“…Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind” (Mt. 11:7)? Here is yet another reversal. The Old Testament readings for Advent have been received from the prophet Isaiah and they are replete with reversals. In this text, Jesus confronts the crowd with a reversal of its expectations. Jesus reveals the truth of what they expected to find in the wilderness. They went expecting to find someone unmoved by the shifting winds of change (vs. 7). They went expecting to find someone clothed as befits a preacher from the wilderness and not arrayed in the finery of the palace and Temple (vs. 8). They went out expecting a prophet and, lo and behold, they received more than a mere prophet; they received a messenger of the Lord. Jesus’ question confronts you… you who go into the wilderness of your church building’s sanctuary. It demands to know whether you expect to hear a speaker mouthing pious platitudes of self-improvement unto righteousness; or do you expect a preacher handing over Jesus Christ to be the life of sinners dead in their sin, killed by the unrelenting accusation of the law? Do you enter that sanctuary expecting to see your preacher dressed indistinguishably from someone on the street? Or do you enter expecting your preacher clothed in the badge of office, wearing that which marks him or her out as a dispenser of law and gospel, the Word of God that kills and makes alive? Your church building’s sanctuary and the one that presides there are as distinct from your regular haunts and the people in them as John the Baptist and his wilderness haunt were distinct from the finery of Jerusalem and its Temple.
Prayers from one who would prefer a comfortable and pleasant worship but needs to encounter the death-dealing, life-giving Word of God handed over by the Lord’s own messenger…
Holy Father, your enduring Word kills and makes alive, so grace me with its death and new life that I would live from the future established in my Lord Jesus Christ.
Holy Father, your enduring Word continues from generation to generation, grant me a preacher of this Word so that my ears are filled with it and the world’s competing voices are drowned out.
Holy Father, your enduring Word establishes me in a New Creation, tearing me away from and placing me in contrast to this old, passing away creation.
Holy Father, your enduring Word sets before me a creation filled with neighbors and their needs, set my hands to useful tasks that those needs may be met, and the days of my baptism would pass quickly in hope and anticipation.
Holy Father, your enduring Word sustains me in these days as I wait for your Son’s arrival in glory, grant that I do not grow weary in doing the good of being useful to those neighbors of mine.
Holy Father, your enduring Word calls forth teachers and preachers so that its proclamation would persist from generation to generation. Grant that the Institute of Lutheran Theology continue in its call to produce teachers and preachers of your Word.
Holy Father, your enduring Word holds me in expectant hope for that day when faith shall become sight and the glory long waited for becomes visible; grant me my glory when your Son’s glory is manifest at last.
For all these things, Holy Father, I wait upon you, trusting your goodness and mercy to supply all that I need—my daily bread for this creation and for the next. In Jesus’ name. Amen