Repentance, one of the most important things that all people should learn especially that the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ is at hand. It is turning away from sins. It is all about forgetting the past and moving forward. It is all about taking off the old clothes and putting on new one.
But there are still many Christians who find it hard to repent. There are many people who still lived in their old way of life. May these illustrations be a blessing to each one.
Shake It Off and Step Up!
A parable is told of a farmer who owned an old mule. The mule fell into the
farmer’s well. The farmer heard the mule braying and went to the site.
After assessing the situation the farmer sympathized with the mule but
decided that neither the mule nor the well was worth the trouble of saving.
Instead he called his neighbors and asked them to bring their shovels and
bury the poor mule and put him out of his misery.
The mule seemed hysterical. When the dirt struck his back he shook it off.
As the farmer and his friends continued to shovel a thought struck the
farmer. After each shovel of dirt was thrown onto the mule he said, “Shake
it off and step up.” The mule did what he asked, after every shovel of dirt.
After a time the old mule stepped triumphantly out of the well. What seemed
to bury him actually became his road to freedom.
There is an alternative to every impossible situation. The way is not always
visible to us. But our task is not to work miracles, that is up to God. Our
responsibility is to prepare the way, committing every ounce of energy we
have to the possibility of the transforming power of God, remembering that a
single act of kindness can bring hope to generations yet to come.
Keith Wagner, Possibilities Unlimited
There Is Work to Do!
What a message for us at Advent! “Let every heart/Prepare him room” we sing.
Perhaps we would do well to say let every heart get out the bulldozers and
backhoes, the rock crushers and road graders:
There are mountains that need to come down – mountains of racism, sexism,
ageism, and any other “-ism” that blocks our way to healthy relationships
with one another and with our Lord.
There are valleys to be filled – valleys of depression, despair, loneliness,
grief, pain, any of which can keep us from the rich relationship the Savior
offers and that keep us from enjoying the fellowship of the faith.
There are crooked places to be made straight – yes, there is perversity,
even among those we might never imagine; fine exteriors mask rotten
interiors of abuse, neglect, immorality, even violence.
There are rough places to be made smooth – rough places that have come
because of oppression and injustice.
There is work to do! Bring on the heavy equipment!
David E. Leininger, One Shock after Another
The Hinge of History
It sometimes seems that God shows his sense of humor with history. Halford
Luccock once noted that Nero was sure that the most important happenings in
Rome were the words he said, the laws he enacted, and the things he did. As
a matter of fact, the biggest events in Rome at the time were some prayer
meetings which were being held secretly in the catacombs. The Medici, he
observes, must have seemed the key figures in Renaissance Europe, with their
palaces, art galleries, and political power. Yet they are overshadowed by “a
little boy playing about on the docks of Genoa,”
who would eventually open the seaway to the Americans – Christopher
So it was in John the Baptizer’s time. One can easily imagine the pomp and
circumstance with which Herod trampled about as tetrarch of Galilee.
Wherever he went, people scraped and bowed. They waited for a disdaining nod
and dreamed of some act of preferment from his hand. Herod was, indeed, a
big man in Galilee in the first century. Today, all his pomp is simply
pompous, and all his circumstance only circumstantial. But John the
Baptizer! — a great human being.
J. Ellsworth Kalas, ‘The Hinge of History,’ Sermons on the Gospel Readings,
Cycle C, CSS Publishing Company
A Higher Standard of Living
Max Lucado tells the story of a man who had been a closet slob most of his
life. He just couldn’t comprehend the logic of neatness. Why make up a bed
if you’re going to sleep in it again tonight? Why put the lid on the
toothpaste tube if you’re going to take it off again in the morning? He
admitted to being compulsive about being messy.
Then he got married. His wife was patient. She said she didn’t mind his
habits . . . if he didn’t mind sleeping on the couch. Since he did mind, he
began to change. He said he enrolled in a 12-step program for slobs. A
physical therapist helped him rediscover the muscles used for hanging up
shirts and placing toilet paper on the holder. His nose was reintroduced to
the smell of Pine Sol. By the time his in-laws arrived for a visit, he was a
But then came that moment of truth. His wife went out of town for a week.
At first he reverted to the old man. He figured he could be a slob for six
days and clean up on the seventh. But something strange happened. He could
no longer relax with dirty dishes in the sink or towels flung around the
bathroom or clothes on the floor or sheets piled up like a mountain on the
What happened? Simple. He had been exposed to a higher standard of living.
That’s what confession and repentance do for us. That’s what Jesus does for
Billy D. Strayhorn, Thunder in the Desert
Turn on the Lights!
During the recent recession, one commentator on television began his
newscast by saying, “Due to the current financial crisis, the light at the
end of the tunnel will be turned off.” The world turns off lights.
Christians turn them on – look around you, in your neighborhoods, in this
season. Light (especially light at the end of a tunnel) represents hope.
Something that pierces the darkness.
William R. Boyer, A God Full of Surprises
We Need a Bath!
Last week we embarked on the journey of Advent. We lit the first candle, and
we read biblical passages that propelled us into the future to consider the
end of time-the apocalypse. Today, our reading sends us in the opposite
direction. On the second Sunday of Advent, we are pulled into the distant
past to hear the words of the ancient prophet, Malachi.
Malachi tells of a figure who is coming “to prepare the way for the Lord.”
He speaks of a messenger who will purify people’s hearts. “God is sending an
emissary,” writes Malachi, “who comes intending to cleanse your souls.”
It all seems a bit presumptuous, doesn’t it? In the midst of our
pre-Christmas hustle and bustle, the church trots out some primitive prophet
who promises us an Advent scrub-down. Is that really what we need right now?
You would think that the lectionary could come up with a few encouraging
words at this time-assuring us that we will make it through another
Christmas, instead of cheekily suggesting that before God arrives, we need a
Scott Black Johnston, Fire and Soap
Preparation – or lack of it!
To avoid offending anybody, the school dropped religion altogether and
started singing about the weather. At my son’s school, they now hold the
winter program in February and sing increasingly non-memorable songs such as
“Winter Wonderland,” “Frosty the Snowman” and–this is a real song–“Suzy
Snowflake,” all of which is pretty funny because we live in Miami. A visitor
from another planet would assume that the children belonged to the Church of
Dave Barry in his “Notes on Western Civilization” Chicago Tribune Magazine,
July 28, 1991
True repentance is to cease from sin.
Ambrose of Milan
To Whom Should We Repent
When a man undertakes to repent toward his fellowmen, it is repenting
straight up a precipice; when he repents toward law, it is repenting into
the crocodile’s jaws; when he repents toward public sentiment, it is
throwing himself into a thicket of brambles and thorns; but when he repents
toward God, he repents toward all love and delicacy. God receives the soul
as the sea the bather, to return it again, purer and whiter than he took it.
Henry Ward Beecher
True repentance hates the sin, and not merely the penalty; and it hates the
sin most of all because it has discovered and felt God’s love.
Recognizing our Need to Repent
One critic said he had gone to many churches and heard the preacher say,
“Don’t try to impress God with your works” or “Don’t attempt to please God
with your merits” or “Don’t try to keep the rules and regulations and thus
win your way.” He looked around at nearly slumbering collections of utterly
casual Christians and wondered, “Who’s trying?”
Our Basic Problem
Billy Graham, who has often played the 20th century role of John the
Baptizer, had these comments about the disease running rampant in our
world: “We’re suffering from only one disease in the world. Our basic
problem is not a race problem. Our basic problem is not a poverty problem.
Our basic problem is not a war problem. Our basic problem is a heart
problem. We need to get the heart changed, the heart transformed.”
Michael J. Anton, Good News for Now, CSS Publishing, p. 12
The Color Purple
For those using the liturgical colors of the season of advent: Whenever I
reflect upon the fact that purple is the color of Advent, I am reminded of
an historical story. When Louis the IV was a young boy growing up in France
the Royal family employed one of the best teachers in the land to instruct
him on the ways of royalty. When he arrived the first thing that he did was
to give the young prince a purple tunic. Your grace, he said, I cannot give
you orders, for I am but a commoner. How can a commoner command royalty. But
I give you this purple tunic. And every time I see you doing something
unbecoming of the royal prince, I am going to point to the purple and remind
you that that represents France. I will remind you that it is for that that
your countrymen died. I will not make my appeal to you, your Prince, I will
make my appeal to the purple.
Brett Blair, www.eSermons.com.
Sermon Ender – Forgiveness
Carl Michalson, a brilliant young theologian who died in a plane crash some
years ago, once told about playing with his young son one afternoon.
They tussled playfully on their front lawn when Michalson accidentally hit
the young boy in the face with his elbow. It was a sharp blow full to his
son’s face. The little boy was stunned by the impact of the elbow. It hurt,
and he was just about to burst into tears. But then he looked into his
father’s eyes. Instead of anger and hostility, he saw there his father’s
sympathy and concern; he saw there his father’s love and compassion. Instead
of exploding into tears, the little boy suddenly burst into laughter. What
he saw in his father’s eyes made all the difference!
The sharp blow of God’s message to us is: Repentance. But, look into your
father’s eyes. What he offers you is forgiveness and that makes all the
difference. Repent and you will be forgiven.
James W. Moore, Some Things Are too Good Not to Be True,
Nashville:Dimensions, p. 43. Adapted.
Turning Up the Religious Machinery
Eugene Peterson claims in one of his books: “For a long time I have been
convinced that I could take a person with a high school education, give him
or her a six-month trade school training, and provide a pastor who would be
satisfactory to any discriminating American congregation. The curriculum
would consist of four courses. Course 1: Creative Plagiarism. I would put
you in touch with a wide range of excellent and inspirational talks, show
you how to alter them just enough to obscure their origins, and get you a
reputation for wit and wisdom. Course 2: Voice Control for Prayer and
Counseling. We would develop your own distinct style of Holy Joe intonation,
acquiring the skill in resonance and modulation that conveys an unmistakable
aura of sanctity. Course 3: Efficient Office Management. There is nothing
that parishioners admire more in their pastors than the capacity to run a
tight ship administratively … Course
4: Image Projection. Here we would master the half-dozen well-known and
easily implemented devices that create the impression that we are
terrifically busy and widely sought after for counsel by influential people
in the community.”
As one preacher speaking to others, Peterson is poking fun, of course, but
he is also speaking a hard truth. The clergy always run the risk of merely
putting on a good show. Ministers like me can grow so accustomed to the
absence of God that we lose our vocabulary for naming God’s presence. And we
fill the vacuum by heaping up empty prayers and tuning up the religious
The one thing we need is a Word from God. The one gift we cannot purchase
out of a catalog is the Word that names us, claims us, judges us, and
redeems us. We do not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds
from the mouth of God.
In the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar, God didn’t speak to the
politicians. During the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, God didn’t
speak to the religious functionaries. No, “the word of God came to John, son
of Zechariah, in the wilderness.”
Praying for a Whole New World, William G. Carter, CSS Publishing Company