Advent 2C’21
5 December 2021
Bar.5.1-9; Lk.3.1-6
St. Luke’s Episcopal Church
North Little Rock, Arkansas
The Rev. Carey Stone <+> 

Loving and truth telling God, grace us with open ears and open eyes, that we might hear your voice of saving truth – no matter where it comes from, through your Son, our Lord. Amen.

One of the characteristics of a great movie is that they usually have at least one memorable quote or a “one-liner.” Who can forget lines like: “May the force be with you,” from Star Wars. “Toto, I’ve a feeling that we aren’t in Kansas anymore,” from the Wizard of Oz, “What we have is a failure to communicate,” from Cool Hand Luke, then there’s this one, “I’ll be back,” The Terminator.

I tried to think of one that might relate to today’s sermon and remembered a movie from back in the late 90’s, it comes from the movie, “A Few Good Men” and was from a scene where Jack Nicholson plays the part of a highly decorated officer and with Tom Cruise, playing the part of a military attorney. The officer is on the witness stand while the attorney continues to land jab after verbal jab demanding that the officer tell the truth. In an outburst that would become the on-liner of the movie, blurts out, “You want the truth! You can’t handle the truth!” These words continue to resonate because at one time or another, they’ve been true about where we stood at a particular time and place in our lives.

The truth can be difficult and hard to swallow, and us humans over time we’ve become quite skillful in evasive measures. We run, we hide, we deny, we shift the blame, or we scapegoat someone else. An old Yiddish proverbs says of the truth: “Truth never dies, but it lives a wretched life.” This would equally apply to those truth tellers throughout the centuries, the prophets, who often at the cost of their lives spoke truth, to power and to the masses. Thus, the Turkish proverb says, “If you speak the truth, have one foot in the stirrup.” woe be to the messengers of the truth.

As a parent of a teenager, I have come to realize that both my parents at various times were prophets, truth tellers who had to ‘stand their ground’ in spite of my denials and protests that were both overt and covert. As I neared the age of thirty I became amazed at how quickly my parent’s IQ’s were rising. Often with prophets it’s not until after their deaths that they are fully appreciated for the truths they delivered.

Each year, on the second Sunday of Advent, the Prophet among prophets, John the Baptist takes center stage. To say he was strange would be an understatement. While others preferred the beaches, he preferred the desert, while others preferred clothing made of cloth, he preferred clothes made from animal hair. While others preferred a Mediterranean diet, John preferred an entomologist diet – locusts and honey. While others were tourists in the land of truth, truth was the very ground he stood on.

The story John came to tell was no fairy tale that began with “Once upon a time…” but was in a very real time, and place, with the gospel writer, Luke taking great pains in providing the details of which rulers were in power at the time, and located the specific location where these things occurred.

As the last great prophet at the end of an age and at the dawning of a new age John stood his ground and proclaimed that the Advent of the Messiah was just around the corner. A new Kingdom, with a New King was coming upon the scene. But to those invested in the old, “New” was no what they were interested in. John’s mission to prepare the way for the Messiah, and proclaim the message that God’s salvation would be for all – both for Jews and for Gentiles, this was to be the wave of the future and this truth could only be embraced by those willing to repent, to turn around the direction of their lives and follow the Way of Love as it would be revealed to the world through Jesus Christ. But those who would choose to cling to the prejudices of the past would miss the boat.  

“Repent” and “Repentance” are words that we in the bible-belt south are all too familiar with, and on some level tend to shy away from, because of the association with travelling evangelists, charlatans, and profiteers. But what if there is more to it? How might we recover these very important biblical words from the clutches of those who have hijacked them? Perhaps if we saw them as a means for hope and lasting inner peace, we might be more receptive. Hope is really what truth telling and repentance are all about – it is what Advent is all about. As we become open, and available to God and God’s truth, and willing to turn our lives over to the Power that is greater than ourselves we have hope for the present and for the future.

None of us like to go to the doctor and receive the news of a bad diagnosis. However, without a diagnosis there can be no hope of proper treatment or cure. The truth of an accurate diagnosis though uncomfortable brings with it the hope of a course of treatment that can lead to healing.

John comes to us each year in Advent as a disturber of our peace, to remind us that there is God who has come, who is coming, and who will come again and will break down the barriers of division and bridge the gap, who’s come to save us all and to make us all one.

During Advent this gift of Truth that brings with it our healing, our wholeness, and our oneness, comes to us in the form of a man with a poor fashion sense, with locust breath, and a message to repent, to turn away from what is hurtful and destructive and to turn toward the Way, the Truth, and the Life of the Kingdom of God.

The writer, Finley Peter Dunne reminds us of John’s mission, “To comfort the afflicted, and to afflict the comfortable.” Let us not miss it!