The last couple weeks has felt like a fog, but I finally feel like myself again. It is amazing what a good night’s rest can do. Many of you know the church is wrestling with budget constraints and the painful recommendation to scale back to one pastor. It has not been fun for anyone. But alas, we turn to Scripture for hope and guidance this morning:
Daniel interprets Nebechadnezzar’s dream. He sees a statue of fine gold, but with feet of clay. God enters the picture, as one who after the divided kingdom, “will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed.” The king is impressed and promotes Daniel, for he has been the only one able to reveal the mystery of the dream.
1 John speaks of antichrists, those opponents of the gospel who had deceitful ideas about Christ. And John’s definition is pretty intense: “Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, anyone who denies the Father and the Son.”
What does it mean to deny Jesus as the Christ? Depending on how you define this, the argument could be made that some of my minister friends deny Christ. They would disagree. But an outsider’s perspective on their radical beliefs looks like denial to some.
Perhaps a better question to ask is: What does it mean to abide in Christ? For I see these friends of mine abiding in Christ. They show Christ’s love, and bring others to Christ. Why then would anyone put them in the “deny” category?
The natural human response is to try to put people in categories…to put people in boxes. We like to define ourselves by what other are (or are not).
I wish the Church would grow up. What is important is not what I think, or my narrow theological definition of this or that, but Christ’s work in all of us.
Luke comes to our aid. It is the story of John the Baptist – the one crying out in the wilderness. “Bear fruits worthy of repentance,” he says. “Prepare the way of the Lord.” There is reassurance and hope that our job is simply to clear the way. The Lord will lay the road.
John gives good advice – hard advice – but he reminds us that someone after him comes with fire. Think about those images: water versus fire. Water purifies by cleansing. Fire purifies by smelting rock! Things are changed! Destroyed! Altered forever in order to get a little purification.
The Church needs a little changing – and by change I mean smelting rock kinda of change.
John is letting us know that the road to repentance (and the road to a better life) is one that we will be unable to fulfill. Luckily we can ride the wave of the Messiah, the one in whom we all abide in our baptism. Smelt away!