Sermon text: Luke 3: 1-6
These are the names that Luke lists here at the beginning of chapter 3. They’re not common names. Even Philip, the most common name on the list, doesn’t crack the top 100. It’s currently ranked as the 364th most common male name. But while these names might not be all that common, they did represent a boatload of power. And as I look at this long list that Luke names I smile, because I love Luke’s audacity.
Of all the Gospel writers, Luke is the one who tries the hardest to be a polished author and historian. For instance, Luke is the only one who pens a formal introduction to his Gospel. And, on occasion, Luke likes to include lists of various political leaders who were active at the time. As a historian, he wants to anchor the events he’s describing in the larger political and historical world.
And that’s where the audacity comes in. Luke is bold as brass. I’d wager that most of his contemporary writers would call Luke crazy.
Consider this: John the Baptist is an itinerant preacher doing ministry out in the wilderness, out in the desert—you know, that place where nobody goes, at least not by choice. Sure, he eventually secures a following, but the event Luke describes would hardly count as an event to all other historians, especially if you are recording the deeds of great men and women.
So what’s John’s name doing among Luke’s veritable list of “who’s who” in ancient Palestine? Well, according to Luke, John—this “nobody” —just so happens to be the one whom God chose to send his Word.
John. He doesn’t even have a title at this point. Just John. The Word of the Lord didn’t come to the Emperor, or the governor, or the regional king, or many of the other various rulers or high priests of the day—but John.
In other words, God chose a nobody to prepare the way for the Son of God’s to come among us. God used this colorful character in the wilderness to prepare the world for the Good News of Jesus Christ. And that happens to be a special theme in Luke’s Gospel: God regularly chooses people whom the world sees as insignificant. And God takes these insignificant people and does absolutely marvelous things.
We have John the Baptist, the wild man in the wilderness. We have Mary, the unwed teenage mother. We have the smelly shepherds living at the very bottom of the economic ladder who become the audience of a heavenly choir. Again, and again, God chooses people whom the world will easily ignore to participate in God’s world-changing, world-saving activity.
And that makes me think. It makes me think because there are times when I wonder what I’m doing here on this planet. And I know I’m not alone. There are times when I question my purpose and role. And I know I’m not alone. There are times when it feels like life passing me by and I’m forgotten about. And I know I’m not alone. There are times when I’m convinced that my name will be forgotten as soon as I’m dead. And I know I’m not alone. I’m sure lots of us feel like we don’t hold any particularly important position that would place us in the history books. But guess what—God is eager to use us and God does wonderful things with us.
We do not have to be celebrities, we do not have to be rulers, we do not have to be rich or powerful or famous to be used by God. No matter our station and standing in society, God is eager to use our talents and abilities and gifts to change the world. And even if our actions seem very small, they are not small at all to those who receive those gifts. God is at work through our relationships, our jobs, our families, our hobbies, and our civic lives to make this world more trustworthy and good.
Did you ever stop to consider where the personal hygiene kits we assemble go? Did you ever ponder about where our quilts are sent? Did you ever try to visualize how our collections make a difference?
- Our blankets might be wrapped a young girl in India.
- Our personal hygiene kits might help a young boy in Peru.
- Our Giving Tree gifts are making a joyous Christmas possible for local area families.
- Our Operation Christmas Child boxes are helping to teach the name of Christ to a child in the Pacific Islands.
- Our Faith Partners ministry helps gives encouragement to a person in recovery.
- Our sponsored cabin helps campers feel safe and comfortable at Camp Sequanota.
- Soon our Bridge of Hope program will help a family secure housing and support in a time of need.
And that’s just a sampling, a small sampling, of the ministry we have done as a congregation. That list doesn’t even include the scores of ways you live your lives of faith in our community and bear witness to Christ through your personal relationships.
When you think about it this way, we all could be written in the book by bold and audacious historians. We are each called to remind each other that God is at work in and through our lives for the sake of the world that God loves so much. And if you think about how God uses our gifts and talents and skills to prepare for this world for the Kingdom of God, then Luke would write every single one of our names next to John the Baptist.
So, in the Spirit of Saint Luke the Evangelist, I like to tell you that:
In the twenty-first year of the twenty-first century, when Joe Biden was President of these United States, and Tom Wolf was governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and John Joyce was the representative of the 13th Congressional District of Pennsylvania, and Elizabeth Eaton was presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and Paula Schmidt was bishop of the Allegheny Synod, the word of the Lord came to Zion Lutheran Church in Hollidaysburg! Prepare the way of the Lord people. The mission is in our hands now. AMEN