Part of today’s reading confuses me a little bit. That part that says, “3 A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4 Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.” I want to know why God can’t do this without our help. Seems to me that this kind of thing would take a lot of work from us. We’d have to do the environmental impact statements and get all the permits. On the other hand, God should be able to create a six lane divided highway anywhere God wants and not think too much about it.
I think this is a reminder that while God can do whatever God wants, God uses us on earth to accomplish what God wants. It has always been a little confusing to me. Why doesn’t God just take care of everything so that we don’t have to mess with it and can then sit around binge watching Hulu? I’ve asked God that very question a number of times and while I haven’t gotten written response, I think it has to do with God knowing what’s best for us and knowing what usually happens to a person when they have everything taken care of and handed to them on a silver platter. Have you ever known someone like that? I’ve met a few people like that over the years and I have to say, well, I didn’t like them very much. They weren’t very nice. That being the case, while God could take care of everything for us, God doesn’t because the world wouldn’t be a very nice to live in.
So it is that we are called on to prepare the way of the Lord, making straight in the desert a highway for our God. Not because God needs US to do the work but because WE need to do the work. It really is the definition of Bringing Christ’s Love to Life. We are in the world to do what God needs done. Not to make any of us feel good and pat ourselves on the back but to create a path, a highway if you will, for people to see and experience God’s love for them.
That’s why we exist as a community of faith. If we weren’t needed as a community of faith we could each post some targeted ads on Facebook and say ‘Yay, God!’ and then everyone would know about God’s love for them. Then they would say, ‘Yay, God!’ too and all would be well. But ask yourself this, how many ads have you seen or heard in the past week? How many did you respond to, not counting Black Friday and Cyber Monday ads, of course? I tried some targeted ads with Facebook and church stuff, like Christmas Eve and I’m pretty sure it accomplished nothing. Same thing with newspaper and Yellow Pages ads. I mean really, my guess is that there are some of you who don’t know what yellow pages are. An ad might be a good reminder of an event for someone who is already paying attention but doesn’t usually accomplish much in the way of inviting someone to experience Christ. The real irony of that is most people will click on the crazy stuff but won’t click on a church link.
Since Facebook and other targeted ads aren’t doing much when it comes to getting the word about God out, we come together as a community of faith for worship and for outreach. This is the highway we build to get the word out about God. It might be a little simplistic say it this way but in worship we are fed and in outreach we do the feeding, though I’ve been fed many times in outreach work. But you know what I mean. It takes both to be the body of Christ.
When we come to worship, and do so unashamedly, we gather as the body of Christ and we experience Christ is so many ways. Hearing God’s word, a word that comes to us from millenia back. Coming up for communion and experiencing the real presence of Christ in the bread and the wine. In our prayers, our one on one conversation with God. In confession and absolution where we repent of our sins and hear words of assurance that we are forgiven. In the music, physically tangible experience of the presence of God. In greeting one another! All these ways to experience God in Christ as we worship.
Which part of worship speaks God’s love to you most directly? Or putting that another way, which part of worship leaves you feeling like something is missing in your week if it doesn’t happen? As we are waiting in Advent for the birth of Christ, for the incarnation of God into human form, it’s a good time to really think about worship. We vary the words we use in worship but the pattern of our worship goes back century upon century. It is good to be familiar with the pattern of our worship but it also runs a danger of becoming rote and thoughtless. Spending some time in Advent thinking about what worship really means to you is a worthy endeavor.
Having been in worship it is then that others see Christ in the way we respond to our experience in worship. Through our time spent in worship we’re then prepared by the work of the Holy Spirit for others to see God in us. That can happen in a lot of ways but think how you participate in and support outreach efforts. Supporting with your presence in the middle of the outreach, supporting with your prayers for the outreach to touch the lives of others, and supporting with your dollars because the cold, hard truth is most outreach takes some cold, hard cash to happen. All of this comes together to make a difference in our community and a difference in the world.
We reach about because these outreach efforts happen in ways that bring hope to others. These outreach endeavors are how we prepare the way of the Lord, they are the highway in which people encounter God.