This is a sermon that I just did at one of the Churches here in BC.
There is a commercial on TV that comes on during the hockey games; it is advertising the Hockey cards that you can get a MacDonald’s. The scene starts off with a father and son looking over the boy’s cards over lunch at Macdonald’s and an older man in the next table sitting looking over his cards. The Father leans over and looks at the older man’s cards. "That’s a good one" the father says. "It’s a rare one" says the older man. "My Son needs that one, trade you?" And the banter begins "For what?" questions the older man, What do you want? What do you got? And then the father says "What do you need?"
I smile every time I see this commercial, not because I collect hockey cards or because I love to haggle but because to me I see what I do in my life and in my prayer life. We as humans are always balancing our needs and wants in ourselves and with others. As the old saying goes don’t expect something for nothing or there is no such thing as no strings attached. When we do a favour for someone there is chance that we can call on it when we need help. When I was a child I’m sure my parents were sick of hearing "If I can have a horse, a Barbie dream house or a cell phone for Christmas, I will never ask for another thing again!" when we pray we sometimes use the same tactic bargaining for what we want and hoping we can find something to trade with. "Lord I will give up chocolate for 3 months if only I could.....win the lottery, get this good job, we could all fill in the blank of this prayer. But in the readings today we are told that there is no need to bargain, there is no trading or trying to figure out what God "needs". God already knows what we need and our expectations are not just met, but God goes beyond them!
In Matthew we hear John the Baptist asking Jesus if he is the one. In the Message translation the question posed is "Are you the One we’ve been expecting or are we still waiting?" and Jesus answers " the blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed. The deaf hear, the dead are raised, the wretched of the earth learn that God is on their side. Is this what you were expecting?" What a wonderful way to put it "Is this what you were expecting?" If I was John, I would most likely be expecting a yes or no answer! But Jesus goes beyond the simple answer and expectations of John and his followers. Not only is there healing going on here, but people are beginning to see that God is on their side, God is with them. The waiting is over! God is here among us and in each one of us. In the Isaiah reading we see the over abundance of God. The whole world is humming with joy; the deserts are blooming, the lame leaping, and the deaf hearing. This is what our future could look like, but I believe that this passage is not just a "could be" but a real possible now, a definite “could be”. If we strengthen our own weak hands and knees, and take heart in "be strong, do not fear here is our God." With radical hospitality and radical love in our hearts, we can start to walk the highway together now. Young and old, able bodied or not, all are welcome on the highway, each one helping the other, no pitfalls or roadblocks. God has promised that no one shall go astray. Not even the people who have no sense of direction. No maps are needed and there is no charge for the journey. The only thing needed is the desire to walk the way and the desire to reach out and listen to those whom we are called to walk. This imagery is best described in the hymn, Sister; let me be your servant. Let me be as Christ to you, pray that I may have the grace to let you be my servant too. We are pilgrims on a journey, fellow travellers on the road, we are here to help each other walk the mile and bear the load. With this hymn on our lips we can only be joyful, we can only be those people that Isaiah speaks of. "They sing as they make their way home to Zion, unfading halos of joy encircling their heads, welcomed home with gifts of joy and gladness as all sorrow and sighs scurry away." (Message) Let us welcome each other home, let us be Christ to one another and lets us make those “could bes" happen.
Let us pray
O Lord our God, Wellspring of all that is.
You are the sea on which we float,
You are the wind that fills our sails,
You are the storm that buffets us,
You are the calm that brings us peace.
Open our ears to hear Your word,
Open our eyes to see Your beauty,
Open our hearts to be warmed by Your love.
Free us from our lonely prisons of fear and selfishness,
And make us over, day by day, into bearers of Your peace.