Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another? (Matthew 11.3)
I want to tell you a story today. It’s the story of two jailbirds. One of the two is the Apostle Paul. The other is John the Baptist.
The recent hailstorm peppered the church roof so badly that it needed to be fixed up. Alan couldn’t wait for the insurance company to make its final determination, so he decided to get up on the roof to repaint it. Alan wanted to save money for the church, so he thinned the paint down. It started to rain again when Alan was halfway through, so he had to find some cover. After the rain stopped, he looked out. He was horrified to see the paint had run in a series of soggy streaks. While he was still staring aghast at the roof, a voice rang out from heaven: “Repaint! Repaint! And thin no more!”
I don’t know if the voice was God’s or John the Baptist’s. Ask Alan afterwards whose voice he thinks it was.
On the Third Sunday of Advent, the RCL readings have two themes: ‘repent’ (not ‘repaint’!) and ‘joy’. Isn’t that strange? Do repentance and joy go together? And if so, how?
John the Baptist is the messenger of repentance; but what about ‘joy’? Joy is the note that plays in each of the other scripture readings in the Lectionary for today. Continue reading
The Lord is near
Whenever you read Philippians, you’ve got to remember one thing: Paul was in jail when he wrote it. So when he says Rejoice!, we should take notice. Paul can rejoice even though he is in chains. Paul can rejoice when he doesn’t know whether he’ll live or die.
How is that?
Quite some years ago now, I was at a conference here in Brisbane and a couple of ministers from the Philippines were also there. They were facing the possibility of arrest when they returned home, yet they had broad smiles on their faces and a deep joy in their hearts.
How is that?
As a hospital chaplain, I used to see people who were seriously ill who could absolutely radiate peace and joy. It did my heart good to sit with them.
How is that? Continue reading