In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Repent, O Sodom! How many illicit affairs took place last night within our borders? How much pornography was viewed? How many children neglected? How many wives sat home alone as their husbands deserted them in the living room with television and booze for lovers? How many families charged up their credit cards seeking to create a perfect Christmas with toys and food, with a false appearance of abundance? How many try to buy their way out of despair? Drink their way? Sleep their way? Cheat their way? How many words were wielded as weapons? Finally, how many of you laid awake last night lonely and afraid, angry and jealous, full of regret or scheming for the future? I am heart broke for New York. But I am also heart broke for Fort Wayne. The enemy is all around us, even in us, even is us.
More than ever St. John the Baptist is the man for our times. He has comfort for our broken-heartedness, an answer for our uncertainties. He is a Voice crying in the wilderness and we live in the wilderness. We live in a wild place of unexpected danger and animalistic behavior. We live by tooth and claw. We fight, flee, and die. We abandon our young, betray our friends, forget our spouses. We imagine ourselves fierce, and so we are, but we have not the beauty or strength of lions or eagles. We are more like cannibalistic piranas, caught up in a lustful feeding frenzy, tearing into our own without discrimination. We engage in political campaigns against our own families. Our allegiances at home and at work are always shifting, precarious. We are not as civilized or sophisticated as we pretend. If we were there would not be homeless, drug-addicts, criminals, victims, or adulterers. We would not lock our doors for fear of our neighbors. Our marriages would be stable. Our children would be safe. Our churches would be full.
John beckons us from the desert to open our eyes. Acknowledge the wilderness. “Come out of your make-belief world,’ he says. “Come and face reality. You are vulnerable and weak. You cannot stop a bullet. You cannot police your own streets. You have no safety in yourself or in man-made contraptions. These things only offer false comfort. All of your life is fragile. If the twin towers can be brought down in a single act of hateful violence, how much more the things of your life. Yet you sell your soul cheap. You turn in on yourself, away from God. You are obsessed with your own desires and dreams. You waste away with daydreams of luxuries under the tree while you ignore the plight of your spouse and children, think of nothing but for the moment´s pleasure, forget your vocations and your duties. Wake up. Repent. You are in danger of losing everything. Repent before it is too late. Repent for there is Hope.
There is One whose sandal straps we are all unworthy to untie. He is not infected like we are. He is pure, clean, and righteous. He is the God of Moses and Elijah in our Flesh. He gives Himself for and to you, to make you safe and whole and free, alive again. He baptizes with the fire of the Holy Spirit in the waters His Name. He bestows righteousness. He forgives, restores, and renews without an investigation of your credit history, without a payment schedule, without references or oaths, without any cost or demand or restrictions! He forgives. He loves. He is the Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! He removes every single one of your sins: small and large, calculated and plotting or just passionate stupidity. He fixes it all. He can make it better. He can overcome your lust, your anger, your past. He can give you a future again. And that is what matters. Not who I am, some desert preacher destined to die alone in prison; not who you are, but who He is. He is the Christ! The long-expected Lover of your soul who wants you despite your flaws and rebellion, who restores you to the kingdom. That is what matters, who He is, and who He calls you to be in Him: His beloved Bride.’
Here in the wilderness it is hard to believe that is what matters. It seems at times like what matters is impressing your mother-in-law with a perfect Christmas dinner or getting the honor and respect you crave from your father. It seems like what matters is never being bored for an instant or having every craving and desire fulfilled, never waiting for anything that you want. It even seems at times like what matter is justice, that life would be fair, that you and your loved ones would never be shorted or suffer in anyway. But that stuff doesn´t matter on the Last Day. What matters then is that the virgin´s Son went to the cross to redeem you, body and soul. He rose from the dead. He ascended into heaven. He comes in Word and Sacrament. He is the Christ. He is the One anointed to be your Savior. He loves you even when no one else does or can. That is what drives John. Let it drive us as well.
I am not the Christ. Jesus is. Thanks be God: Jesus is! Thanks be to God! Jesus is the Christ!
In +His Name. Amen
Rev’d David H. Petersen
Redeemer Lutheran Church
Fort Wayne, Indiana