There are days that change the course of history. Not many days happen when people begin to think differently…when the world changes

  •       September 11,  2001…Terrorism attacks on the World Trade Centers, Pentagon and Shanksville, PA
  •       December 7, 1941…Bombing of Pearl Harbor
  •       November 22, 1963…Assassination of President John F. Kennedy
  •       August 6, 1945…Dropping of the bomb on Hiroshima
  •       January 28  1986…Challenger explosion
  •       April Fool’s Day, 1976…Steve Jobs and Stephen Wozniak built the first personal computer in their parent’s  garage
  •       Dec 17, 1903…Orville Wright took off from the Outer Banks of NC, near Kitty Hawk and flew the gasoline powered Wright flyer for 12 seconds.  Later that day Wilbur Wright piloted the plane for 59 seconds and covered 852 feet.  From that day on…we think differently about human flight…after one day a new world began…the world of aeronautics

On that day people began to think differently… new worlds were now accessible.  Bill Gates puts it this way,  “That the Wright brothers created the single greatest cultural force since the invention of writing. Airplanes became the first World Wide Web, bringing people, languages, ideas and values together.”

Friday…December 14, 2012…may yet become one of those days…the horrific killing of innocent children and teachers in Sandy Hook, CT…it may challenge us to think differently about our culture of violence, the accessibility of assault weapons and diagnosis and treatment of mental illness.

In about a week we will celebrate another day… the day when a baby was born in Bethlehem…his birth changed everything…witness the fact that 2000 years later we are still discussing the meaning and impact of that life that came to be one night so long ago.

There was yet another day…about 30 years after the birth of Jesus…the day that John the Baptist said, “I baptize you with water, but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie his sandals.  He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

It is worth reflecting on and considering why 2000 years later we still remember and recall the day John the Baptist gathered a crowd at the Jordan River…called them to repentance…called them a brood of vipers…called them to live lives that bear good fruit.  John was not interested in what we in the business politely call “Seeker sensitive worship.”

John the Baptist was a world shaker, not a community maker; stunning God’s people with a radical call to discipleship.

To me, John the Baptist’s words are particularly poignant this morning…We live in a broken world filled with broken and hurting people.  John’s language this morning shocks us…brood of vipers…sin, repentance, the fires of judgment. .John’s language is not as outdated or quaint as some would believe.  It’s as fresh as this morning’s news.  Only a very broken person living in a very broken world would enter an elementary classroom and gun down innocent children and teachers.  The only explanation for such behavior is sin, sickness and brokenness.

And it’s not just out there somewhere; it’s in our own home and our own lives…I’ve reflected quite a bit since Friday that I grew up in a house where my parents divorced because my father put his revolver and a butcher knife under his pillow at night; a home where my parents argued about my father carrying his gun into Sunday worship and my own memories of my father napping on my dormitory bed with his hand on his revolver.  My mother, my sister and me, my grandparents, his other wives, his other children, his other families…How many lives were ruined by one man’s sickness and brokenness?

John also reminds us today that his message is not just for others, for the mad gunmen of the world. John’s words this morning, “who warned you to flee from judgment?”, don’t begin to say, we are children of Abraham. None of us gets a spiritual free pass…none of us despite a strong spiritual heritage or a strong church going resume’ gets a get out of jail free card….we are all broken…all sick in our own ways…all sinful and unclean.   I/ we may not kill children or sleep with weapons, but how are we broken?  Who have you hurt, what lives have you damaged?  John reminds us we are all broken people who live in a broken world.

Secondly, John reminds us that God not only sees the world’s brokenness, but has acted.  The longer I am in the ministry the more I believe there are situations that cause God to weep.  Remember the scene at the grave of Lazarus, Jesus’ dear friend.   John tells us in his gospel that Jesus wept at the grave of Lazarus.  Think about it…the God of creation, standing by a grave weeping.  I am convinced there are times every day when God weeps over God’s children.  I believe God wept in Newtown on Friday morning.  I believe there are times when our world is so broken all God can do is weep.

So often after a tragedy like Friday’s in Sandy Hook we hear folks ask, where was God?  Why didn’t God act?  I believe God acted on Friday…God did not pull the trigger.  But I believe God was there.  God was not absent.  I believe God was also there on Friday.  I believe he was with the children, with the teachers, I believe God is with the grieving families.  And I believe God does act and has acted to end the brokenness and evil of our world.  That to me is what the Gospel is all about…God entering our world of brokenness in the person of Jesus…Jesus dying to heal the brokenness of creation.  God entering our pain to bring healing and hope.  Listen again to John’s words.  “There is one coming after me who is mightier than I.  I am not even worthy to untie the thong of his sandals.  He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.  God sees our brokenness, shares our pain and acts in the person of Jesus…the light shines in the darkness.”

“God did not offer God’s love from the distance of a heavenly throne, but came to dwell among us, born of a baby. God’s love was demonstrated most forcefully in the midst of the unspeakable violence and cruelty of a crucifixion. And God’s penchant for life was demonstrated most profoundly in Christ’s resurrection, reminding us that while death is real and often horrible, it is never the last word.”

Lastly, this morning, John reminds us that words and good intentions are not enough.  To use the traditional words.; God is calling us through John to lives of goodness, righteousness and repentance…in other words God is calling us to change ourselves and change the world.  Listen to John’s words:

Anyone who has two shirts should share…tax collectors…don’t collect more than required…soldiers…don’t extort money or falsely accuse. In other words, because of Christ live differently.

  • Change the culture which glorifies violence
  • Do what you can to stop senseless violence
  • Work to create families and communities that nurture and heal
  • Strive for a society that better identifies and treats mental illness
  • Create a society where the innocent and blameless are not injured or harmed.

We were created to bear fruit…

A number of years ago, Jane and I had a garden behind our small apartment in Lansdale.  We decided to plant cantaloupes.  Not sure why, but we did.  After a few weeks, we had lots and lots of vines; but almost no fruit; just one little cantaloupe, about the size of an orange.  The vines were all show and no fruit.

This morning God calls us to live lives that are not like the cantaloupe vines.  We are called to bear good fruit. Amen.