Grace Episcopal Church

Reaching the world for Jesus Christ beginning in Casanova

Sunday's Sermon by Fr. Jim Cirillo 

Matthew 3:1-12                                  Repent – turn              Grace   & SLR                                            Dec 8, 2019 Matthew 3:1-12

I had a buddy in high school who, when he went to college, fancied himself as something of an evangelist.  He had about all the tact of a Mack truck at 60 mph.  Sam smoked a pipe, you know a tobacco one, which was really cool in the 70’s, and sometimes used it as a way to get into a conversation with someone about Jesus.  He would say something like, “You know how people who don’t believe in Jesus are like this pipe.  They’re gonna burn!”  I don’t know how many conversations Sam got into but he was bold.  He’s now a retired Episcopal priest.


You have probably heard the phrase turn or burn.  Anyone know where the idea originates? ? ?  It comes from John the Baptist and today’s text in Matthew.  How about the meaning of the word repent?  Anyone know what it means – that is a literal translation? ? ?  It means to change one’s direction or turn away from one direction and to another.  And specifically it is to turn away from one’s sins and turn back to God.  Now this is probably not new to you.  But as I was thinking about this recently I thought of it in a new and different way for me related to prayer.  It has to do with praying to and hearing from God and it relates to God’s design for our ears and hearing.


If you look at a person, any person, you will note that their ears are really designed to hear things in front of them better than things behind them.  The way our ears normally stick out further in the back and have the opening in the front lends them to hearing things in front more easily and completely than hearing things from behind.


Take for instance sitting in the back seat of a car.  It is sometimes hard for the person in the front to hear someone in the rear because the back not the front of their ears are being spoken to.  They are turned away from the person and may not be able to hear as well.  It is also true that it is difficult for a person in the back to hear someone in the front because the person in the front is facing away from them and speaking in a different direction.  Even though the ears of the person in the back are facing the right way with the opening toward the person speaking, the person speaking is facing away from them.  This is sometimes how it is with us and God.  Since they’re in a car they are at least going in the same direction at the same speed and staying close to each other. Not always so with us and God.


What about this though?  I am talking to you and you turn and walk away from me going the other direction.  Not only are your ears turned away but you are constantly getting further away making it more and more difficult to hear me speak to you.  And that’s how it is with God when we sin.  We turn and walk the other way.  And when we do, we have difficulty hearing God.  If we don’t turn away from our sin and back to God we have difficulty hearing Him even when we are asking Him to speak to us.  When you turn away from me you might hear me if I shout.  God doesn’t often shout.  In fact, God often speaks in that small quiet voice which is best heard when facing Him and being quiet to listen.  So when we turn away from Him in our sins, it makes it hard for us to hear Him when He does speak to us.


John the Baptist said, “Repent for the Kingdom of heaven is near.”  Think about that.  Turn for the kingdom is near.  If you don’t turn, you will miss it.  What do we miss when we turn away?  There’s no telling.  We missed it.  What do we gain when we turn back?  God’s presence and voice and warmth and comfort and love and … I think you get the idea.


Advent is a season which calls us to be ready for the coming of Jesus.  To be ready when the Kingdom of God comes near again.  But we know that He is also already here with us each and every moment of every day.  The Kingdom IS near.  Which way are you turned?   


Or as I have heard many times before:   If you’re not close to God, who moved?     Amen