Saturday, December 05, 2009

C, Advent 2 - Luke 3:1-6 Malachi 3:1-4 "Known Unto God"

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Lieutenant Tim Logan and Sergeant James Wheeler were buried with full military honours at a cemetery outside Port Moresby on Tuesday December the first, this last week. Some sixty odd years after WW2 they were finally identified and laid to rest. In the midst of ferocious battle these men paid the ultimate price but no one knew what that price was for all those years until their remains were identified.
However, there were another two bodies buried. Unlike Wheeler and Logan, these other two individuals could not be identified and so their bodies shared a coffin and tombstone with the inscription, "Known unto God". No one will ever know who they were or what they did to pay the price which has rendered them unknown to the annals of history. Only God knows who they were or what they did.
Interestingly, in this situation, humanity has acknowledged God's existence as human knowledge rendered itself flawed. In an age when God is denied, or treated as flaccid, these unidentified men, dead and buried, testify to the all-powerful, all-knowing, and omnipresent God of heaven and earth.
These men lying in the unidentified grave, "Know unto God", now lie in silence testifying not to what they have done, but rather that God is and what he can do. Who would ever have known these "Known unto God" individuals would bear an inscription making God known unto us!
Similarly there was another chap that bore witness to God. He was nothing special to look at, and was calling people to prepare themselves with a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. His name was John the Baptist, and he came from the desert into Judea making God known unto the people.
Isaiah spoke of John's preparation of the people, saying, "A voice of one calling in the desert, 'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. And all flesh will see God's salvation.' " (Luke 3:4-6, Isaiah 40:3-5)
Yet there have been many fleshy bodies that have endured crooked and rough roads making us ask, "Did they see God's salvation?" We might think of these four chaps killed in battle with only two of them recognised years after the conflict.
Even John the Baptist died in the most horrible way after being the herald for the coming of Christ. John lost his head, at the word of Herod, who sought to save face amongst his guests. Did John see God's salvation?
Many expect to be delivered out of trouble in this life, but in reality the trouble from which we seek to be delivered are only surface troubles which cover a much more serious trouble grounded in our being. Left untreated this greater trouble will never leave us. Not even unto eternity.
We might ask, "Did these diggers see God's salvation, or did John see God's salvation?" But for these men fallen in battle, their salvation is only known to themselves and God. Also John the Baptist's salvation is ultimately in the hands of God.
Yet with John the Baptist we hear his testimony to Christ in God's word. And John willingly baptised Jesus in the Jordan, baptising Jesus into a death that would ensure his salvation and the salvation of all those who believe that their baptism places them in Christ for the forgiveness of sins and eternal life.
So salvation is there to be seen for all those who believe in Christ by trusting they are sinners and by trusting Christ has power over sin through his death and resurrection.
Today we do not have John the Baptist preparing the way for us. Instead we have the Holy Spirit heralding Christ through his Word. The Holy Spirit opens our hearts to his Word, so we see Christ Jesus has come to us and is our salvation. We see Christ has come to us in baptism, he continues to come to be our Immanuel, the one true God with us, who lives in you and me. And because we have he who gives salvation living in us and breathing his Spirited Word in us, we also know God will come again to give us the fruit of our faith and hope – an eternity of peace in loving fellowship face to face with God forever.
But as we're made known to God, we can expect all sorts of trials to test us. And as we wait for Christ's return we might ask as Malachi asks, "But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner's fire or a launderer's soap." (Malachi 3:2)
We can expect to be refined and washed time and time again in this life. When this happens do not lose hope. God disciplines those he loves. He may or may not save you from the temporary trials here on earth, but he will walk with you through these trials in order to save you from the eternal trial from which Satan and all his evil entourage are already condemned.
Salvation is ours! You are known unto God! God has been made known unto you! Trust in Christ who has come and will come again! God shows mercy to you through Christ, he remembers you because of Jesus, and he rescues you through his Son's death and resurrection.
Why, because the Son of God was "Known unto God the Father", known to bear your sin on the cross, even though he was known to be without sin. He bore the ultimate refiner's fire and we have been washed with the launderer's soap, the Word of God, in the waters of baptism.
God has enabled you to serve him without fear, for in God's sight you have been made holy and righteous in baptism unto eternity. You are known unto God, and are now free to bear Christ so God might be made known to others as you daily serve him all the days of your life.
But how do we do this? We serve God not so much by worrying what we should do; rather we serve him best by living in the hope of our salvation. And this is simply to live each day believing we are a part of his new reality. Our being is now being lead by Jesus towards a reality of peace and harmony with God, by the power of the Holy Spirit in God's Word.
So live looking towards the source of your salvation, Jesus Christ, and others around you will soon want to see what you see. As you live "Known unto God", God will be made known unto others, for Jesus' sake, Amen.