Sermon for December 10, 2017: “A Voice Crying In The Gas Station”

Mark 1:1-8
1 The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 2 As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; 3 the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’ ” 4 John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6 Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. 8 I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
Sermon for December 10, 2017: “A Voice Crying In The Gas Station”

Years ago, when I was living in Pennsylvania I remember a trip I made to visit my mom and dad in Winston-Salem.
On the way home, there is a Shell Gas station, less than a mile from their home.
It had been a long day of driving but I thought I’ll fill up the tank so I don’t have to worry about it.
And then it happened.
I was pumping the gas,
Hand holding up my head,
I wasn’t bothering anyone,
When I heard a voice.

I heard a voice, “Hey, pump number two, how are you?”
I looked around.
No one was there.
I thought to myself I must be really tired.
But then I heard it again:
“Hey, pump two, how are you?”
My first thought was the voice sounded like Quagmire from Family Guy.

I looked around and up and finally said, “…Good?”
The voice said, “Good! Good!”
And that was it.

The next morning, I was having breakfast with my mom and dad I asked the strangest question that ever had come out of my mouth.
“Mom, do the gas pumps at the Shell Station talk to you?”
Now at this moment I was certain my mom would order a drug test for me, but she actually said, “Oh you mean the Shell station? Sure!”
Well I was relieved to know I was not the only victim.
There is one man who worked there who would say hello to everybody who stopped for gas.
It was his move.
He was just being nice.
And after thinking it was strange, I honestly started missing the voice.
I wanted to hear it again.
Over that week I took my mom’s car, my dad’s van, my sister’s car, all to the Station hoping I would hear that voice again.
Didn’t happen.

And I wanted to hear it again.
As the Gospel of Mark begins, the Jewish people had been waiting for a voice.
The Jews believed that it had been 400 years since the prophets, the messengers of God, had spoken to them.
It had been 400 years since the Jews were exiled and their country destroyed by the Babylonians.
Since then,
The people had been in a wilderness.
waiting for God to speak to them again.
waiting for the voice that would tell them that God had not forgotten them.

Think about our lives today.
We all go into a wilderness.
Be it:
Depression.
Sadness.
Hopelessness.
Anger.
Feeling like we are lost.

And we desperately look for answers.
For direction.
For a voice.

When we go through a bad, tough time, our wilderness, we long to hear the voices that will get us through, or help lead us through.
And for many of us, we think the voice is never going to come.
Actually we are a lot like the Jewish people in the Gospel.
Waiting.

And then a man named John appears.
And John speaks.
And his words ring a bell in the ears of the people.
Now what made John’s words so powerful?
John did not just say, “Hey! I have a message from God!”
He said, “Prepare the way of the Lord.”
Now to our 21st century ears that does not exactly sound like “Breaking News”
But to the Jewish people it was.

Back in ancient times, there were very few surfaced and artificially made roads.
The few that were around were built by the king and for the use of the king.
They called it The King’s Highway.
They were to be kept in repair only as the king needed for any journey he might make.
And before the king was due to arrive in any area,
a message was sent out to the people to get the king’s road in order for the king’s journey.
These were specific words, a phrase that would set the people in motion.

So when John says, “Prepare the Way of the Lord!”
He is sending the signal that the King
THEIR KING
Is coming.
And he is coming soon.

This is why the Gospel of Mark starts with “the beginning of the Good News”
Because this begins the journey out of the wilderness for the people.
And it begins our journey as well.

John spoke the words that made the people listened.
But he also spoke the words that made people react.
To get ready.
Remember the words were to set things in motion.

There are words and phrases today that get us in motion.

I know in my life this is true.
When my wife says, “Sweetie!!”
That means it’s time to kill a bug.
When my son says, “Daddy!”
That means it’s time to play.
When my mom says, “Jonathan Conrad!”
That means it’s time to run away, because I am in trouble!

So John is getting the people to prepare by doing one thing.
Repent.

The Greek word for repent means “to change one’s mind.”
But it involves more than just thinking in a different way.
It means to change one’s life and “return,” and begin…PREPARE…a new relationship with God.

And with all forgiven, God sends us out to live out that forgiveness.
The invitation given by John is still open today to us. Every moment given to us by God is a moment where we can start again. We do not have to wait until Sunday morning. We can start whenever and wherever.

To bear good fruits as John urges the people to do in our lesson.
And I have the perfect way for us to bear those good fruits.
Be the Voice in someone else’s wilderness.
Be the Voice
Be the Love
That will help someone through their tough times.

When you get home.
Think of a friend or family member who is going through a wilderness,
And then reach out to them.
But not by text.
I believe that when we are in the Wilderness, a voice a sound is more important than a ding (the sound my phone makes when I get a text)
There was a time we used phones to actually talk to one another.
And its become a lost art.
Time to get it back.
Call someone,
Tell them you were thinking of them
Offer to visit them
Offer to pray with them
And offer to keep in touch.

OR join our Caregivners, become one of our people who takes communion to our homebound,
Or next week (this is what we call a plug)
Join us for Christmas Caroling as we visit our homebound and the great people at Trinity Grove.

I promise YOU will make a difference.
YOU will and can help someone hear the voice and the love they so desperately needed to hear.

Speaking of needing to hear:

After trying all week to hear that voice,
I had one more shot.
I was heading back to Pennsylvania.
So once again to the Shell Station.

As I started to pump I heard…”Hey pump number 4 how are ya?” Oh I did not waste time, I said, “Good! Thank you!”
And the voice said, “Alright!”
That was it!
And I had a big smile as I started on my journey.

It’s amazing what a voice can do.
Today, the voice of God, the Word of God, is speaking to you.
Calling to you.
Today is the day we answer.