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Advent 2 2017
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
December 10, 2017
Isaiah 40:1-11, 2 Peter 3:8-14, Mark 1:1-8

Sermons online:
Text:                            pastorjud.org
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com
itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:    bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

Have you ever been at a mall or an amusement park and seen a child that is on a leash.  You know like a cute harness that looks like a monkey hugging the child’s upper body with the parent holding the other end.  It’s cute, but the whole concept of children on leashes can seem a bit strange.  However, I fully understand why parents do it.  The parents love their children and they don’t want their child to run away and get lost.  I understand.  I was one of those children in the days before cute monkey leashes.

I have heard stories from my mom and dad that once I learned to walk they would tie me to a tree in the back yard in Indiana to make sure I didn’t run off into the cornfield behind the house.  Once the corn is over your head it is easy to get lost in acres of corn and so my mom tied me to a tree on a tether so I couldn’t wander away.  I know this is shocking, but apparently I was not much for listening to or obeying my parents; I just did whatever I wanted to do at the moment and so my parents were afraid I’d wander off into the corn and get lost.

The same thing happened when we went camping in the woods.  My parents would tie me to a tree with a length of rope to make sure I didn’t run off into the forest.  I was kind of a rotten, impulsive kid and wasn’t big on listening or obeying.  I was all about me, me, me, and doing what I wanted to do and my parents were afraid I’d get lost.

I am older now and so far Jeannette lets me roam free when we go camping and the back yard is fenced and we live in a subdivision so not as much worry about as far as me running off into the corn.

I do like to wander in the woods.  When I go hiking alone I make sure that I stay on the marked paths so I know where I am.  I get worried about becoming lost in the woods alone so I try to stay on the trails.  With a group I am more adventurous in going off the beaten path and wandering around in the woods.  /Although in the state parks around here there isn’t too much concern about getting lost with roads and lakes and creeks bordering the woods and worst come to worst my phone can show me where I am and how to get back to civilization.

My parents used to worry about me getting lost; now I worry about me getting lost because being lost is a terrible feeling.  It is pretty easy today to avoid getting lost, but in the days before the Global Positioning System and cell tower triangulation getting lost was remarkably easy.

Getting lost is scary.  Whether you are walking in the woods or in a city or driving around in the country it is distressing and disorienting to realize that you don’t know where you are and you don’t know how to get to where you are trying to go.

A youth called me once to tell me she was trying to get to my house but she was lost and had no idea where she was.  She sounded distressed so I asked her to look around and tell me what she could see.  She told me, “trees.”  I had to dig a little deeper to help her out.  Being lost is frightening; panic can set in.  You are going along just fine and then you realize that nothing looks familiar.  Nothing looks like it should.  It is scary to get lost.  It would be really scary to get lost in the wilderness.  The wilderness is dangerous.

There is a whole genre of realty television based on crazy people who live in the wilderness.  I look at those shows and think.  “Not for me.  I am too afraid of getting lost.”

The wilderness is dangerous and frightening and you think I would never want to live there and yet, you do indeed live in the wilderness.  It is not the wilderness of Alaska or Montana, but it is very much a wilderness and probably more dangerous.

            You are in the dangerous wilderness and too often you don’t listen or obey; you can be, at times, rotten and impulsive.  You can think it is all about me, me, me, me.  You are in danger of wandering off the path and getting lost…forever.

You live in the wilderness of the internet with its endless possibilities.  It is where you can instantly get all kinds of cute cat videos or lookup cookie recipes or get history questions answered or access Christian devotions and online Bibles, but it is also where you can access all kinds of depravity and perversion and hatred and evil and falsehood just as fast.  It is easy to stray off the path on the internet and end up lost in the wilderness.

You live in the wilderness of greed and covetousness where you are repeatedly told about the importance of money and possessions.  Nearly every advertisement is trying to get you to be discontent with what you have and always wanting more, more, more, more.  The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil and you live in the wilderness of money loving.

You live in the wilderness of false gods and false teaching where people can just make stuff up and start a church. L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, once said, “You don’t get rich writing science fiction. If you want to get rich, you start a religion.”  And he did and people still practice it.  There are so many false gods and false teachers; so many wolves in sheep’s clothing.  There are so many dead end religious paths in the wilderness; it is easy to get lost.

You live in the wilderness of substandard sexual ethics.  Is it any wonder that so many actors and politicians and others are getting exposed for illicit and abusive relationships?  People have almost completely rejected any concept that intimacy belongs only within the bonds of the marriage union of a man and a woman and, instead, have adopted an ethic of anything goes.  Powerful men use their power for evil to take advantage of others and cause great harm.  Not so powerful people try to do the same thing.  In the wilderness you are told over and over that anything goes and it leaves a brutal trail full of hurting and damaged people.

You are in the dangerous wilderness and too often you don’t listen or obey; you can be, at times, rotten and impulsive.  You can think it is all about me, me, me, me.  You are in danger of wandering off the path and getting lost…forever.

You live in the wilderness and the wilderness is a place of danger, testing and temptation.  You can get lost and the wilderness can turn you into a beast of prey or a beast of burden.  Being lost in the wilderness is scary and disorienting; you can find yourself where nothing looks familiar.  In the frightening and confusing wilderness a voice cries out, “Prepare a highway!  A highway in the wilderness!  Someone is coming for you!”  Someone is coming to lead you out of the wilderness.

2,000 years ago John the Baptist was that voice crying in the wilderness.  John’s message is still needed today.  “Repent for the rule of God is at hand.”  Jesus is coming!  Prepare!  Prepare the way.

Jesus is the way.  Jesus is the straight path out of the wilderness.  Jesus is the way to the Promised Land.  Jesus goes into the wilderness for 40 days to be tempted by the devil and Jesus overcomes the devil.  Jesus overcomes the wilderness in His death and resurrection.  Jesus comes into the wilderness of this world to rescue you.  Jesus prepares the way for you.  Jesus is the way through the wilderness.  Jesus is the straight and level highway to the Promised Land.

During this Advent season and throughout the year be prepared for Jesus’ return.  Stay connected to Jesus during your journey through the wilderness.  Stay connected to Jesus so you cannot wander off the highway and get lost.  Like an impulsive child on a leash stays connected to her parent, stay connected to Jesus by remembering your baptism, hearing His words of forgiveness, and receiving the body and blood of Jesus into your own body.  Stay connected to the Church so you don’t wander away and get lost.

Don’t get lost in this wilderness.  Stay on the path.  Stay connected to Jesus. You know the way.  Jesus is the way.  Amen.

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