Sermon for Luke 3:7-18 - John The Baptist Prepares the Way
Easter 3 -
The Divine Opportunity

Opportunity comes with so many different faces that we often don't recognize it. That's probably why we sometimes miss its call. A previous generation said that opportunity comes dressed in overalls. And they were largely right, for nothing succeeds like hard work. Our generation thinks that opportunity comes with a college diploma. It may, but there's no guarantee.

The divine opportunity comes in what is, to our human eyes, the most unlikely garb of all. It's no wonder we don't recognize it; or that, recognizing it, we resist it. This Advent season is an especially good time to experience the divine opportunity. Any time is God's season; but because you and I find certain settings and circumstances especially hospitable to religious experience, Advent and Lent are particularly attractive.

The first Advent preacher, John the Baptizer, offered opportunity in a compelling, almost ferocious way. When you read his words, you don't think he's offering opportunity; I expect that if we had heard him in person, we would have been even more doubtful. William Barclay said that John's message "was not good news; it was news of terror" (The Gospel of Luke, Westminster John Knox Press, p. 28). I understand what Professor Barclay was saying, but I see it differently. It seems to me that good news must sometimes come dressed in rough clothing.

That was surely the nature of John's approach. When we read the brief gospel summaries of his messages, we wonder why people went to so much trouble to hear him. Were they masochists courting abuse, or did they perhaps hope to hear him thunder against the sins of their neighbors? One way or another, the crowds flocked to him. And largely, I think, because they felt, in the integrity of his message, an opportunity which they had sought for a long time. His was a message of judgment; but in the judgment was opportunity. And opportunity was wrapped up in the word repent.

1. Johnís Message of Judgment and Opportunity.
2. The Opportunity of Repentance.

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