Did you ever start something with an end in mind, but to not have it work out the way you expected?
About 15 years ago we needed a new garage door. Our old wooden one was warped. So, I called a garage door company and they gave me a quote of about $1000. I thought that was a bit high so I went down to Home Depot and bought a garage door for about $500. I thought to myself, this should be simple and I’ll save $500. Now several times during the purchase my wife Lainey nicely said “I think you should go with the garage door company”. I was determined. It looked simple enough. Well, my brother-in-law came over to help me. We took the old door out, no problem. We installed the new door, no problem. We were “high fiving and having a Corona, looking at the great new garage door we installed and how we beat the man saving $500. Then we hooked up the electric garage door opener.
Tested it and:
The garage door went down, just like it was supposed to and as it was going down, we were clapping with excitement.
The problem was that it kept going down and down and down and down. My new $500 garage door now was an accordion. We hooked up the door opener wrong.
Then on the advice of my wife I called the garage door company who put our new $1,000 garage door in!
It did not turn out as I expected!
Life is full of unexpected situations.
Our plans don’t always turn out the way “we planned”.
I can remember a sermon by our Bishop Andrew Wisseman about 30 years ago.
Now to be truthful, I don’t always remember the words of wisdom from sermons (except from Fr. Harvey’s of course)!
But I do remember Bishop Wisseman’s.
“Life is Plan B”.
As I look at my life and I wonder if you find the same thing. Most of my plans turn out to be plan “B”.
We may choose a particular job only to find out, this is not what I expected.
We may choose a marriage partner or decided to have a child only to find out, “this is not what I expected.” We may choose to buy a house in a certain area or to buy a car only to find out, “this is not what I expected.
Anyone who has made a serious commitment to follow God is going to run into situations in which they will say, “God, this is not what I expected.”
Checking in on this morning’s gospel, Let’s look at a young man whose name is John – John the Baptist, who should have had a long prosperous life. Even before he was born, an angel told his father, “He is going to be a great preacher and will lead many to the Lord”.
As a boy John grew up, hearing the stories about how his father was unable to speak when he first received the news that he would have a son, and wrote the name of his son on a tablet.
People would look at him and say “one day that boy of yours is going to be somebody”.
At the time of this gospel writing, John’s mother and father had both died. John was living in the desert by age 18, nothing had happened like the prophets said or implied it would.
He must have been thinking, “Lord, this is not what I expected. It certainly is not what my parents expected.” But he remained faithful. And as we learned in last week’s gospel, he dressed in clothing made of camel hair with a leather belt around his waist. His food consisted of locusts and wild Honey.
But then one day, in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, the Bible tells us that the word of the of God came to John while in the desert. You can almost hear God saying , “John I’ve heard your prayers time and time again, but the time was not rite.” But now it’s time to do what the prophet Isaiah spoke about.
“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.”
It seems somet of the reason we don’t seem to get what is expected from God, is that we tend to think in terms of praying today and getting today. Like the remote on the TV. We can’t seem to wait very well, can we? We are looking for instant answers and we are looking for our answers, not necessarily God’s answers.
When we pray to God, he hears us however, we need to remember it may take years for it to come to pass & it may not actually be what we expect. Our challenge is to be ready for however & whenever God answers to make it happen.
We need to be John the Baptist
John had been in the desert disciplining himself, waiting for the moment. His message was, “you better get your act together and repent because God is about to bring forth judgment.” The Hell, fire, and brimstone approach.
People came from all round to hear John preach. They would fall on their knees in repentance before God. They were baptized by John and his disciples. The size of the crowds kept getting bigger and bigger. He baptized so many people; they started calling him John the Baptizer.
Some were thinking John might be the Messiah. But John said “No, I’m not the Messiah. There is one coming after me who is more powerful than I am. I am not even worthy to untie his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
John had been in prison for some time and I am sure John was thinking, “This is not what I expected”. The large crowds he had preached to were only a memory now. He was hearing reports about what Jesus was doing.
I can’t help but wonder if John thought “why my cousin Jesus hasn’t done something to get me out of here”.
When we are going through periods in our life like this, when times are tough, when our hearts are broken, our relationships ruined, our spirits crushed, it’s hard to believe God is managing everything. We simply can’t see God. We may want to cry out, “how long oh Lord will you forget me.”
From prison John called some of his disciples and asked, “What’s going on out there. “They told him, “Well the crowds are flocking to Jesus. But he’s not like you.
Instead of bringing forth the judgment of which you spoke, (the hell fire & brimstone approach), he’s preaching mercy, hope and forgiveness.
And whereas you are a strong, rugged man, who avoids pleasure as discipline. He goes to parties and even eats with tax collectors and sinners. He hugs little children and even makes prostitutes feel welcomed.
They asked Jesus ” Are you the one who is to come or should we look for somebody else.”
Jesus said, go back and tell John what you have heard and seen. The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor”.
As John waited in prison his disciples went to him and told him what Jesus said
I can’t help but wonder if John didn’t ask, “Hey, did he say anything about me getting out of prison?
How much longer would he languish inside those cold dark walls?
There is no way we can make sense out of John’s death. Here is a man that took a stand for God, followed God and had the anointing of God on His life.
He was arrested for telling the truth, and lost his life because some teenager did a dance in front of her drunk step-father.
And because of that she was granted anything she wanted. She chose the head of John the Baptizer. Not exactly how John expected to get out of prison.
I would think we may all agree “that’s not what I expected for a person so devoted to God.” Where was God when this happened?
Jesus could have done something to get John out of prison, but He didn’t. Why?
Jesus stated that of all the people who had been born up to that date, none of them were greater than John the Baptist. John was as faithful to God when he was alone in the desert as he was when the crowds poured in to see hear him preach. But he was equally as faithful during those long months in prison.
When we make a commitment to follow Christ, it’s important that our faith survives our circumstances. John never lost the realization that He was but a servant of God, as are we.
John’s ministry was to prepare the world for the coming of Jesus Christ.
He had no idea that the ministry he was to do, would be such a short one and that it would keep him from reaching his 35th birthday.
We to are all called to the ministry of John the Baptist. That calling is to prepare the way for the Lord to come into the lives of others and ourselves, by sharing our love of God with others and realizing what this time of year is actually all about, not what CNN, FOX, ABC, CBS, NBC or Facebook tells us it is about.
John the Baptist should have gotten the “supporting actor’s award” in this movie. How many of us could have been the envy of so many, had the name recognition, the fame, and then say “it’s not about me, it’s about one coming of whom I am un fit to tie his sandals”.
Talk about letting go, letting go of your ego! Many of us can’t even acknowledge that we aren’t the most important person in the room, never mind saying “it’s not all about me”.
Is your life what you expected?
Did you ever think that “maybe it’s not all about you”, maybe God has a bigger plan, of which you play an important part?
By listening to John the Baptist, we can learn to become humble servants of God. We can learn to give up the spot light, the fame, the attention for something greater.
In a couple weeks we will celebrate the birth of Jesus, so prepare the way of the Lord, and remain faithful to him as John was.
Resist the temptations of what the advertisers and social media say to us.
Rev. Dr. Harvey Hill
Third Order Franciscan