Sunday, December 15, 2019

Isaiah 35:1-10; Matthew 11:2-11


Go and tell!


This Gospel reading could be confusing to us. Why, we wonder, is John asking Jesus if Jesus is really the one he was expecting? It is easy to forget that we are reading Matthew’s version of Jesus’ story, not Luke’s or John’s. In Matthew’s version, Jesus and John do not know each other as cousins. In Matthew’s version, John does not point to Jesus and tell his disciples that Jesus is the Lamb of God.


No, this is Matthew’s version, where John is reluctant to baptize Jesus, whom he has never met before. This is Matthew’s version where John and Jesus are sort of competing for followers. John thinks there is something special about Jesus, but he is not sure. John seems surprised that Jesus does not yet have an army preparing to go into battle against the Romans. John seems surprised that Jesus is not like him, loudly expressing anger at the way things are. But John is aware enough of scripture to wonder if Jesus is the expected Messiah that John has been promising to the crowds.

At this moment, John is in King Herod’s prison for daring to accuse Herod and his wife Herodias of having a sinful relationship. Herod is fearful that if he kills John, the crowds will protest. So, he has kept him alive, but soon, Herodias will arrange for John to be executed.


While John waits in prison for the death he knows is coming, he sends a few of his followers to Jesus to ask: “Hey, Jesus, are you the one who has been promised? Or is there someone else?”

Jesus does not answer the question directly, but instead invites John to look at the facts. Jesus says, “Go and tell John that just as God promised through Isaiah, people who were blind have now received their sight, people who were lame are now walking, people with skin diseases have been healed, people who were deaf can now hear.”


Jesus is sending the message to John that these and many other signs demonstrate that Jesus is indeed bringing God’s ancient promises into being. This is good news to all people, especially to poor people who have so little good news in their lives.


John’s disciples returned to John and Jesus praises John for his ministry of proclamation. John is indeed the messenger who is preparing the way for the Messiah. While Jesus does not specifically state here that he is the Messiah, most people in the crowd believe it is true. Some are excited at the news, and some are fearful. We know the end for Jesus is the cross, and we also know that the story does not end with the cross.


… Jesus has just told John’s disciples to “Go and tell John what I have said.” At the end of Matthew’s story about Jesus, he tells the disciples to “Go and tell” the world the good news. 19 Go to the people of all nations and make them my disciples. Baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, 20 and teach them to do everything I have told you. I will be with you always, even until the end of the world.


As spiritual descendants of those first disciples, we, too, are sent into the world to “Go and tell” the good news. Mostly, we tell the good news to those who already know it. And our tongues refuse to utter the story to someone we don’t know well.


What if we look at this challenge to "go and tell" the way Jesus does? What if we give witness to what is happening right before our eyes? There are so many good things that are happening in Jesus’ name, or at the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Let’s consider a few:

The ELCA and other denominations and organizations have been encouraging us to include people who have traditionally been excluded. I recently saw an advertisement for some Christmas ornaments that celebrate inclusion. The ornaments declare that You Belong!

The "You Belong" message is expressed in sign language and braille (just an image, not raised bumps) images, as well as four ethnic-specific languages, and includes an image of the LGBTQ ribbon to represent the ELCA's call for total inclusion of all of God's people as members of the body of Christ.

Isn’t it true that having Lori as our intern pastor is a sign of this movement of inclusion? Don’t we all smile when Riley and Eve imitate their mother and father, either leading worship or helping the congregation understand what is being spoken?

We pray, sometimes constantly, for ill and dying loved ones. Recently Kevin, the son of a friend, has been in the hospital and undergone numerous surgeries. He has been at death’s door several times. Each time the friend posts a “Please pray” request on Facebook, there are about 100 people who respond that they are praying, and countless more that don’t use Facebook. That Kevin is still alive is due to the skill and persistence of his medical team, and to the prayers that support him and his family.

Last week the Church Library, otherwise known as Lori’s Office, was full of gifts for needy children and their parents and guardians. This was the fulfillment of the promise of the Angel Tree to provide Christmas for families who could not afford gifts. Why did this happen? Because we love giving gifts in Jesus’ name.


Jesus promised that lame people would walk, deaf people would hear, blind people would see. Because of the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, scientific studies, and the persistent work of many inventors:


There are hearing aids and cochlear implants to help some deaf people hear.


There are artificial limbs to help many people with missing arms and legs walk and reach things.



And there are great strides in helping some blind people see, with the use of technology. Perhaps the Star Trek dream of Geordi LaForge will someday be a reality.


There are generous people like us who preach good news to the poor by sharing Christmas with them year around, by feeding them with bags of food, with household supplies, and basic hygiene items.


The way today’s disciples can “go and tell” the story of Jesus is by sharing what is happening at St Matthew’s Lutheran Church, in the church at large, and inspired by the Spirit in the scientific and medical world.

One of my favorite Christmas songs is Go Tell It on the Mountain, because the shepherds do just that. They go and tell everyone, everywhere, that Jesus Christ is born. 

It is now up to us to:

Go tell it on the mountain that Jesus Christ is God-with-skin-on. Because of Jesus, we can trust that God knows what it is like to be human.

Go tell it on the mountain that the tomb is empty, and that means anything is possible. 

Go tell it on the mountain that deaf people hear, that blind people see, that lame people walk, and that poor people hear good news, because God's Spirit inspires people to bring healing and wholeness into the world. 


The Gospel, the Good News, is not ours to keep to ourselves. Our faith in Jesus is meant to be good news for all people. 

So, Go and tell.