Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord!

December 10, 2006

The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor

Montgomery United Methodist Church

 

John 1:6-10

6There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. 8He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. 9That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. 10He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.

 

 

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, good morning! This morning I’d like to talk with you about one of the greatest unsung heroes of the Bible, John the Baptist. Some call him St. John the Baptist. John the Baptist had a very special role in the kingdom of God, and this morning I’d like us to ask two questions. What role did John have in the kingdom? What can we learn from him?

 

John was a remarkable man. He was the cousin of our Lord Jesus. Perhaps you remember the story in the Bible. After the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, Mary was so thrilled about the message of the angel that she went running to her cousin Elizabeth, who was married to Zacharias, to share the good news. When she reached Elizabeth, Elizabeth said, “Oh, Mary, when I heard you at the door, the babe in my womb leaped for joy.” The babe in Elizabeth’s womb was, of course, John the Baptist.

 

Jesus loved His cousin John. John was different. He was a renegade. When he grew up, he was kind of a Grizzly Adams fellow, wiry and bearded. He wore rough clothes and had a very unusual diet. His preaching was fiery, and the most famous statement we remember about John was “Prepare ye the way of the Lord. Make straight in the desert a highway for God.” Do you remember the song from the musical “Godspell”? “Prepare ye the way of the Lord. Prepare ye the way of the Lord.” That was John’s role in the Kingdom. And the thing that I’d like to ask us is how can we be preparers of the way of the Lord?

 

In the Gospel according to John the Evangelist, the very first chapter, he mentions John the Baptist in this way. He speaks of the wonders of Jesus, but then he says, “There was a man sent from God whose name was John. This man came for a witness – to bear witness – to the light, that all through him might believe. He was not that light, but was sent to bear witness to that light.” John was not the fulfillment of the Word. He was part of the puzzle. John was not the goal of the chain, but he was a link in the chain. That’s how John prepared the way of the Lord.

 

Friends, I believe that there is great dignity and great purpose and great importance in being a preparer of the way, in being a link in the chain of the kingdom. We may not see the fruits of our labor; we may not see the result of our work. But God doesn’t call us to produce results. God calls us to be faithful. God calls us to be links in the chain of His love. And there is great comfort and power in that. That’s what I’m asking us to do today on the Lord’s behalf. Let’s be faithful preparers of the way of the Lord, and we will have done God’s will, as John the Baptist did.

 

I know a Methodist grandmother who loved the Lord very, very much, and whose burning desire was that her children might love the Lord, too. Of her children, there was at least one who didn’t seem to share her enthusiasm for God. I don’t know how Grandmother felt about that. But she never wavered. She never wavered in her faith; she never wavered in her hope; and she never wavered in her love. She kept it going. She was a preparer of the way.

 

Well, another generation went by, and her child had a child, a granddaughter, who became a remarkable Christian woman, deeply committed to the Lord, deeply in love with the Lord, even though she did not grow up in a Christian home. That granddaughter now has children of her own who are being brought up in the church and being blessed by God and knowing Jesus Christ.

 

So much depended on that grandmother being faithful, being a preparer of the way of the Lord. So my message to you is never lose faith. Keep it going. Keep your faith strong. Keep on being a light in the darkness, because God is calling you to be a preparer of the way.

 

I know of another family that had two boys. The boys were of confirmation age before I came to that church. (This was a previous congregation.) Although the mother and father were very dedicated Christians, both boys decided not to be confirmed, and they told their parents they wouldn’t be. They were very rebellious, and they’d have nothing to do with the church or the Lord. This was a real disappointment for these parents, because they loved the Lord so much. And they wanted, as all of you do, for their children to have the Lord in their lives. But these boys rejected it. The boys got into some trouble. The parents stood faithful to them, to their love, and to their own personal faith.

 

I’m happy to tell you that now, these many years later, both boys are married. They have children of their own. They regularly attend church services. They’re members of their local church. And they’re raising their children in the faith, all because their parents never gave up, because they decided to be preparers of the way of the Lord.

 

How is it for you? Maybe you have children. Maybe you have grandchildren. Maybe you have nieces and nephews. Maybe there are children of others that you influence in some way. Friend, God calls us to be faithful, to be preparers of the way of the Lord. You’ll never know where your influence ends. Like ripples on a pond, your love and your faith carries great influence.

 

One more story… there was once a lay preacher in England, a humble lay preacher whose duty it was to offer services in a small chapel on a wayside street in London. It is said that this particular lay preacher never had the privilege or blessing of knowing that there were any great results of what he did. Week after week, he was faithful. He’d hold services in that little chapel on Sunday nights.

 

Well, on the bleak, dark, rainy evening of May 24th, 1738, the lay preacher went to his chapel. He didn’t have the strength to prepare a sermon, so he read one, from the works of Martin Luther. He got up and got through the service; he was faithful. At the service that night was a broken-hearted man, a man who was totally discouraged, a man who had every reason to believe he was a complete and total failure. He listened to the lay preacher’s words, and on the way home, in that rainy London town, he wrote in his journal, he found his heart strangely warm. Somehow, God got through to him in that sermon. He felt his heart strangely warm, and he came to the conviction that God loved even him, and that he could start again. He could make a positive difference in the world.

 

The name of the man? John Wesley, the founder of the United Methodist Church. The chapel was located on Aldersgate Street in London. Perhaps you’ve heard references to Aldersgate in our Methodist heritage.

 

Friend, God calls us to be faithful. God calls us to be preparers of the way. Never let go of the Jesus you know. Hold strong to your faith. Be a light in the darkness, because your influence is used of God. And in sharing your light, you are a partner with Him. Let’s rejoice that even though sometimes we may not see the direct result of our work and our blessings, we are reassured that we are part of God’s plan, pieces of His puzzle, links in the chain of His love. Let us go forth into the week rejoicing, knowing that in all we do, we can be preparers of the way of the Lord, because God loves us. I love you, too. Have a blessed week. Amen.

 

© 2006 Anthony J. Godlefski