Faith is a Scratchy Sponge
Greetings on this the Second Sunday of Advent
Readings: IS 11:1-10; PS 72:1-2, 7-8, 12-13, 17; ROM 15:4-9; MT 3:1-12
Remember Last Week
If you remember last week I asked Dare to Dream Holy Dreams just like Isaiah.
How did you do?
Isaiah 2 dared to dream of a time even beyond the coming of the Messiah to the time of the complete peace with the final judgment.
This week Isaiah 11 going even further or not as far, so to speak!
Peace as a Person
Isaiah 11 introduces us to one he dreams will come, who embodies all that is holy.
There will appear a restorer of right relation between all men, God and creation itself.
A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse (4th Advent we read Isaiah 7 where the Emmanuel is promised).
Peace as a person.
All that is God becomes touchable, knowable, and palpable in the incarnate one.
He does this in an interesting way.
He says the one who is to come will be the perfect and divine expression of Holy.
Any/every good attribute we can subscribe to God is this fully in this certain someone:
The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him:
a spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
a spirit of counsel and of strength,
a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD,
and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD.
Paul Affirms the View
In his letter to the Romans:
Whatever was written previously was written for our instruction,
that by endurance and by the encouragement of the Scriptures
we might have hope….
in Christ Jesus.
For I say… (Jesus) confirms the promises to the patriarchs.
Faith is a scratchy sponge. One side is smooth and one side is the scratchy side.
(see picture attached).
When the sponge is new and supple it is ready to absorb and be used. It is helpful to succor hurts, apply balm and to whisk off any imperfections.
When the sponge is dried out it becomes stiff and unyielding. Am I right? Have you ever use a dried out sponge? Eek!
It is useless for applying balm and rather than whisk away imperfections a dried up sponge creates new ones!
If faith is a sponge, made to be supple and absorb holiness, than what is the solution for a dried up sponge?
This week, Second Advent, we are to be alert just like last week but now to the person who is coming. This Messiah embodied with every aspect of holiness.
This Messiah did not come to show off or to be in a glass case on display of what holiness looks like. No, he came to share who he is, and to give it away.
Isaiah is saying simply that God himself has come to impart and imbued us with these his divine self a/k/a gifts:
- And Fear of the Lord and the delight of the fear of the Lord.
Literalists take note: Fear of the Lord has two parts:
- Awe of the Lord in his majesty and his benevolence toward us.
- Humility in the presence. The perfect in the presence of the imperfect. The Divine living with the profane.
Repentance is the Beginning of Acceptance
The one thing we can all confess is a resistance to the Divine’s effort to gift us himself.
We can be like dried up sponges that need the refreshing dew of these heavenly gifts: Spirit, wisdom, understanding, counsel, strength, knowledge and fear of the Lord. As we soak up these gifts we become the supple instrument of grace in our own lives and the lives of others.
John the Baptizer – A Really Scratchy Sponge
John the Baptist – a super sized Scratchy Sponge. His was filled with supple holiness.
It’s really easy to project John as a mean guy with a chip on his shoulders. I suppose wearing camel hair and eating locusts might not put me in a good mood either.
But actually we would miss the story.
John is the preparer: Prepare the way of the Lord, the gospel says.
Here is the thing. Jesus really doesn’t need help. We do. John is preparing the way for us to see Jesus, for us to make our path toward holiness. The warning John the Baptist given the Pharisees and Sadducees is of the same type given the soldiers and tax collectors of Luke 3.
The added element is the degree of urgency!
Do you hear anger in John’s voice? Maybe your sponge is dry?
I hear a four-fold urgency:
- Brood of vipers – the exact example of social sin as we describe it today in modern Christian theology.
- Flee the wrath – do you really understand what exactly this wrath is? How urgent the need is for you?
- Change/repent – you can’t keep doing what you are doing.
- Do not presume – the most urgent warning even today! Do not presume, “Christian”, that you are safe without the living in the living Jesus.
And after all this John says, the one Isaiah promised has come and he will baptize with Holy Spirit and fire. He wants to give you these gifts in Isaiah 11.
Accept them. Accept him.
Be a supple sponge. Accept the gift that is God.
Peace be with you,