“The Fictions of Position…the righteous One!” 12/08/2013 Sermon

“The Fictions of Position…the righteous One!” •

Isaiah 11:1-10 & Matthew 3:1-12 • December 8, 2013

Brothers & sisters in Christ, grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

I recently bought a new printer for our family and was printing some research documents for a grad school class I’m taking. The warning “Low Ink” came across my computer screen. Now you and I know that when we first see a warning like that, we ignore it. There is still a lot more ink left in that cartridge before the printer will stop printing. The time came when I needed to print the final paper that I needed to submit for the class. I had been ignoring the warning of “low ink” for days. Guess what happened when I tried to print that final paper? Yep, blank pages. I ignored changing the ink cartridge and ended up having to turn in the paper late for that class.

Out in the country, where things are normally peaceful and calm, the voice of a preacher is heard. He is not sharing a three point sermon that ends with a poem. He is urging his followers to REPENT before it’s too late. To “Prepare the way for the Lord, make his paths straight.” To change. Let’s read this together. The words to today’s gospel reading from the 3rd chapter of Saint Matthew will be on the screen. Please, join me in reading them.

You and I live on the other side of John’s proclamation. We understand that he was telling the people to prepare for Jesus, the one who is coming who will change the world forever. A few people listened, but most ignored this weird man who ate strange food and wore ridiculous clothing.

As I read these texts from Isaiah and Matthew this week, I heard both the prophet Isaiah and the preacher John the Baptist calling for repentance; calling for change; inviting the people of God into a new way of living. A new life that God was revealing in Jesus. For the people in Isaiah and John the Baptist’s time, this was something that was going to happen in the future. For you and I, this change and new life in Jesus Christ has happening. And it’s something that not only touches our future, it also touches our past, and our present.

Notice that the people around John the Baptist are confessing their sins, and receiving forgiveness and a new beginning as the people of God, by being baptized in the Jordan River. Our own journey is similar, isn’t it? In the water and word of Holy Baptism we are forgiven and freed by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. But our journey doesn’t end there – it only begins. In baptism, we enter into a constant and never-ending journey of change and transformation. I think that is one of the most difficult things for you and me as we try to live as followers of Jesus. I mean come on, change? Transformation?

Often I’m pretty resistant to either of those ideas. Resistant of change or of transformation. And I’ve served in the Christian church long enough now to know that I’m not alone in that resistance. I mean, do you know how many church members it take to change a light bulb? Change the light bulb? My grandmother donated that light bulb!

I always appreciate when I get visits or phone calls or emails about something I’ve written or offered in a sermon. One anonymous comment I got was particularly revealing to me. And mind you, anonymous feedback and comments are usually filed in the trash can next to my desk quite quickly, but this one was a little different. They were upset with my preaching because I am always try to challenge us to go further, to do more, to be constantly growing in our relationships with each other as brothers and sisters in the body of Christ and in our relationship with our savior Jesus. To be followers of Jesus that are not afraid to boldly share the love and grace of God beyond the walls of Good Shepherd. The anonymous commentator thought that I should preach more along the lines of “I’m OK, you’re OK.”

I’ll be honest. I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to do that. I haven’t discovered much in the Bible yet that would support that lifestyle if you really claim to be a follower of Jesus. And I’m certain that the world in which we live is a world that God says is not OK just the way it is today. I do not believe that following Jesus is about just lounging around in our favorite chair and ignoring our neighbors around us because we’re OK.

You and I worship a God that meets us where we are, and is constantly challenging us to go further, to reach deeper, to stretch beyond the horizon of the world we can see to finally realize that our life in Christ is way more significant than anything we can imagine.

So, as we enter the second week of Advent, how is God calling you? Calling you to experience the coming of Jesus into our world? The good news of our Savior Jesus Christ, is that God meets us where we are, but that’s not where God leaves us. God is always calling us forward, to take bigger and bolder steps and more courageous leaps of faith as we follow Jesus. And this isn’t about finally needing to replace the ink cartridges on our spiritual printers or accepting the fact that grandma’s donated light bulb is no longer effectively shining the light of Christ in this world. The coming of Jesus into the world bring about complete and total transformation of our lives. Nothing less will do. I think that is what Isaiah and John the Baptist want us to hear today. I’m not sure I always think that many who claim to be followers of Jesus in 2013 are always open to hearing that kind of message.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we follow Jesus in this Advent season and prepare to receive him once again at Christmas, open yourself to be changed. To be transformed. Jesus coming into the world has changed us, changes us in this very minute, and will continue to change us in every new day.

So, I offer this blessing for us to receive tonight – May the spirit of the Lord rest upon you, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord; may you rest in the spirit of joy in God’s presence now and forever. In the name of our God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.


About Bishop Craig Schweitzer

The Rev. Craig Schweitzer, of Bismarck, was elected as bishop of the Western North Dakota Synod on July 17, 2020, in the first-ever digital Synod Assembly. A historic event, Schweitzer is the first bishop in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) to be elected in an online assembly. Bishop Craig Schweitzer began serving the Western North Dakota Synod-ELCA on September 1, 2020. He has always seen himself as an easy-going person who seeks to daily discover anew how God is present in his life and the world in which he lives and serves. Prior to service in the Office of Bishop of the Western North Dakota Synod, Bishop Craig served at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Bismarck, ND as Music and Worship Minister (lay staff from 2002-2010), Associate Pastor (2010-2014), and Senior Pastor (2014-2020). Beyond his service in the church, he has an eclectic background that is a diverse collection of musical, educational, and business experiences ranging from live concert production and promotion to recording studios and live performance to music education. Throughout all of his professional and personal experiences, the Apostle Paul’s words to the church in Rome have been a guiding light that has kept him grounded in whatever work God was calling him into – “Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” (Romans 15:7) Bishop Craig is a graduate of the University of Mary in Bismarck with a Bachelor of Science degree in Music Education and a Master of Science in Strategic Leadership. He also holds a certificate degree in Theological Education for Emerging Ministries (TEEM) from Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley, CA. He was ordained as a Minister of Word and Sacrament on September 16, 2010. Outside of his life as Bishop, Bishop Craig enjoys reading, all music, a little golf, a cold beverage with friends, and intentional times of quiet. And, of course, spending time with his wife Wendy and their adult twin daughters Ilia and Taegan. View all posts by Bishop Craig Schweitzer

4 responses to ““The Fictions of Position…the righteous One!” 12/08/2013 Sermon

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