Ready to Share some Good News?
Sunday, December 5, 2021
Pastor Arne Bergland
Lesson Luke 3:1-6
Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, four gospels, one story right? Yes and no. Each of the Gospel writers wrote at different times and addressed the story to different people. We tend to mix the four Gospels into one, but they each come at the story of Jesus in different ways
- John was a follower of Jesus. He addressed a broad audience of Jews, Christians, and Samaritans. His telling of the story emphasized the divinity of Christ.
- Matthew, on the other hand wrote his Gospel to the Jewish Christian community after Jerusalem had been destroyed by the Romans. He tells the story with an eye towards encouraging the idea that Jesus was the Messiah promised by God.
- Mark addressed the Gentiles Christians living under persecution in Rome. He would say that say that persecution is the price Christian’s must pay for following Jesus. This Gospel focuses on Jesus as a servant
- We know Luke as the historian. In Luke we find a compassionate, merciful, and prayerful Jesus who is concerned for the poor and forgotten. Luke shows how Jesus was a real person showing a genuine interest in people from all walks of life.
The word Gospel means Good News and like all good news it is a message that is meant to be shared. Messages need messengers and the scripture we have shared this morning recalls the many ways that God’s message is share.
Now one would not be wrong to expect that great good news would best be delivered by someone important or someone who had the ability to broadly tell the story to the world. It would be someone who could make headlines, someone who could make the good news, big news, public news. Certainly, it would not be someone like John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness away from the crowds and news networks of the day. John spoke to the realities of first century life. But he was not an emperor or a governor, or even a priest. One could argue that he was a nobody and hardly worthy of mention for the Gospel story.
Luke, the historian, and story-teller places John the Baptist as a messenger for a very particular specific place and time. Perhaps it would be helpful for us to rewrite the first verses of our reading. It might sound something like this; “In the first year of the Presidency of Joe Biden, when Tim Walz was Governor of Minnesota and Dave Napier was Mayor of West Saint Paul. In the Bishopric of Elizabeth Eaton of the ELCA and Patricia Lull of the Saint Paul Synod the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness.” John who?
God chose a nobody to prepare the way for God’s own Son to come amongst us. Lest you think that God only chooses the qualified, the eloquent or the important let me remind you of this. With some regularity God chooses people whom the world sees as insignificant through whom to do marvelous things. John the Baptist, Mary the illiterate unwed mom and teenager, the no account shepherds at the very bottom of the economic ladder who serve as the audience for the heavenly choir. David a shepherd boy. Again, and again, Luke confesses, God chooses people the world can easily ignore to participate in God’s world-changing, world-saving activity.
God chooses such like this to be messengers of the Good News. The wonderful works of God happen through ordinary people in particular places and particular plans
For Jon the Baptist the Word of God came while he was alone in the wilderness, away from the crowds. We don’t exactly know how it was that John cam to discern Gods will. There is no mention of God speaking to him out of a cloud or a burning bush. Scripture is quite silent at that point. Perhaps he was praying or reading scripture. Perhaps he was gazing across the landscape of the wilderness when Gods Word came to him. It doesn’t really matter. What matters is that in his walk of faith John came to believe that God was calling him to be a messenger. John needed to see his world through the story, the Good News of God’s love active and at work in his life.
The story is told about how one Sunday an usher asked his pastor, before worship began, “Pastor, will anything special happen today? His pastor though about it for a moment and then said, “Well, Jesus will be here.” That was what Jesus promised, “I will be with you always.”
God had called John to be a messenger and so he goes out in the region of the Jordan and brings the message to large crowds. His faith led him into the world because God’s concern is with the world. Buoyed by the promise of God, John was led to seek out the broken, lost, and lonely. John was convinced that God would make every mountain low, fill every valley and make smooth the rough spots. John did not guess that this was true. John did not hope that this was true. John knew that the promise was certain.
This is the gift of faith. It is a gift that brings focus and clarity even in, especially in troubled times. John took the time to listen and hear God’s will for his life. He took the time to listen and then he acted.
John’s story helps us to see the possibility that we don’t have to be celebrities or rulers or among the rich and powerful to be used by God. God is eager to use our talents and abilities and gifts to change the world. Just as John stopped and listened for Gods will in his life, we might come to see God at work through the relationships, jobs, family, and civic life and more to make this world more trustworthy and good, more in line with the goodness, truth and justice that is God’s promise.
You are called, to be messengers. We are called, that is, to remind each other that God is at work in and through our lives for the sake of the world God loves so much.
God is in the habit of using ordinary people to do extraordinary things. “In the first year of the Presidency of Joe Biden, when Tim Walz was Governor of Minnesota and Dave Napier was Mayor of West Saint Pau. In the Bishopric of Elizabeth Eaton of the ELCA and Patricia Lull of the Saint Paul Synod the word of God came to Augustana Lutheran Church.”
Luke’s use of the names of the high and mighty do more than place the ministry of John the Baptist in historical context. John the Baptists message reminds us that the the claims of world authorities are often in conflict with God’s will. More than that they call into question our own paths and how crooked they may be as well. Make straight the way of the Lord. God would reshape the worlds social systems and even the pathways of our hearts and minds.
God is present in your life and at work in your activities. Each of us has the potential to be a messenger of Gods Good news. Like John we might be a nobody to whom the Word of the Lord comes and through whom God prepares the way for the coming Christ so that, indeed, all people might see and receive God’s salvation.
God calls us to join in reshaping the world. This word comes to us in a particular place and a particular time. God’s word is for us today, in this place and time. How might we be messengers of God’s love today?