(full online service video below)
Malachi prepared the way of the Lord. His collection of prophetic oracles recorded in the book that bears his name provides the context for the concluding message of the Old Testament – a message about God’s kingdom of justice and holiness.
John the Baptist prepared the way of the Lord. His message about repentance recorded in the first four books of the New Testament (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) provide the context for the opening message of the New Testament – a message about God’s kingdom of justice and holiness.
In a devotional, Landon Weldy, when he was a sophomore in college, wrote about John the Baptist preparing the way for the kingdom of God and what that means for us as followers of Jesus.
I find it fitting that even before Jesus began his ministry, people were preparing for his coming. John preached about the arrival of the kingdom and baptized those who were willing. … “Hold on,” you might say. “Now what exactly is the Kingdom of (God)? Is it a physical kingdom? Will there be horses?” Well, not exactly. The definition I grew up with is that it is places and times where God’s love and justice can be found. This means that every effort we take to make a positive impact on those around us — seeking justice, creating peace — we are causing the will of God to be realized, right now. John called the crowds to prepare the way for the Lord — Jesus wasn’t going to do all the work himself. The same is true today.
I like how Landon defines God’s kingdom as “places and times where God’s love and justice can be found.” I think that Malachi and John the Baptist would agree with this definition. This definition of God’s kingdom is not determined by geographical boundaries. Instead, it is defined by how people live in a just and holy relationship with God and with each other. It is defined by how we join Malachi and John the Baptist in preparing the way for God’s kingdom.
To consider the difference between God’s kingdom and the kingdoms of this world, I invite you to hear about the longest reign in the western world, the reign of Louis XIV. He was only four years old when he succeeded to the throne of France. As an adult, Louis XIV oversaw the building of the Palace of Versailles at a cost of one hundred and fifty million francs (not accounting for inflation over the past 300 years). His most memorable statement was “I am the state.” He was known as the Sun King because he saw France as a kingdom that revolved around him just like the planets revolved around the sun.
He led France in several major wars that expanded its geographical boundaries and by the middle of his reign he had established his country as the most powerful nation in Europe. He died at Versailles having reigned 72 years. If you wish to see evidence of the kingdom of Louis XIV, you have to travel to France.
I invite you to contrast the kingdom of Louis XIV with the story of the kingdom of God told by R. C. Sproul
In 1990, I was invited into Eastern Europe to do a series of lectures in three countries, first in Czechoslovakia, then in Hungary, and finally in Romania. As we were leaving Hungary, we were warned that the border guards in Romania were quite hostile to Americans and that we should be prepared to be hassled and possibly even arrested at the border.
Sure enough, when our rickety train reached the border of Romania, two guards got on. They couldn’t speak English, but they pointed for our passports, then pointed to our luggage. They wanted us to bring our bags down from the luggage rack and open them up, and they were very brusque and rude. Then, suddenly, their boss appeared a burly officer who spoke some broken English. He noticed that one of the women in our group had a paper bag in her lap, and there was something peeking out of it. The officer said: “What this? What in bag?” Then he opened the bag and pulled out a Bible. I thought, “Uh-oh, now we’re in trouble.” The officer began leafing through the Bible, looking over the pages very rapidly. Then he stopped and looked at me. I was holding my American passport, and he said, “You no American.” And he looked at Vesta and said, “You no American.” He said the same thing to the others in our group. But then he smiled and said, “I am not Romanian.”
By now we were quite confused, but he pointed at the text, gave it to me, and said, “Read what it says.” I looked at it and it said, “Our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20a) The guard was a Christian. He turned to his subordinates and said: “Let these people alone. They’re OK. They’re Christians.” As you can imagine, I said, “Thank you, Lord.” This man understood something about the kingdom of God—that our first place of citizenship is in the kingdom of God.
-What is the Kingdom of God? September 12, 2021, R. C. Sproul
If you wish to see evidence of an earthly kingdom, look at the palace of Versailles. If you wish to see evidence of God’s kingdom, then look at the person next to you as you join Malachi and John the Baptist in preparing the way for the Lord.
Preparing the Way
by Pastor Marc Brown
December 5, 2021
Accompanying Scriptures: Malachi 3:1-4, Luke 3:1-6
Fort Hill United Methodist Church
Order of Worship for December 5, 2021
The Good News “Preparing the Way”
Scripture Lesson Malachi 3:1-4, Luke 3:1-6
Closing Music “For Unto Us a Child is Born” arr. Bill Wolaver