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This Week's Focus

     
 

"Paying the Price" - A Reflection for the Third Sunday in Advent, Year B

2020-12-08
 
 
 

Dear Friends,
 

To all who would listen and to those who would not, John came to testify to the light. The Messiah is coming. Repent. Make straight the way of the Lord. Back then, say that often enough… around the wrong people… and you could get yourself into a whole lot of trouble. And he did.
 
Say that around the wrong people today, and you can still get into a lot of trouble. And they are: In Pakistan and Iran, proclaiming Christ is a capital crime. In Nigeria and Kenya, it invites rape and murder. In Syria and Iraq, it means fleeing the country by the tens of thousands. And yet they cling to Christ.

They proclaim him from burning churches and with dying breaths. Picture it. These are not martyrs' tales from a far away, heroic age. This is what is happening right now, today ...to our brothers and sisters in Christ. And the world shrugs.

Clearly, proclaiming Christ still comes with a price. And it is not isolated to far-off lands. We pay a price today in an increasingly conformist, secular America. And the price is going up. Start with the growing pall of intimidation that stifles even the most timid reference to faith. Add in the wrinkled brows and raised eyebrows that greet the slightest mention of Jesus. All capped with that look that says you are obviously a redneck rube for daring to violate the most sacred tenet of secular orthodoxy: None of that Jesus stuff, thank you very much. It's not polite and it's definitely not politically correct. This mini-martyrdom of disapproval awaits all those brave enough to take John at his word and proclaim the coming of Christ.

The Evangelist, John, set this gospel down during a time of both growing persecution and troubling doubt. The Christian communities were being banished from the synagogues by those who rejected Jesus. Many had lived day to day in anticipation of Christ’s triumphant return. They waited and wondered… and increasingly they worried. Rejection and anxiety put the faithful in double jeopardy. Years passed and they struggled on, often isolated and alienated from friends and family… while official intolerance evolved into state-sanctioned extermination.

Where was Jesus? When was he coming? Or had they been following a fairy-tale to futility and destruction?

In the face of this turmoil, the Evangelist deliberately takes up his pen to set the record straight. That is why, of all the gospels, John’s is the one that places Christ with the Father at Creation… that verse by verse, chapter by chapter documents the case for the divinity of Jesus… that proclaims him anew as more than a Messiah… as nothing less than the living God.

John’s gospel is an eye-witness account of the ministry of Jesus. It is no mere ode to a martyred holy man. It is not the collected wisdom of some great philosopher. It is nothing less than a proclamation that Jesus was, is and always will be one with Yahweh. Without any doubt, he is coming again… but on his schedule, not on ours. The ridicule we receive, the persecutions we endure are all part of the cross we carry to glory… all part of the price we pay.

To proclaim Christ does not require a mass reprogramming for us all to become street-corner evangelists. As the hymn tells us: They will know we are Christians by our love. That is how we proclaim Jesus… by our love. And to get up for the game, we gather together… every Sunday as the Body of Christ… to draw strength from our worship, to refocus our purpose, to build the confidence we need to take Christ with us back into the world… and fearlessly witness his love.
 
It is within the walls of our church that we gather this strength. But it is outside the walls, in the world, where we must spend our strength for God’s glory.
 
He did not put us here to get along by going along. To live in Christ's love and proclaim him, always means paying the price. Sometimes the price is greater… exile, imprisonment, martyrdom. Sometimes it is smaller… disapproval, exclusion, ridicule. But whatever the price… it is, literally, the bargain of a lifetime.

God love you!
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David Sellery · David F. Sellery · 213 Council Gap Ct · Cary, NC 27513 · USA