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Make Us Prosperous Again
December 5, 1982

First United Methodist Church of Modesto

LUKE 3:1-7

In the 126th Psalm there is a haunting cry--a cry of the people. Verse 4, "Restore our fortunes, 0 Lord." Even more pungent is the Good News translation, "Lord, make us prosperous again!" The Judeans had been freed by Cyrus, King of Persia who had conquered Babylonia. Their time of captivity was over. They were free to go home. What a time of rejoicing! They exclaimed, "The Lord has done great things for us." And then their prayer:  "Make us prosperous again." 

Our nation's unemployment has now reached 12 million persons—10.6%—according to yesterday's Modesto Bee. The requests for food here in Modesto are overwhelming. Cupboards are bare. Our nation cries today, beginning with the President and reaching across the country, "Make us prosperous again." 

Our church gathers as the Church Conference on Wednesday evening. We rejoice over the success of our financial campaign for 1983; however, we are still nervous about the 1982 deficit. 0ur 1982 budget was not fully covered by pledges as 1983 will be. We look at our future as a congregation Wednesday evening, fully aware of the decline of this church when this sanctuary was filled, when there were hundreds of children in the church school. My prayer for us as a church, "God, make us prosperous again." Not that the past can or wants to be repeated, but that we will be open to the future God has planned for this congregation.  

Many of us in this Advent season when we prepare ourselves for Christmas again, want this Christmas to be extra special--more than tinsel and trinkets, more than pie and gifts. Many hunger and thirst for a deeper experience of God; hunger for the peace Christ brings; a thirst for fulfillment. Many want their prayer life to be more than rote or hap-hazard, but a meaningful experience of God's presence. Our prayer this Advent season is "Make us prosperous again. " 

Our text this morning, Luke 3:1-7, begins with the story of John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus, his cousin. The Isaiah passage read in the Advent Wreath ceremony is applied here in Luke to John, "The voice of one crying in the wilderness," as we have just sung.  John's message? "Prepare the way of the Lord," or again the Good News version is more graphic, "Get the road ready for the Lord, make a straight path for him to travel.”  Or, summarized by John the Baptist into one word, “Repent". 

We want prosperity, but are we serious enough to repent, to make drastic changes so that prosperity can happen? Are we serious as a nation to tackle the gigantic problems that face us? Are we willing to make some changes, suffer some in order that everyone might have more? When we look at our church, are we serious enough about the desire for prosperity to repent? Do we want a church revived, on fire for God, a fellowship overflowing with the love, forgiveness and joy of the Holy Spirit? In your own life, are you serious about your relationship with Christ? Do you want a prosperous relationship? Then, get the road ready, smooth out the bumps, fill in the pot holes, drain the flood, make room for Jesus Christ in your life. 

Get the road ready. “Repent” is John's message. Get the road ready so God can enter your life and our church. Repent, remove the obstacles, the rocks in the way, the traffic accidents that impede progress, those impediments in your life. 

What are they? The season of Advent, to prepare for Christmas, the coming of Christ, is a good time for you to seriously assess your life. Where does growth need to occur? What is preventing God from moving fully in your life? Let me ask some inventory questions.  

Is it ingratitude? Do you take too much for granted? Have you always been open and thankful to God? You complain, but are you grateful? Talking to one of our ladies who is losing her eyesight, we exclaimed, "How we take our eyes for granted. " Do you think you earned your eyesight, your hearing?  

Or is your obstacle pride? Big old pride right there in the road, blocking God's journey. "This I have done. I have earned it. I have accomplished great things. I have no need of God or of other people. I do it my way.” Do you? The fact that you are an American, can speak English, came from a stable home, has nothing to do with your success? Are you proud? 

Or is an obstacle reluctance? Are you reluctant to be fully committed? Afraid to be asked to appear fanatical or to take risks or to be ridiculed?

What about fear? Fear, so you "hang on" to the little you have, rather than "let go”, trust God and surrender to God. Are you afraid to trust God with your possessions? Your future? With you? 

Fill in the potholes, those nasty holes that jar your teeth when you hit them. God cannot make a safe journey into your life if there are dangerous potholes in the road. Fill in those gaps, those lacks, those omissions.  Is there lack of love for God? Is there neglect of the Bible? How long since you read the Bible in prayer, letting the words and spirit sink in? How long since you’ve kept your devotional life alive? Is there a gap, a pothole in your life? How can God enter when you don't get the road ready? God comes through the Bible, through prayer, through church fellowship and worship. God comes through other people.  

Is that a pothole in your life? Is there a lack of concern, love, openness to other people? Is there compassion for your family, friends, neighbors? Do you care about the children and youth in your family and neighborhood? Do you pray for them? Do you speak with them about Christ, about your faith? Do you care whether they live their lives in hell or in heaven? When we look at the history of our church, there is a gaping pothole in concern for children, youth, people, a large gap in an evangelistic concern for people who hurt. Don't we have a message of love and salvation for all people? How can God move in your life and in our church when there is a pothole of unconcern and uncaring? 

Make us prosperous again! God cannot move, cannot enter a life where there is no repentance, where the road is not ready. Make this Advent season a time of repentance, beginning this morning in Communion. Confess, pray, open yourself to Christ, that his coming might have no obstacles, no impediments, no potholes. 

Come, Lord Jesus. Make us prosperous again! 

© 1982 Douglas I. Norris