Sermons 2003-2004

John the Baptist, Advent 2A, 5 December 2004, Matthew 3:1-12
Home | Christmas Eve A, "Are we really ready?", Luke 2: 1-20, 24 December 2004 | "Finally! Well, almost...." Advent 4A , 19 December 2004, Matthew 1:18-25 | Faith and Doubts, Advent 3A, 12 December 2004, Matthew 11:2-11 | John the Baptist, Advent 2A, 5 December 2004, Matthew 3:1-12 | Left Behind? Advent 1A, 28 Nov 2004, Matthew 24:37-44 | Some King of kings! Proper 29C, 21 November 2004, Luke 23:35-43 | "Not one thrown down", Proper 28C, 14 November 2004, Luke 21:5-19 | All Saints and for all the saints, 2004C, 31 October 2004, Luke 6:20-36 | The Lambeth Commission Windsor Report, the Pharisee, and the tax collector, Proper 25C, 24 Oct 2004 | "Lord, teach us to pray." Proper 20C, 17 October 2004, Genesis 32:3-8, 22-30; Luke 18:1-8a | "It's all in the choosing", Proper 23C, 10 October 2004, Ruth 1:1-19a; Luke 17:11-19 | "Increase our faith", Proper 22C, Luke 17:5-10, 3 October 2004 | Proper 21C 2004, 26 September 2004, "R&R: Response and Relationships", Luke 16:19-31 | Proper 19C 2004, 12 September 2004, "Lost and Found", Luke 15:1-10 | Proper 18C 2004, 5 September 2004, "Preaching or Meddling", Luke 14:25-33 | Proper 16C 2004, 22 August 2004, "The Narrow Gate ", Luke 13:22-30 | Proper 15C, 15 August 2004 | Proper 14C, 8 August 2004 | Proper 13C, 1 August 2004 | Shrinemont: "Surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses", Proper 15c, 15 August 2004 | "Lord, teach us how to pray," Proper 12C, 25 July 2004, Genesis 18:20-33; Luke 11:1-13 | The Summary of the Law and the Good Samaritan: "Go and do likewise" Luke 10:25-37, 11 July 2004 | Independence Day 2004. "The Creative Tension of the Church: Who is to be included?" | "Now! Now! Now!", Proper 8C, 27 June 2004, Luke 9:51-62 | "Star Throwers", Proper 7C, 20 June 2004, Galatians 3:23-29; Luke 9:18-24 | The more things change the more they remain the same, Pentecost 2C, 13 June 2004 | "O Holy Triune God, most Holy Trinity; here are we. Send us." Trinity C, 6 June 2004 | "Come, Holy Spirit", Pentecost C , 30 May 2004 | "That they all may be one", Easter 7C, 23 May 2004 | The Holy Spirit: Paraclete, Pneuma, Ruach, Easter 6C 2004 | Agapate Allelous: Love beyond each other, Easter 5C 2004, 9 May 2004 | The Good Shepherd and the five people you meet in heaven, Easter 4C 2004 | "The God of the Second Chance -- and of many chances", Easter 3C, 25 April 2004 | Baptizatus Sum: I am baptized, Easter 2C 2004 | It is NOT an Idle Tale: Easter Sunday, 18 April 2004 | Palm Sunday-Passion Sunday Roller Coaster: What We Want or What We Need? | Who are the Wicked Tenants, Lent 5C 2004 | The Prodigal Son -- and so much more | God, the Gardener, and the Fig Tree | "The Hen and the Fox", Lent 2C | The Comfortable Rut of Ordinary Temptation | "Getting from Uh-oh to Aha", Luke 9:28-36, Epiphany Last C, 22 February 2004 | Jesus, Jeremiah, and the Beatitudes: What to Make of it All | The Sword of the Lord and of Gideon: God working in the world | Jesus, the Archbishop, and Annual Council The Dark Abyss of Schism | The Nature of Revelation: Jesus' Sermon at Nazareth | The Miracle at the Wedding in Cana | The King of kings and the Lion King | "The Magnificat, Watching, and Waiting" | "Gaudete in Domino semper: Rejoice in the Lord always" | A Voice crying in the wilderness, "Prepare the way of the Lord." | "Standing in the Day of Battle: Isabel and the Gospel" | Dogma, Doctrine, and the Theological Enterprise | The Little Apocalypse | Jesus and theWidow's Mite | One Priest's Response to the Election of Gene Robinson | The Great Commandment: Jesus Meant What He said | Who is blind? | Eyes on Jesus and minds on mission! | Tradition or Traditionalism? | Credo: Be doers of the Word and not hearers only." | Who do YOU say that I am? | "It's about Power and Winning" | Contact Wicomico Parish Church

Advent 2A 2004 Matthew 3:1-12

Just this week a number of us were remarking about how mild the weather has been, even delightful, for this late in the fall. We are, after all, only three weeks or less from the winter solstice and the official start of winter. But the weather has been more like spring than fall – even the grass is still green and growing, much to my dismay. It is a surprising and unsettling time of year. It doesn’t seem ordinary; it seems unexpected. It’s too early, much too early, to be spring.

Advent unsettles this time of year in the arrival of John the Baptist. He’s an unsettling sort of person, not ordinary at all. He’s a wild-eyed hippie looking young man, about 30 years old, with shaggy hair, strange smelly clothing, and a loud voice. He comes among us, as he does each Advent, and his message sounds inconvenient, out of season.

For us, in the ordinary course of events in the late Fall, pre-Christmas, almost winter time of year it’s time to check the furnace and turn up the heat, shop for and wrap Christmas presents, and make sure we have bags of sand for our front walks, and John the Baptist comes along, like this unsettling spring-like weather, with an equally unsettling, even disturbing, message. He wants us to start spring-cleaning our houses. He wants us to take on one room after another, and not only our homes, but our lawns and garages and storage sheds, as well. He calls it repentance.

For what does repentance mean, if not a thorough, insistent cleaning of the house in which we live, not the structure of brick and stone, shingles and siding, but that house we call our lives, our inner residence, our heart? John the Baptist shows up, here in what the world calls the holiday season, and he demands that we start cleaning as though it were spring — Clorox and Murphy’s Oil Soap and the whole bit. It’s unsettling and it grates on our teeth.

It could be that maybe he has a point. Maybe this old place is a bit of a wreck. Maybe there’s ample reason for this young fellow to unsettle us, to insist that we clean house, to beg that we repent.

Probably somewhere in the spiritual residences of our lives, there are rooms that are too cluttered. And corners where dust, and dirt, and trash have collected and piled up. Signs of ill repair, where the paint is peeling, the carpet is frayed, and the drapes have faded. Where the windows are grimy and the walls are smudged.

The outside isn’t much better. Trash and leaves in the yard, weeds flourishing in flower beds, garages stacked up with things we don’t need and simply get in our way, potholed lanes that need loads of gravel, siding coated in places with mold and mildew.

And so John the Baptist holds a mirror up in front of us, and points to all of this, drags his fingers through the dust, kicks the soda can lying on the front lawn. Pre-Christmas sale fliers are coming in the mail and newspapers and John the Baptist wants us to spring-clean and summer yard work and house repairs.

We’re willing to overlook the whole wretched mess, at least for now. John may be upset about it, but the state of our residence, our spiritual life, our heart, is no concern to us. We call this condition the lived-in look, comfortable, the way we like it. We just don’t like to be unsettled. Comfortable routine – that’s the ticket.

So some of our relationships are broken, that we look on others with anger or dislike or prejudice, or no longer see them at all? So our days and nights, hours and minutes, are so driven that we have no time for our Creator or our Savior? So stuff fills every room of our inner selves and the desire for more so deadens our hearts. So we think everything and everyone has a price, so we live to spend, rather than spend to live? So what if we want to control people, impose our will on them, make them think like we do, force them into molds of our own making? So what, indeed. It’s almost winter and Christmas and it’s my house. Leave me alone, John the Baptist. Go away; go back to the desert and stay there.

John is doing us a service pointing out that our spiritual house is a bit of a wreck and needs repair. It’s time to clean house, he tells us. Time to sweep the floors, wash the walls, air the rooms, repair what is broken, replace what is no longer useful. It’s time to paint the house, clean the yard, repave the drive. Throw out the stuff that’s in our way, that keeps us from our Creator and Savior.

John demands that we make a lot of changes, expend a great deal of energy, get down on our hands and knees to clean the corners. He insists on all this because something is different. He insists that we clean house because somebody is coming. He calls us to repent because heaven’s kingdom is near. He wants us to sweat and struggle, do thorough spring-cleaning even in December, because he knows the results will be worth it.

These days of Advent are like that if we dare listen to this scruffy young John. They are the time for spring-cleaning right here in December. There are too many things, too many obstacles in our way for us to get to Bethlehem.

John tells us that before we can go piously through the silent night to meet the Holy Family at the manger we have to endure how he and the rest of the prophets drag in and plop on our front lawn a huge metal container, big as a boxcar, to take all the trash we need to dispose of.

What can we throw in? What can any of us throw in? We don’t need so much stuff anyway. It takes up our space. It blocks our way. It poisons our lives. Fill the dumpster high with whatever keeps us from the Christ Child in Bethlehem, and let the prophets haul it away.

Spring-clean our houses, your lives, this Advent: sweep every floor, wash every window, shine the brass, fill the vase with flowers. Paint the house, clean the yard, repair the lane.

Spring-clean to a life of joy, filled with the love of God and with the God who loves us. Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near, very near. Clear out the hall and entry ways and open the front door and welcome in the child of Christmas, the man of Easter, the king of glory: For he wants to dwell with you forever. It would be good if it were clean when he arrived. (1)


1. Adapted from a sermon on Selected Sermons, Worship that Works, at, by The Very Rev. Charles Hoffacker, Rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Port Huron, Michigan.