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Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight;

all flesh shall see the salvation of God. Luke 3:4b, 6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Pastor Rob Rogers was born in Seattle Washington. He has a B.A. in Communication from Concordia University, Austin, TX and a Masters of Divinity from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO. READ MORE >>

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Advent 2 – December 4, 2022
Text:            Matthew 3:1-12

Theme:         The Journey to Jerusalem

        We are on a journey, you and I. Like Jesus’ whole ministry was a journey to Jerusalem, so our whole lives are a journey to Jerusalem; not the Jerusalem that is a major city of Israel but the true Jerusalem, the Jerusalem of which Revelation speaks; Heaven.  As we near Jerusalem, we confess our sins, repenting of the evil we have done and receiving ongoing forgiveness for our sinful condition, but not everyone who is walking to Jerusalem is coming to repent and receive forgiveness. Jesus warns us that there will be hypocrites among us on the journey. A hypocrite is someone who feigns faith but really does not believe and only the Lord can tell the difference.

        The Pharisees and Sadducees who came out to the Jordan to see John baptizing did not come in faith to repent of their sins. They came to see a spectacle. They did not believe that they had any need for repentance. They were the children of Abraham, grafted into the tree, the family of God by birth and marked by circumcision. What need had they for repentance? John warned them that, without repentance, they were no better than stones. That was how they thought of the Gentiles; stones.  Gentiles were dead weight. Dead in sin.  Bound for Hell. Now, this John the Baptist had the gall to call them that which they called the Gentiles: stones. How dare he?

        That is what I call everyone today who does not come to the altar to repent. Repentance is the mark of the true Church.  Repentance, the ability to turn from sin and follow God is the fruit of faith and it is what made Abraham righteous. Paul quotes Genesis 15 for us in Romans 4,

        “What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.’”

        We are not righteous because of our actions. The unchurched are correct when they say you don’t need to go to church to be saved.  Coming to worship does not make us righteous. Giving an offering does not make us righteous. Even doing nice things for others does not make us righteous. Only faith in God makes us righteous through what faith produces; the fruit of repentance. Without repentance produced by faith, we are no different from stones, and we are just as dead.

        As we journey to Jerusalem together, keep that in mind. It is easy to forget because there are so many distractions.  We get led off course by many things that try to capture our attention. Now remember that Satan is evil but he is not stupid. The things he uses to lead us away from complete dependance on faith will not necessarily look bad.  They may even look good. For instance, we have seen amazing advances in medicine and science in our lifetimes. Cancer is not always a death sentence anymore. We have explored unimaginable parts of space with robotic vessels. We can even predict certain weather patterns and geological shifts. But do not think for even a moment that any of that makes even an iota of eternal difference. Nothing we learn about our universe will make even the slightest difference in our journey to Jerusalem.  It’s sort of just scenery along the way. It’s our opportunity to learn about our creator and be amazed by His creation but it means nothing if we have no eternal inheritance in paradise.

When we took the youth to Houston last summer, we could have flown or we could have driven. Either way would get us to the same place about the same time. The only question was the quality of the trip.  If we flew, we would have a few hours walking through and then sitting in airports, lugging bags, sitting for a few hours in isolation on a plane, waiting for ground transportation and maybe making the necessary connections to get to Houston and almost none of it would be in our control.  If we drove, we would be relatively in control of when we would take breaks, when we would change seats, talking with each other along the way and building group unity, playing road games as a group and seeing some of the beautiful American countryside along the way.  It did not matter which mode we used to get to Houston for the National Youth Gathering but the quality of the trip would be different, and the benefits of the trip would be different.

I think of most of the things we do on the way to Jerusalem are like the road trip to Houston. There were high points and low points. Sometimes were tired of traveling and sometimes we were energized by what we saw and what we did.  Sometimes we got off the path and sometimes we sped along the path with great success but all that mattered was eventually getting to Houston and the bonds that we formed along the way.  In your journey to Jerusalem, you might be riding high or feeling low in the dust along the road but you are not alone. You are with the Church, on a pilgrimage to the Promised Land and no matter how long it takes, you will continue being filled with the Word of God and His Holy body and blood until the great and glorious day that our Lord welcomes us into paradise.  That is all the ultimately matters. Stay focused on that.

So, when your coach wants you to play on Sunday so that you will miss being fed and nourished by God’s Word and Sacraments, think about that. When you are tempted to participate in activities that will lead you down the wrong path, think about that. When you are tempted to judge someone else for wherever they are on the road right now, think about that. When the things of the world seemingly contradict the things of God, think about that. We have been baptized with the Holy Spirit and with fire. Our faith is strong and well fed and nothing can stop us from completing our journey, except us.  Only we can kill our faith by neglecting God’s Word and Sacrament. So long as we keep our faith fed, it will do what faith does and draw us constantly to repentance and forgiveness over and over again as we make our way along God’s path for us until the great and glorious day when we receive all that has been prepared for us for all eternity.