Prepare the Way
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness.I preached on this nine years ago at King of Peace saying in part:
If you’ll look at the passage with me, I’ll show you what I mean. You could read it through in your mind like this:As I was concluding the sermon, I said in part:
In the fifteenth year of the reign of some guy, when, oh I know that one, Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, I think that’s how you say it, and some other guy was ruler of some place and his brother was ruler of the region of two hard to pronounce names, and another guy was ruler of Abilene, I thought that was in Texas, during the high priesthood of two guys with names I don’t know, the word of God came to John son of some Z name in the wilderness.
Another way to do it is to just see what the words are and not even really read them. That would go like this:
In the fifteenth year, yada yada, yada during the high priesthood, yada, yada, yada, the word of the Lord came to John, son of some guy in the wilderness.
I don’t want to poke fun at this way of reading through a hard list of names and places. It makes sense really. I ran across a similar suggestion in a book recently. My daughter, Griffin, and I were reading through the introduction to her copy of Jules Verne’s classic book 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea where Bruce Colville, himself an author, gives advice on how to read the book. Listen to this introduction to see how it might relate to reading the Bible:Now, before you begin reading, I have to give you a warning. This is not a book for lazy readers, not a walk-through. In fact, odds are you’re going to have to work to get it.Okay, so that reason won’t work at all—unless, you change the two words to Jesus Christ. Because it is in the pages of the Bible that we can meet Jesus Christ. However, the rest of the advice is reasonable enough. If a list of names and places is threatening to slow your Bible reading down to a halt, it might be best just to scan over the list and keep reading. That does not mean that those passages have nothing to teach, but it could be that they need to wait for another time.
That’s okay. In fact, I’m going to give you permission to do something that normally bugs the daylights out of me: You can skip some of the stuff. One of the quirks of Verne’s style in this book is that he occasionally stops to make long lists of the undersea creatures that Professor Arronax (the character narrating the story) sees through the windows of the Nautilus.
Trust me: You don’t need to read them all.
Here’s another tip: You might enjoy having a globe or atlas nearby while you are reading.
It’s not necessary to have one to enjoy the book, of course. But because this is a trip around the world, you might find it fun to trace the route the Nautilus follows.
“Good grief,” you may be muttering to yourself. “If the book is so much work, why bother?”
Let me offer three reasons.
Reason Number One—Most stuff that’s worth doing takes some extra effort….
Reason Number Two—It’s a great adventure story, one of the grandest every written….
Reason Number Three—Two words: Captain Nemo.
Well, this is another time and place. Is there anything to gain from a list of people and places like the one Luke gives us this morning? What does the fifteenth year of the reign of the Emperor Tiberius have to do with us? You see, the challenge I always feel in studying a passage of scripture with a sermon is to discover what it has to say to us, right now, this week. Does this passage have anything to say to us that could or should change the week ahead? I think it does. This list of names reveals something about God to us that can have a profound effect on how we live our lives.
God’s love is not for the lovely alone. God’s love is for all. No matter how unlovable a person seems to us, they are not beyond God’s love. This is good news for people living on the streets, or to people dealing with the final stages of disease. But God’s love extending to everyone is good for all of us gathered here this morning. When we feel our most unloved, when we feel our most unlovable, we can know that God loves us anyway. That’s the way God has always been. And God continues to scatter the proud and to lift up the lowly. God continues to show up in unlikely places. You don’t have to worship in a great cathedral surrounded by stained glass for God to be present. You can find God as John did in the wilderness. Or you can encounter God in a church that meets in the living room of a house.The full text of the sermon is online here: A Particular Time and Place.
The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor