*an Advent reflection given at Luther Memorial Church of Chicago on December 10, 2014*
Text: Mark 1:1-8
Wilderness. Untouched, undomesticated, unknown. Full of lush foliage, I imagine. Or lying barren and uninviting. Or sitting under ages of crumbling infrastructure, rubble, and dust.
Certainly not the picture we have of our beautiful city. There aren’t many “untouched” parts of Chicago.
Though, maybe, if we were to press ourselves, we might find that there are parts of this space we share together that we avoid, or ignore, or actively work to cover up. They might feel “untouched.”
And what might it mean to make a path through this kind of wilderness?
Why would paths need to be made straight, unless they were already crooked?
Tonight, John calls us to repentance from our sin. Our own Blessed Martin Luther referred to ‘sin’ as incurvatus in se, Latin for “turned in on oneself.” We might say ‘navel-gazing.’
Turned in on our self, instead of turned outward, where we encounter the world. Where we encounter other people. Where we encounter those that could use a little help. A warm touch. A hot meal. A kind smile.
If we’re honest, I think we could all use those things…
Pastor Tim is fond of saying, “Lent is like house cleaning, and Advent is life house warming.” And if we’re being called by this scraggly, strange-dressing, bug-eating prophet named John to prepare for the Advent of the Messiah, the recognition for me is that we’ve got to do a little cleaning, a little straightening, before the house begins to feel warm.
And the season of Advent is a ripe time to do some straightening, some preparing. Preparing our hearts to be filled by the love of God made manifest. Straightening the paths made rough by years of overuse, neglect, or apathy. Raising up the lowly places that go untouched. Laying low the mountaintops of self-absorption.
There are days that I feel put together and buttoned-up. But not most days. Most days I need to be realigned.