The St. John’s Pulpit
St. John’s Baptist Church 300 Hawthorne Lane Charlotte, NC 28204
THE QUESTION WE REALLY MUST SETTLE
Isaiah 35:1-7 and Matthew 11:2-6
Third Sunday of Advent, December 15, 2019
by Senior Minister, Rev. Dennis W. Foust, PhD
This past Monday morning, about 7am, my phone rang. It was Jim Keesee letting me know his soulmate and husband, Bryan Thorn, had passed on ahead of us a few minutes earlier. Cancer is a fierce enemy when it invades your bones. We will celebrate Bryan’s life and ministry in January. Bryan was 75 years young and he loved St. John’s.
On Tuesday, we gathered in this sanctuary to celebrate the life and ministry of Mike Miller. Those of you who knew Mike knew a smiling, gentle fellow who enjoyed being a servant. For those of you who did not know Mike, he loved his family and sat next to the aisle over here with a bald head and ponytail. Mike was 75 years young and loved St. John’s.
On Friday morning of this week, about 5 am, my phone rang. Carol Snyder called to tell me that Henry had passed on ahead of us. We will celebrate Henry’s life this Wednesday. In recent weeks, I’ve been speaking with him about the end of his life because of leukemia. We enjoyed lunch over the years. When he volunteered in the church office, we would go to lunch. Henry was looking forward to his 80th birthday in January. He loved St. John’s.
This morning, Lily Wilkerson and Emma Goodrich followed Jesus in baptism. Although they are more than 50 years from their 70s, they have a great deal in common with Bryan, Mike, and Henry. They love St. John’s. However, there is another fact these two young women share with these 70-something-year-old men which is even more important:
They have all settled the question about Jesus. This is the question we must all settle.
When you settle the question about Jesus, you face your future with missional purpose. You still live with doubts, unanswered and unanswerable questions, and tremendous mysteries. Yet, you journey in faith, believing that obeying Jesus leads you in the ways of God. Mike, Bryan, and Henry were able to face death with assurance because they had a lifetime of trusting God’s grace by following Jesus. They settled the Jesus question.
The prophet Isaiah saw a new day dawning in the darkness of his time. He saw the wilderness and desert being transformed as they blossomed with rivers of running waters, songbirds and the percussion sound of leaves blowing in the wind. “Strengthen the arthritic and feeble hands, steady the shaking knees and say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong, do not fear, here is your God.’ The eyes of the blind shall be opened and the ears of the deaf will hear. The lame will leap like a deer and the tongue of the speechless will sing with joy.”
When John the Baptizer sent messengers from prison to inquire whether Jesus was truly the promised one or if should they be looking for another, he was answering the question we really must settle. Jesus sent back to him a message reflecting Isaiah’s prophecy: “Go tell John that his question can be settled. The blind are seeing, the lame are jumping, the deaf are hearing and the dead are being raised.” John died having settled the Jesus question.
Attention Christmas shoppers! The birth and life of Jesus is not just a feel-good story to decorate with tinsel and lights so we can feel better about our pursuit of self-indulgence and our cravings for more from the Amazon store. John presents us with a question we really must settle: Is Jesus the One we should follow, or should we look for another?
Beloved, I bring you glad tidings of great joy! This Christmas return all those things that do not result in spiritual transformation. Give to God your brokenness, your blindness, your incapacity to hear the Word of the Lord and your unwillingness to walk in God’s Way – all your can-nots, did-nots and wishes you had-not. Give to God all the worst in you and God will transform it like Isaiah’s vision of the transformed deserted wilderness.
If you will give your full self to God – like a full-body immersion into God’s grace – God will come alive within you bringing hope, peace, joy, and love. Then God will show you all your transformed worst stuff and say, ‘Look at this new life. Now give your best to me. If I can do that with your worst, just imagine what I can do with your best.’
Beloved, on your dying day, I pray you will not have merely traded your life for the earnings of labor and self-enjoyment nor have just given your life to good causes and institutions. I pray you will look back and see how you invested your life in God’s vision through the teachings of Jesus because you settled the question.
Amen and AMEN!