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Second Sunday of Advent                 Rev. Ralph A. Boyer IV

December 10, 2006

Jesse Tree Readings

Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharoah and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”  That was only the first of a series of excuses – the people wouldn’t believe him, he wasn’t an eloquent speaker.  Moses was very reluctant to answer God’s call.

David fell to temptation with Bathsheba and made some awful decisions to satisfy his desire.

Solomon in his old age faltered in his faith and started worshipping false gods in addition to the Lord.

Jonah did everything in his power to escape God’s call.  He wanted nothing to do with being a prophet.

And yet these are the four major people on our Jesse Tree.  People God chose to prepare the way for the coming of Christ.  4 people plaqued with sin, insecurity and major failures and yet God worked with them and through them.

That doesn’t mean God didn’t care about their sin.  God demanded repentance and change in all their lives.  They all had to deal with the consequences of their sin.

Yet God in his forgiveness was able to work them despite their sizeable flaws.  And all 4 were key figures in God’s plan for salvation.

Moses led the people out of slavery to the Promised Land and gave them God’s 10 Commandments.

David & Solomon were Kings of Israel.

Jonah was a prophet whose message led to the great King & city of Nineveh turning to God.

All 4 were flawed people, yet greatly important servants of God – part of God’s plan of salvation – ultimately leading to the birth of the Messiah – Jesus Christ.

After Israel was conquered by Babylon and sent into exile, there were no more Kings in the line of Jesse like David & Solomon.  But in God’s good time, that sprout came from the stump of Jesse as Isaiah foretold it and Christ was born.

From the stump of Jesse, a new tree grows – a whole new line.  Not a line of blood relatives like Jesse, David & Solomon, but a line of people related by faith in Christ.

Jesus started with 12 disciples and they spread his message to the world.  Each generation carried it further and further until the Gospel – God’s Good News has reached you and me.  Now what?

We’re in the Advent season – the word Advent means “Coming”.  What or who is coming?  In Advent we prepare to celebrate Christ’s coming, 2000 years ago into human life, and that he promises to come again at the end of time.  But in the meantime, he comes to us constantly through his Spirit and through his word and sacraments.  Christ is alive and with us and comes to us anew each day.

But he comes to us not just for our personal benefit, but as a part of his plan to bring his Good News to all the world.

What does God have in mind for us?  What new ways will God be coming to us as individuals and as a congregation?  How does the Lord want you and me to serve him?

Look at Moses, David, Solomon, Jonah.  They were flawed and insecure, stubborn.  Sounds like you and me!

I can relate to Moses and his reluctance to serve.  For several years before and after I went to seminary I came up with all kinds of excuses why I couldn’t be a pastor.  But I could never escape the sense that it was what I should do.  And God had an uncanny way of shooting down each of my excuses until I got the message.

In this Advent time we need to be open to new ways of serving the Lord.  God’s Word and his purpose doesn’t change.  But our part in his work does change from time to time.  What does the Lord have in mind for you this Advent?  What new ways of serving him?  And we need to be careful that we serve in ways God needs us to and not just as we prefer.

We may be tempted to serve ourselves like David or serve false gods like Solomon.  We may say “I can’t do it” like Moses.  Or “I won’t do it” like Jonah.

But God doesn’t accept excuses.

God has placed great potential in each of you.  He has a place for you in his plan to bring Christ’s love and forgiveness and way of life to the world.

You may play a major role like Moses, or, what you do may be known only to God.  But in any event, you are an essential part of God’s saving action.

And remember, when God calls you to serve him in some great or small way, he always equips you to do his work and stands beside you to strengthen you.

Moses said, “Who am I to go to Pharoah?”  God said, “it doesn’t matter who you are – you are my spokesman that’s what matters.”

Moses said, “The people won’t believe that I talked to God!”  And God gave him power to chance a staff into a serpent and water into blood.

Moses said, “I’m not an eloquent speaker – I am slow of speech and tongue.”  God said, “I will show you what to say and your brother Daron, who’s a good speak, will help you.”

If God has called you to a task, he will empower you to do it.

And God’s call is not entrusted to some elite group.  It is given to everyone.  Rich & poor.  Highly educated and least educated.  The great leaders of the Bible included shepherds, kings, priests and fisherman, mothers and fathers and young people.

Today, as back then, it is often true that the most ordinary people are trusted with the most crucial tasks.

In recent years, the Lord of the Rings trilogy has gotten acclaim as a series of great movies.  But many people don’t know the deep Christian faith of JRR Tolkien, who wrote the Lord of the Rings, or the Christian message behind his writing.

Tolkien observed that ordinary people are often called by God to do extraordinary deeds.  “Yes such is oft the course of deeds that move the wheels of the word:  Small hands do them because they must, while the eyes of the great are elsewhere”…God often calls the small to move the wheels of the world…

And listen to how Tolkien describes the sense of calling that tugs at the small, ordinary hobbit named Frodo Baggins.  He sits in a Council that has been called to decide who will take the powerfully corrupting ring back to its source to destroy it.  Who would undertake this quest?

“No one answered.  The noon-bell rang.  Still no on spoke.  Frodo glanced at all the faces, but they were not turned to him.  All the Council sat with downcast eyes, as if in deep thought.  A great dread fell on him, as if he was awaiting the pronouncement of some doom that he had long foreseen and vainly hoped might after all never be spoken.  An overwhelming longing to rest and remain at peace…filled all his heart.  At last with an effort he spoke, and wondered to hear his own words, as if some other will was using his small voice.

“I will take the Ring,’ he said, ‘though I do not know the way.’”

To what task – great or small, is the Lord calling you this Advent?

Amen.               

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