Summary: John the Baptist was a spiritual "bulldozer" calling us to move the rhythms and rhymes of this world towards God's justice.
December 6, 2020
Hope Lutheran Church
Rev. Mary Erickson
The Earth Mover
Friends, may grace and peace be yours in abundance in the knowledge of God and Christ Jesus our Lord.
“Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all the people shall see it together.”
Isaiah foretells of moving earth. It’s a very significant scene. Entire valleys are filled in. The tops of lofty mountains are shaved off. Rough, washboard roads are graded smooth. All this, to prepare the pathway for the Lord.
Nowadays, we have some very powerful machinery for moving earth. (PowerPoint slides demonstrating the machinery) These two machines can really move a lot of earth. This bulldozer can efficiently level an area. Now, take a look at its size and shape, and look for it in the next slide. Do you see it? Remember how big it really is? Look at it compared to this freakishly big earth mover! This picture is from a coal mine in Germany. Now, that machine can really move the dirt! But back in Isaiah’s day, they didn’t have any modern machinery like this.
This is how the work would have been done in Isaiah’s day. All of it by hand. Men with simple hand tools, moving the earth with pickaxes and shovels and buckets. Every valley shall be filled, every mountain be made low. A lot of toil and sweat was involved to prepare the way for the king.
Every Advent season we meet face to face with John the Baptist. He comes as one to prepare the way of the Lord. He will make straight the paths. John comes as an earthmover. That which is lowly, he will elevate. And the lofty he will bring down in size.
John comes as an earthmover, a bulldozer. But despite his holy leveling, John doesn’t come bearing a shovel or a wheelbarrow. And it’s this lack of equipment that provides the clue to his calling. John’s equalizing has to do with the people of the earth, not the earth itself. John’s mission is to announce the call of divine justice. God desires that the lowly and downtrodden of this world be lifted up. And to those who are lofty and privileged, God’s justice calls them to give so that others may live.
John’s instructions are quite straightforward. Luke’s gospel captures the dialogue. John directs: “Whoever has two coats, share with the person who has none. And those with food, share it with the hungry.” To those in power positions – tax collectors and soldiers – John instructs them not to threaten people with their power. They should not extort for their own gain.
God’s justice calls for special care for the “little ones” of this world. The lowly are near to God’s heart. God shows a preferential option for the poor. In two weeks, we’ll hear the words of Mary’s Magnificat:
“He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.”
Mary’s Magnificat echoes John. The lowly are filled with good things, while the high and mighty are made low.
Two weeks ago, the same message came from Jesus’ parable. When we feed the hungry, when we clothe the naked, when we minister to the sick and visit the imprisoned, we do these things for him. And conversely, when we neglect them, we neglect him.
Throughout its pages, the Bible’s message is consistent: God calls us to do justice and love mercy, to walk humbly upon this earth. And when we walk humbly, we walk with God. We make straight the paths before us.
John is an earthmover. Earthmovers don’t make minor tweaks. Filling in valleys, shaving down mountains, these aren’t cosmetic actions. They’re downright invasive.
John comes as a bulldozer. John’s message of Advent preparation calls us to make significant changes in our life trajectories. John calls us to be part of this holy road crew. He calls us to move the rhythms and rhymes of this earth towards God’s justice. So my friends, let us roll up our sleeves! Put on your work gloves and grab your pick and shovel! We’ve work to do! Prepare the way!