As we did throughout Advent 2011 and Lent 2012, we are blogging our way through the Advent 2012 Lectionary Readings. We love this time of year, and sharing with you in this way. Our overarching theme during this season is “Preparing the Path” and our prayer is that as we march together toward the manger, we will prepare the way for Emmanuel.
We are thrilled that our friend, Reverend Nathan Kilbourne, has agreed once again (see here and here) to write for us. Pastor Nathan and his wife Pastor Lynn are incredible pastors, people, and friends. In addition to serving on the Advisory Board of Led By The Word, Rev. Kilbourne serves as the Associate Pastor at Asbury United Methodist Church in Little Rock, AR. He is a graduate of the Duke Divinity School.
A Reading from the Gospel of Luke
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah,
“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of The Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”
— Luke 3:1-6 (NRSV)
Expectations are hard to let go of in life. We expect certain things to happen in certain ways; We have a vision as to how life will end up and how we will get there. Some of these expectations are created by our own minds, while other expectations are given to us by wider society. We set our own expectations or we live by other’s expectations. Either way, these expectations lay out for us as to how the world operates. In some ways, these standards may be healthy as they give us a sense of moving toward a goal. While at other times, these expectations may prevent us from seeing and hearing the movement of God in our lives.
In our Scripture passage, it is interesting that Luke spends such a great deal of time noting as to who is in charge. For the first two verses, all we get is a list of names of those “important” people in Jesus’ day. And yet, it doesn’t seem like Luke is name dropping here. Moreover, while Luke is often concerned with giving an “orderly” account of Jesus’ life, it seems Luke sets us up for a dramatic shift in the story. Luke begins by naming all the emperors, rulers, and priests in Jesus’ day. All those whom we would expect to know if something great was happening in their kingdoms. In fact, these important people would be surrounded by the most “capable” individuals who could advise them as to what is happening in their kingdoms and in their world.
And yet, of all the important people whom one would expect to bring or know earth shattering or world altering news, none of those in the know, have a clue. Rather, John, the son of Zechariah, whom we know little about other than Zechariah was a priest serving in the temple, becomes the ambassador of God’s salvation. All expectations are taken off the table. God chooses to act beyond the systems we have set up in order to bring about God’s salvation. God’s salvation will come not from the powers that be, but rather, through those whom we would least expect to bring world altering news. God’s good Word will flow from the faithful hearts of ordinary people who have been empowered by the Spirit.
God’s Spirit moves with absolute freedom beyond the our expectations to bring life altering salvation. At times we may miss the voices of those calling out in the wilderness to prepare the way of the Lord because we are blinded by our own expectations. Yet God uses John, the son of Zechariah, to call the world to God. God uses a man, whose father was simply faithful to the call of God. So today, let us be reminded to simply pay attention and to listen intently. Let us not forsake or miss those moments God is calling out to us because they do not meet our expectations. Who knows, God might in fact be altering those expectations anyways.