  If that is the case, then who listening to this reflection is the spitting image of the Baptizer?  Who do you know has a burning in their heart to call our brethren to repentance?  Who do you know is like one of our brothers, mothers or sisters who heard St. John the Baptizer speak in those days?  Who here is cut to the heart to prepare for the second coming as well as celebrate the first coming of our Lord?
It may seem so simple of a message, but after nearly two centuries of trying to de-mystify, psychologize and tear down the incredible depth of our faith, it is understandable that it would come as a complete surprise that St. John the Baptizer wasn’t just a mythical figure.  He was a real person, just like you and me–to a point.  He was a real person who put his life on the line so that you would have faith in Jesus Christ.   He called us to live out that faith in our daily lives, as we will see next week.
     When you receive a letter from the City, there is a seal where the return address is.  Depending upon who sends it to you, the seal is designed differently.  For those who work for the City, it is usually printed in black ink.  But if you are the mayor of the City, the seal is embossed in the envelope and printed with gold ink.  The letter comes screaming with the message: I come with authority.
For St. John the Baptizer, and then for Jesus, we have no official seal of human authority.  The only authority that St. John appeared to have was the way he lived his life.  He was called with a calling that had no seal, but his actions.  He lived in the wilderness and depended upon the Lord to supply his needs.  He lived daily in devotion to God.   Then he comes forward risking ridicule to speak the Word of the Lord.
The point of all this, of course, is that we are to repent and prepare the way of the Lord.  It is also a wake up call to us in the post-modern world that God breaks into human history through people.  He used people’s lives to call the world into preparation for the first coming of his Son, and now we have people who celebrate Christmas and don’t even know why there is a Christmas.  He still uses people’s lives to call the world into preparation for the second coming of his Son.  Are you that person?
Next week, I will talk about what it means to respond to that call.  Does it mean a total abandonment of what we do for a living?  Or, does it mean that we are to change the way we do what we do?
For now, it is enough for us to take a break from the skepticism of the media and the world around us.  It is time for us to stop and really contemplate the fact that the nut from the wilderness, John the Baptizer, was a real person just like you.  He was called to call people to preparation for the Lord.  Why can’t you be called by God for some great work or purpose?  Are you?  Amen?  Amen.
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