Make the rough places smooth -The Birth of John the Baptist

Sunday 24th June 2012

Isaiah 40:1-11 Galatians 3.23-29

St Mary’s audio    St Matt’s audio

Half way through the year – a reminder of familiar Christmas readings

Will spare you a rendition of Handels Messiah!

Prepare the Way of the Lord, make straight the paths

Raise the valleys, level the mountains.

Make smooth the rough ground.

Travelling through rough country is not easy whether its on the feet or the tyres. The bumps and lumps of the road make it hard to concentrate on where we’re going, the ups & downs disorientate  us,

Mountainous and winding country blocks our views, the sea or the sunset that we catch occasional glimpses of is tantalising, and yet we cannot see it properly, The landmark, the destination we know or have been t old is there is hidden from us, the winding curves of the hills and the road mean we cannot see our way ahead clearly.

The prophet Isaiah calls for the roads to be straightened, the obstacles removed.

More than that he declares that they will be!

And to what end? For what purpose?

That the Glory of the Lord will be revealed

The Lord who comes in power & might, and at the same time gently gathers his people to him like lambs.

Its no coincidence that we use this reading on the feast of St John the Baptist, the one who came before Jesus, preparing the way for his ministry and work.

In Jesus the Glory of the lord is revealed, the Kingdom come among us.

What is this glory? This kingdom?

Jesus preached the topsy turvey upside down Kingdom, where the little ones were important, where the rich and powerful were brought down a few levels, where power and authority came from being a servant, and laying down your life was the way to gain it.

He preached the mountains being laid low, and the valleys raised up…

He preached a kingdom where women and foreigners were valued as much as anyone, where sinners and saints ate together, and sharing what you have means thousands can be fed.

He preached the rough places made smooth.

In Galatians, in chapter 3 which we heard read earlier Paul says “  in jesus you are all children of God through faith”

This is the Kingdom, the gloriously radical liberating Kingdom of God, we are all one… all equal… all in Christ.

This is the level ground, the straight  path, the way that reveals the Glory of the Lord.

In his book on Baptism, Timothy Radcliffe says “ at whatever age we were baptised whatever we have done, and been is irrelevant, none of our achievements matter, we may be a famous professor of philosophy or a newborn baby or a wino at the end of a drunken life; at the font we are all at the beginning of a new life in Christ


“There is no longer jew nor greek, slave nor free, male nor female”

The kingdom of God which John heralded and Jesus preached is a Kingdom of one-ness. Of turned tables, so that all come before the Father in equality,

loved and accepted,

Called and used,

NO distinctions, no exceptions.

Jesus called crooked Tax collectors and rough fishermen

He spoke to women, and blessed little children

He dined with rulers and religious leaders, and knelt in the dirt with beggars.

He levelled the  mountains and straightened the paths,

So that the Glory of the Lord would be revealed….

What is our response to the challenge of Isaiah?

It seems so often that instead of  levelling the ground and straightening the  paths what the church has done is to  make those barriers rise again,

The paths bend circuitously once more so that we cannot see where we are going.

What is it for our world our church today that blocks our view, that prevents the Glory being revealed.

What is working against those Kingdom values of justice and equality.

Today is Poverty Sunday –an invitation to look at and act against the problems of poverty in our country.  Poverty divides, it creates valleys where people sink, where its hard to find light,

Are we working for justice? For equity? Are we campaigning for fair laws, for help for the children who suffer?

Injustice comes in many forms,

When we treat different groups inequitably, when we make simply being male, or female superior

When race or skin colour changes our chances,

Where institutions and organisations, laws and systems including the church all end up enshrining and continuing  the inequalites in our world. When we demand cheap food and clothes caring little how they’re produced, When we can’t be bothered to vote, because “they’re all the same”

When we forget that EVERY human being is made in the image of God, and is loved by him, not for what they do or produce or achieve, not for the economic potential or physical beauty, not for their gender, their sexuality or their skin colour… but just because they are human,, they are loved. when we forget that  this is when the mountains rise up and the path crooks and twists.

But …We are all ONE in Christ.

In Jesus.

. the one who turned the world upside down, who preached the coming of the Kingdom, of justice and mercy and peace.

Whatt then are we doing?  Are we Creating the twists that prevent others seeing the Glory of the Lord revealed? Should we as Christains not be being like Jesus? Radical teaching radical action, putting our money where our mouths are and working for the coming Kingdom of justice & love.

In our towns and  cities today we see fractured communities because of racism.

No Jew, no greek…

We see Churches and communities and families torn apart by sexist and paternalistic attitudes.

No male no female

We see people enslaved. by Sex, by poverty by drugs, by mental illness

No slave no free

The barriers are up… but

We’re called like John to prepare a way

Makes smooth the paths

Level the ground

Fight injustice, preach the Kingdom

That the Glory of the Lord may be revealed.


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