Pastor Nelson Bonilla: 12-10-23 “Peace begins with repentance”

denrob14Events, News, News & Events, SermonsLeave a Comment

Just imagine if I, the pastor of … United Methodist Church of Homestead, as part of Advent celebration were to dress in animal skin and walk around downtown greeting people saying, “You brood of vipers! Who do you think you are? Repent because the kingdom of God is near!” -As the gospel of Matthew says- Do you think people would follow me the way they followed John in the wilderness and come to our church? I don’t think so.

            But, what about if I dress up as Santa Claus and offer around gift, that’s more likely for people to follow me and come to church. Don’t you think?

John the Baptist was the one who was coming to prepare the way of the Lord. He was the one prophesied by Isaiah and Malachi; He was the one inviting people to the party; He is the one giving the appetizers. His message was clear “I am not the one who you are waiting for; someone else is coming after me.” The someone else, John the Baptist was talking about, was the One with the main entry; the one the world was waiting for.

John The Baptist had a very peculiar personality, and his message was according to it. He did not sugar coated his message; he presented it plain and simple: repent, the Kingdom of heaven is near. What a great Advent greeting for us today. Repent, the Kingdom of heaven is near. Today, John is presenting us the same reason for us to repentant, God and his kingdom are near.

I am sure that there will never be a Hallmark Christmas card featuring John the Baptist, because he is out of place of the romantic scenery of Christmas. His personality, his clothing, his message does not fit among the choir of angels, and the decorations even when he prepared the way and spoke of the powerful one who was to come after him. Mark 1:7-8 say, and this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with[e] water, but he will baptize you with[f] the Holy Spirit.”

John the Baptist’s message for this Secon Sunday of Advent is, something got to go; something needs to be left behind, something needs to change, and that change begins with repentance. Today, we may well be able to say, that according to John’s message we are in our “clean up your act season.” It is time to prepare; time to take out the garbage we have accumulated the whole year and do some housecleaning, because we will have a visitor. Someone else is coming- and we must make room for a special guest.

But what does all this “prepare yourself, and clean-up-your-act” have to do with the picture of peace on this second Sunday of Advent? Isaiahthe prophet who foretold John the Baptist and the Messiah said in chapter 11:6-9, “the wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. 7 The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. 8 The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper’s nest. 9 They will neither harm nor destroy, on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.

This vision from the prophet Isaiah is the result of the repentance and cleanup that John is talking about. Repenting of our sins is how we prepare the way for God to come into our world and with is presence all the harm and destroy will be overcome. “They will neither harm nor destroy, on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.”

John is telling us today that repentance is the key for Isaiah’s prophecy to fulfill. Our repentance will prepare the way for the knowledge of the Lord to cover the earth; for the knowledge of the Lord fills our hearts as the waters cover the sea. This holy fullness of God’s knowledge, Isaiah is talking about brings hope and peace; Isaiah seems also to imply that God’s emptiness in the earth and our lives drives us to harm and destroy one another and his creation.

Repentance in Greek as some of you might know is METANOYA. Literally translated to English as “change of mind.” When we repent, God’s presence changes our whole thinking. In Romans 5:10 Paul says, “Once we were God’s enemies. But we have been brought back to him because his son has died for us.” Paul’s statement leads to ask, why were we God’s enemies? The answer is, we were far from God and empty of his knowledge.

James 4:1-5 tells us what happens when we are far from God, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet, but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. You adulterous people,[a] don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us[b]?

            We are God’s enemies when we are this world’s friends. However, when we repent and turn to God, everything in us changes; when the risen Christ abides in us, we become God’s friends and this world enemies. Repentance is being aware of my spiritual condition and my need of change; repentance, that change of mind is to realize that God is not my enemy, that my brother and sister are not my enemy, my enemy, our enemy is Satan, who is trying to destroy and do harm to all God’s creation.    

Repentance brings peace to our hearts and leads us to be in good relationship with God, and when we are in good relationship with God, we are also in good relationship with God’s people, and we welcome and accept one another just as Christ has welcomed and accepted us.

Today, the second Sunday of Advent we proclaim God’s Peace, a peace that as Paul reminds us in Philippians 4:7, transcends all understanding, and guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus. Today, the Second Sunday of Advent, let us prepare the way of the Lord, for his peace, his much-needed peace covers this world. Today, the Second Sunday of Advent, let us think in all those children, women and men, those innocent civilians dying in Gaza, Israel, Ukraine, Russia and other parts of the world and let us ask ourselves, what can I do to prepare the way of the Lord, for his knowledge to cover the earth and for not more harm and destroy take the lives of those for whom Jesus died.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *