Inhabited by Peace the Purifies

The St. John’s Pulpit

St. John’s Baptist Church    300 Hawthorne Lane    Charlotte, NC 28204

704.333.5428      www.stjohnsbaptistchurch.org

 

INHABITED BY PEACE THAT PURIFIES
Micah 3:1-4 and Luke 3:1-6
The Second Sunday of Advent, December 9, 2018

by Senior Minister, Rev. Dennis W. Foust, PhD

 

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On this Second Sunday of Advent, we prepare the way for God’s peace to rule in our lives.

The Church is always pursuing the ways of God’s peace or the ways of spiritual conflict.

What makes the difference is our commitment to the ways of God’s salvation.

 

At birth, life places in your hands two threads of eternal Truth.

Through the years, these two threads become inextricably intertwined as you weave your life.

The first thread of Truth is this: you are created in the image of God with God’s nature and

character dwelling within you.

The second thread of Truth is this: you fall short of bearing God’s image, nature and character.

 

Every day, you place these two threads into the Master Weaver’s hands; you and everyone else.

Some people choose to make the fabric of their life focus on the second thread.

For them – sin or falling short of God’s image, nature and character – becomes their epitaph.

The way of sin is the pattern of their life’s fabric; every chapter is sin, guilt & shame language.

 

However, you have committed your life to God.

You have become members of Christ’s Church by committing your life to learn of Jesus.

As his disciples, you are learning how to be guided by Jesus’ teachings and lifestyle practices.

You are pursuing God’s way of salvation which brings peace into your life.

In Jesus, God reveals to you God’s image, nature and character.

Learning Jesus’ way allows God’s image, nature and character to come alive in and through you.

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Some of you listen to the contemporary insightful and wise Republican columnist, David Brooks.

In his excellent and much-needed recent book, The Road to Character, he writes,

We often put our loves out of order…We’re not bad. But we are morally inarticulate.

We’re not more selfish or venal than people of other times, but we’ve lost the understanding of

how character is built.1

 

This is the message presented by the scripture passages we read today from Malachi and Luke.

They tell us that when we open our lives to God, we are inhabited by peace that purifies.

As you welcome God’s peace that purifies, you bear the image, nature and character of God.

As Harry Emerson Fosdick said, “The beginning of worthwhile living is confronting ourselves.2

 

CONSIDERING THE SCRIPTURES

 

The word, Malachi, means, “My Messenger” or “My Angel.”

These proclamations titled, “Malachi,” were to prepare the way for the coming of the Lord.

When Christians set in place the books of the Jewish scriptures, they placed Malachi last.

They did so to build a bridge toward ‘preparing the way of the Lord.’

This message is then picked up by John the Baptizer in the Gospels.

 

Malachi compares the coming of the Lord to ‘a refiner’s fire’ or ‘fuller’s soap.’

These images speak to that which refines and cleanses; that which takes away impurities.

 

Luke gives you the historical and political context in which the story of Jesus begins to unfold.

He tells you it was the 15th year of Tiberius; during the governorship of Pilate.

He mentions Herod as ruler in charge of Galilee and Annas and Caiaphas being high priests.

It is significant to note why he mentions both Annas and Caiaphas.

They were not high priests together; yet, Annas was father-in-law of Caiaphas and controlled

every decision made by Caiaphas. Family systems were alive and well in the first century.

 

Luke is the only Gospel writer to describe the historical context into which Jesus is born.

He does so to point out the contrast between the power brokers who made the headlines and where

the word of God was unfolding.

In our day of political geography, it would be like saying:

While Donald Trump was living in the White House; Roy Cooper was governor of North

Carolina; Vi Lyles was mayor of Charlotte and a Tar Heel race for representative to the

United States Congress was being investigated, outside the headlines – but transforming the

world – the word of God was at work in and through the people of St. John’s.

 

Luke presents John as another Malachi; a messenger preparing the way of the Lord.

He called people to repentance and forgiveness.

His message reflected the words of Isaiah:

Prepare the way of the Lord by making his paths straight; fill in the valleys;

lower the mountains; straighten the crooked; smooth the rough. Salvation is at hand.’

 

CONSIDERING THE MESSAGE

 

The salvation of God brings peace into the human life.

Yet, the salvation of God is not gentle work.

When you open your life to the salvation of God, you are inhabited by peace that purifies.

The salvation of God is like a refiner’s fire; it is like lye and alkaline soap.

The salvation of God involves spiritual earth movers, cranes and bulldozers.

The word, ‘salvation,’ stems from the Latin word, ‘salus;’ meaning health or wholeness.

The salvation of God is always working in you to make you more whole.

 

 

APPLYING THE MESSAGE

 

One person I know sits down regularly to review their ‘habits of the heart.’ This person asks,

“Where have I been too busy to care about someone?”

“When have I not listened to the true needs of people who are close to me?”

“How has my spirit failed to reflect the image or character of God?”

Then this person confesses these failures to God and asks for maturity.

Possibly this is a practice you want to begin. After all,

 

The Church is always pursuing the ways of God’s peace or the ways of spiritual conflict.

What makes the difference is our commitment to God’s salvation.

 

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1 David Brooks, The Road to Character, pp 11 and 15.

2 Harry Emerson Fosdick, On Being a Real Person, p 25.

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