We’re asked to examine our own lives and just double check are we, the king, or are we the queen that has amassed ego, that has amassed self interest, that has amassed all of those things that secular life tell us are important and they are the things that matter? Or are we like the prophets who were never rich, who were never powerful, who like John the Baptist, wore sackcloth and ate locusts? Do we point to God?
In the name of the father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Please sit.
The Prophets. John the Baptist, you know, we think we know all about the prophets, we think that when we say the word prophet, we know what it means. We say a prophet is somebody who tells the future, who predicts those things that are to come.
And we confuse prophets with those £1 clairvoyants on the end of the pier of Western Supermare. But that’s not what the Prophets are about, the Prophets in scripture more often than not speak truth to power. They are put in a position in a royal household or in a household of authority and power where they are expected to tell the ruler or the governor or the person in authority what it is they need to hear to make a good decision. Because these rulers were wise enough to understand that when you have power and authority, that the people that tend to gather around you tend to be the proverbial ‘yes men’ who tend to say, yes, you’re absolutely right. Yes, that’s definitely the right decision to do that. Yes, sir. Yes, sir. No, sir. Three bags full.
Because that’s human nature and that’s because that’s how our society is set up. The closer you are to power and authority, the more you acquiesce to that power and authority, the more that you instill in that person in power and authority some sense of knowing what they are doing.
But let me tell you, as somebody who has had some sense of power and authority in the past, just because you have those things does not mean you know what you are doing. It’s where that phrase imposter syndrome comes from, because when you suddenly get authority, you and everybody suddenly thinks that you know what you’re doing. You realize that perhaps you don’t know exactly what it is you are doing, but your job is to point people in the right direction.
And of course, over time, you start to believe that perhaps you do know what you are doing and perhaps all the decisions you are making are the right decisions. And it becomes about you. It becomes all about you and your success. It’s why the longer people are in power, the longer our governments are in power, the longer our prime ministers are in power. With, of course, the exception of our wonderful Queen, the longer people are in power, the more removed they get from the everyday reality of life.
And so it is vital the people in power surround themselves with people who will tell them the truth of what is really going on, Prophets.
My lord, actually, what you need to be doing is this I know that’s the popular thing that everybody wants you to do over here, but this is the thing that you need to do. And that isn’t about politics. That’s about pointing to Jesus Christ. That’s about pointing to God. The prophets in scripture continually take the leaders of their day and refocus them on God.
The leaders of the day get caught up in their own power – I mean, for goodness sake, we saw it with David right at the start.
The longer he was in power, the further he walked away from God and the more it became about him. The profits take the leaders and they say this is where God is. And that’s what they do throughout the whole of scripture. They point to Go.
Now, sometimes they tell us about the future. Isaiah is the perfect example of this. Isaiah foretells the coming of Jesus Christ. It’s why we have so much Isaiah in Advent. And at daily mass it’s been Isaiah and it’s beautiful.
But even in that, even in that foretelling of the future, unlike most of the rest of the Old Testament prophets Isaiah was pointing to, Jesus Christ was pointing to God. And so at this point in Advent, we are asked to reflect on the lives of the prophets, on the lives of Isaiah and of John the Baptist, and we’re asked to examine what it is we do in our lives that points to Jesus Christ.
We’re asked to examine our own lives and just double check are we, the king, or are we the queen that has amassed ego, that has amassed self interest, that has amassed all of those things that secular life tell us are important and they are the things that matter? Or are we like the prophets who were never rich, who were never powerful, who like John the Baptist, wore sackcloth and ate locusts? Do we point to God? So how do we do that, how do we understand whether or not we are accumulating power and authority and ego, or if we are pouring out the love of Jesus Christ, pouring out into the world as the prophets did that correction?
Well, and there’s the rub, there’s the hard word, the word correction. It’s very hard to live in a world, in a society where those things that are taught in scripture and those things that Jesus Christ taught us run contrary to the totally in opposition to what society of the day tells us.
Now, for a long time in our history, that hasn’t been a problem for a long time in British history, scripture, tradition, the way of the church, Christian life was the life of the country.
But no more. No more is the culture of this country or indeed the Western world that of Christianity. We’re told we live in a post Christian culture that’s slang for we don’t care about God anymore. That is a hurtful reality. And it’s why the church is struggling to speak into society, because on one hand, it’s always known it’s been in a position of authority, it’s always known what it says is right. But now. Society is saying, no, you’re wrong.
And so the church as a structure, doesn’t quite know how to react to that. But I’ve got good news for you. We as individual Christians know exactly what it is we are called to do. We are called to be prophets. We are called to point people to Jesus Christ, we are called to help people understand when they are perhaps going down a path that is not right. That is against scripture and against the teachings of Jesus Christ and say this is the way to go.
Now, don’t misunderstand me, I am not standing here this morning and saying to you. Get your Bible and chase people down the street and hit them with it until they understand what it is you’re talking about.
Do you think that’s a good way to help people understand the love of Jesus Christ? No, of course, it’s not. Is standing on the street corner shouting and screaming from scripture, a good way of helping people understand the love of Jesus Christ in the world?
Well, no, I don’t think it is. The best way to help people understand what scripture teaches us is to bring them to church, is to bring them to this community of loving Christians, to bring them to this place on a Sunday morning so that they may experience what it means to be a Christian, to experience what it means to be loved by Jesus Christ, to experience what it feels like to come up and receive Him in the sacrament, to experience what it feels like to be part of a community that serves the poor, that feeds the hungry, that clothes the naked, that visits the prisoner.
Through that experience, people will come to understand the love of Jesus Christ. And through that experience, it will be an awful lot easier to have those difficult conversations that say actually Jesus says we should be doing this. Actually, scripture helps us understand the way we live our lives in this way. Sitting down with people and holding their hand with scripture, giving them scripture as a gift. Giving them the sacrament and the love of Jesus Christ as a gift to be received freely and gratefully.
And that, my friends, is what we are all about here at St Anselm, that is what we are about here. Our job is to bring people to Jesus Christ, that we may be the prophets of God and point to God in all that we do. That is our vision statement. That’s our mission action plan. That’s all wrapped up in whatever modern language you want to wrap it up into. But we have been doing it for the better part of 2000 years and we know it works.
And so this week, this advent. Please have a think about your lives. Have a think about the way that you operate in the world and for every interaction you have with somebody in the world. Ask yourself this one simple question. Are you being a prophet of God or are you being the king that refuses to listen?