A sermon for evensong at Adel Parish church – 2nd Sunday of Advent
1 Kings 18:17-39; John 1:19-28
It’s a great story isn’t it – Elijah and the prophets of Baal? I used to love looking at it with my year 2 class. I got the children to act it out. The prophets of Baal would get really carried away dancing and crying out to God. And if I picked a good Elijah…they would go to town, a bit like a magician, making sure everyone saw the quantity of water poured on the altar before, *, and it was consumed by flames.
You can imagine a 7 year old Elijah – he’s pulled off the most fantastic stunt, he’s made fools of all those prophets of Baal – usually they couldn’t resist ending by taking a bow!
But of course that wasn’t at all the point Elijah was trying to make. He wasn’t trying to show how clever he was – but to demonstrate to the people the glory of God. It seems to have worked, as they fell on their faces proclaiming ‘The Lord indeed is God’. But we can imagine how tempting it must have been for Elijah to bathe in a bit of reflected glory himself.
We have the same sort of example in our second reading tonight. John the Baptist was clearly a pretty charismatic chap – despite his lack of dress sense. People flocked out into the wilderness to listen to him, even though his message wasn’t always easy to hear.
They were so impressed they thought he must be one of the great figures their religion told them to expect…another prophet like Moses…Elijah returned…or even the Messiah the one coming to save us all.
But John’s answer to all these questions is a firm ‘I am not!’ All I am, he says, is someone pointing to the Messiah, pointing to God.
This is a great reading for preachers to hear. It’s lovely when, occasionally, people say nice things about our sermons. We all need reassurance and praise sometimes…but we also need to be reminded that the only point of a sermon is to point, in some way, to Christ.
And that isn’t just a message for me – but for all of us. We are rightly proud of our beautiful, ancient building; of how well we look after it. We’re proud to belong to such a friendly and welcoming congregation. When I was looking for a job – every church I came across claimed to be a welcoming church – and it’s not always true. I feel very lucky to have joined a church that genuinely does work hard to welcome all people.
But…there’s always a but isn’t there?…the beauty of the building and the welcoming community have entirely missed the point if they don’t point to Christ.
We may come to this church because when we first ventured across the threshold someone was very welcoming. We may come to this particular service because we love the timeless quality of the words, put together hundreds of years ago and used ever since.
But presumably we also come, or keep coming, because we have found in Christ a meaning for our lives…because we have found in Christ unconditional love…because somehow we grasp that with Christ the world is a better place.
Hopefully when people now venture over our threshold, they are not only welcomed, but they find a community that takes faith seriously. Hopefully when we invite people along, we don’t just talk about the architecture and the peace, but we dare to mention Jesus Christ.
In a few minutes we will sing ‘Hark the glad sound the saviour comes’. We will proclaim that Christ comes to release those imprisoned by sin, to bind broken hearts, to cure bleeding souls, and to enrich the poor.
We can see why John the Baptist thought that something worth pointing to – I hope we do too.