Kyle was recently graduated from my youth group and was enrolled at the local community college. He had been volunteering and helping with the youth ministry for a few months. He even volunteered to preach on some random Sunday night if we ever needed help. Eventually we did, so we gave him his chance and I instantly regretted the decision when he stepped into the pulpit and after reading the scripture the first words out of his mouth were, “This evening Jesus has a simple message for us. Get off your "buts" and do something!”
The room fell silent, and I was tense. But then Kyle surprised us all as he went on to say, “What I mean is that a neighbor asks you for help and you say, “I would, but I am too busy. Maybe you know people who are sick and shut-in who would love to have a visitor and you think, ‘I would visit, but I am too tired from work.’ Perhaps you have a neighbor who is going through a hard time who needs a friend or community for support. You wonder if you should invite her to church or over for dinner, then you think, ‘I would, but she will probably just say no.’” then Kyle said, “We all like to just rest on our ‘buts’ don’t we?”
Kyle made a good point and the way he presented it was memorable. It is easy to do nothing, especially when the choice before us is between doing nothing or doing something risky that could be good. We are constantly made aware of good things we should do or could be doing, but we find it easy to excuse ourselves from personal responsibility. Unless someone like Kyle, or John the Baptist, lights a fire under us many of us choose to do nothing, avoid risk, and rest on our excuses.
John the Baptist was not known for avoiding risk or doing nothing. He was a prophet who spoke difficult truths and motivated people to action. John's primary message was a call to the people to purify themselves for the coming Kingdom of God through a baptism of repentance. This is why we hear from John on the Second Sunday of Advent as we prepare our hearts for the coming of Emmanuel, God with us, we also need to consider what changes we should make in our lives. Part of what we learn from John is that it is not enough just to avoid doing bad things, we actually need to go about doing good.
This week I invite you to set aside some time in Advent to consider the kind of repentance that has less to do with the bad things we have done, and more to do with the good things we have neglected to do. I am reminded of this need every Sunday in our confession when we say, “We confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.” Maybe Advent is a good time to get off our “buts.”
See you in Church!
Fr. Tom +