Summary: A sermon for the 3rd Sunday in Advent, Series A
3rd Sunday in Advent, December 16, 2007 “Series A”
Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Let us pray: Dear Heavenly Father, during this season of Advent, help us to recognize that you are true to your promise to redeem us from our sin and death. Through the power of your Holy Spirit, help us to recognize through eyes of faith, that in the person of Jesus the Christ, we behold your presence, and enable us to embrace him as our savior from sin and death. This we ask, in Christ’s holy name. Amen.
During my internship, in which I served in one of the largest Lutheran congregations in Upstate New York, I was surprised to hear from several faithful members of the congregation, how often Pastor Joslyn repeated his sermon illustrations. In fact, it was even brought up three times at a roast that was held in his honor, when he left the congregation to take another call. At the time, I thought, “Now here’s a lesson, Ron. Don’t repeat your illustrations. People remember your illustrations and stories, even though they may not remember the rest of your sermon.”
Well, this morning I’m going to follow in Pastor Joslyn’s footsteps, and share with you a story from my past that I have shared with you before, but I do promise you that the rest of the sermon is new in thought.
Less than a year after I was ordained, I received a phone call from the late Bishop Kenneth May. He called to ask me to serve as a member of the registration committee for the upcoming synod assembly, giving me the impression that this might be a way of getting to know the other pastors in our synod. Having just been ordained, I was Naïve enough to believe him.
The truth is, that when you serve on the registration committee, you don’t have time to get to know anybody. It is one of those task-oriented jobs, that quickly becomes routine, especially as the lines of delegates form ten or more deep in front of you. No one wants to stand at the registration desk and chat. They don’t really care who you are. They just want to check in, get their room key, and unpack before the first session begins.
Well, it didn’t take long for me to settle into this routine. I would look up at the next person in line, smile and say welcome to the assembly, and then ask what conference the person represented in order to determine what page I had to turn to on the pre-registration forms. Then I would ask their name, cross it off with a highlighter, give them their room key, meal tickets, identification badge, a packet of additional information, and finally ask if I could help them with any questions they might have.
It didn’t take me more than a half an hour for to become proficient at the task at hand. But then, this smartly dressed pastor, who had waited in line for over ten minutes, stood before me. When it was his turn, I simply looked up to him, welcomed him to the assembly, and then asked him what conference he represented, dropping my eyes to the roster of registered pastors for the assembly. Without a moment’s hesitation, I heard this finely dressed pastor say to me, “I think I represent all the conferences.”
At that point, I received a sharp knee jab from my colleague to my left, who whispered in my ear, “It’s Dr. Crumley.” In a second, I stood, and apologized for not recognizing the Presiding Bishop of the church to which I was ordained, the Lutheran Church in America. I apologized for getting so caught up in my own agenda, that I failed to recognize him.
Dr. Crumley graciously accepted my apology, and in fact, several times during the assembly, he approached me in conversation, always addressing me by name, asking my thoughts about the ongoing debates. The only time he did not refer to me by name, was when he began his address to the assembly, sharing his registration experience. The whole assembly laughed, including me, whom he enabled to feel and realize his gracious forgiveness.
I think John the Baptist had a similar experience. If you think about it, John had a registration task to perform – that of preparing people to accept the kingdom of God, through the coming of God’s promised Messiah. And oh, did John take his task seriously. He proclaimed his message as a matter of routine, regardless of who stood before him. To the Pharisees, and scribes, even priests and kings, his message was the same as to the common people. “Repent! For the kingdom of God is coming among you.”