Carolyn Park Presbyterian Church


Isaiah 40: 1-11

I woke up once again this morning… feeling totally unprepared to write this sermon. And then it struck me… I am about to write a sermon on "preparing"… and that's something we all know lots about, isn't it.

I imagine most of you are extremely busy these days preparing for Christmas. Buying gifts… making "goodies"… putting up the Christmas tree and other decorations… planning a family get together and a big meal. I know Beth is very busy getting ready to fly away to visit her family somewhere in the Carolina's.

We are all well into the throes of the holiday season… and I'm sure that at least some of you are feeling somewhat overwhelmed. Advent and Christmas are among the busiest times of the year for all of us… and the only way we survive… let alone enjoy it… is good planning and extensive preparation.

Last week was our big church family celebration… and that took lots of preparation. It's all the little things that are done ahead of time that make an event like that happen. It's Rene picking up boxes from Springer's… it's Beth looking at costumes and deciding what else needs to be made… it's Cindy working with the children to learn their bell pieces… it's Louis fixing the divider to resemble a manger… it's Cathy wrapping the "gift" boxes and buying white tee-shirts for "angels"… it's Kristen making angel wings… and Charles putting up the Christmas tree… and Susan putting on the lights… and Mandy decorating the tables… and Harper helping all day last Saturday with all the last minute touches. I could go on but I think you get the idea. Big events require lots of preparation… and only by working together do we make things happen.

We've done lots of preparing this past year… and we've enjoyed the various events…. the church directory… the Lenten suppers… the Father's Day breakfast… the 40th Anniversary celebration… the Pumpkin Patch. Preparing… oh, yes, we know what preparing means… we know how to do it… and I think we are getting quite good at it.

Both our passages this morning call us to prepare for something that is just a little different from what we are accustomed to! We are urged today by God's word to "prepare the way of the Lord"… we are invited today to "get ready" for the Lord's coming. We've talked a bit recently about just what it might mean… the coming of God's new order… how our lives might be changed… and whether we are really ready for that… let alone anticipating it! But whether we admit it or not… whether we are eager for the time to come… or are waiting in dread... God's time is coming… and we have been called to prepare the way.

Actually it's rather easy for us to put it out of our minds, isn't it. Talk about God's kingdom coming is "church" talk… not really something we expect to happen in our real world where we have to step on others to get ahead… where we protect our goods and our lives with a gun… where we have to look out for #1 because if we don't, nobody else will! God's kingdom is so ephemeral… so unreal… something that God will do in the "sweet by and by"… something that we are not even sure we want God to do in our lifetime.

It's difficult for us to picture it… to catch the vision… let alone believe in it! And how can we be expected to "prepare the way" when most of us are struggling just to keep our own lives together?

It's true that in order to prepare for something effectively we need some idea of what the end product is going to look like. I know that in this past year it has been difficult for you all to catch the vision about such things as the church directory… the pumpkin patch… the little skit we did during the Joy Gift Program last week. Someone has to have the vision in their head… someone has to know where we are headed… someone has to know what the end product is going to look like… otherwise no one has any idea what they can do to help the vision materialize.

Now I know just how difficult it is to share a vision… I've not always done it very well over this past year… and I would like to thank you for stepping out in faith… trusting me and my vision. By doing so I think you all have been pleasantly surprised at the results we have been able to accomplish by working together to make things happen.

It's difficult for us to catch God's vision… the vision of a world where God's love reigns… a world where God's kingdom is actually coming. Do you believe that God is actually doing something in the world? Can God's kingdom be a reality in such an imperfect world? Just how are we to be involved? What are we suppose to be doing?

Well… I believe that catching the vision is the first step… and I'd venture to say… the most difficult. We are pretty attached to our world as it is… so why would we want to see anything different happening? As a matter of fact… we are all pretty dedicated to the status quo, aren't we?

But God does have a vision… and we must begin to see what that vision involves if we are to be about God's business in this world. And you know what? I think that unless we catch that vision soon… and begin preparing the way for it's coming… this church… and others like it will no longer exist in the 21st century. Oh, don't misunderstand me… the body of Christ… the church… will survive… but it's going to look very different… and our way of "doing religion" will be gone and forgotten. There is no doubt in my mind that God's way will prevail… and to the extent that we are doing God's will in the world… we will prevail as well.

What will "church" look like in the 21st century? That's a good question… one to which I have no ready answer. But I suggest to you that in the coming year we search the scripture together and ask God to help us discern his will for our lives… for this church… for this community… for this nation… for His world. God is doing a new thing… and we can be part of it… or not. The choice is up to us. Amen.

A Sermon Preached on December 12, 1999
The Rev. Shirley R. Frazier
Carolyn Park Presbyterian Church, Arabi, LA

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