Preparing the Way in Process

By Sharron R. Blezard, January 1, 2017

Narrative Lectionary Reflection, Year 3, January 8, 2017

Lessons:  Luke 3:1-22, Psalm 51:6-17 or (51:13)

Theme: God’s faithful and generous people walk wet in this world, remembering their baptism, preparing the way for Jesus by sharing the good news in deed and word.

Key Scripture: …as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’” Luke 3:4-6

Preaching/Teaching Reflection

If you want an abundant harvest from your home garden, you have to plan, prepare, plant, water, and tend. It’s a lot of effort to get from that fallow winter ground to a bumper crop of edible goodness. So, too, it is with the life of faith. We are a people in process. That process begins at baptism, when we are named and claimed as beloved children of God, when we follow in the footsteps of Jesus to do God’s will, but it certainly doesn’t end there. Baptism is not a “get ‘er done” deal or some kind of divine fire insurance. It sets us on a course of becoming what God intends for us to be. It pushes us into a world where we are part of the effort to prepare the way for Jesus, who continues to come into this world and who will one day restore all things to himself. We’re sealed with the sign of the cross to tend God’s garden by following the instructions and plan of the master gardener.

In his account of John’s ministry and Jesus’ baptism, Luke finds it important to ground the story in context with specific attention to the political and religious power brokers. He carefully links John’s wilderness ministry to prophesy from the book of Isaiah (chapter 40), prophesy that both comforts and afflicts depending on one’s circumstances and context. John, of course, calls the curious folk who’ve come for his baptism a “brood of vipers” and then sets them straight about what it means to walk wet in this baptism of repentance. Preparing the way means sharing worldly goods and food. It means not taking more than your fair share and being content with one’s wages.

We also learn from this passage that speaking the truth, in this case John’s truth-speaking from the Torah to Herod, can land one in prison (or worse). There is risk involved in this repentance and turning to God. The riskiness of the gospel isn’t something we in the western world have had to focus on very much. If anything, following Jesus in modern day North America appears more about being perceived as irrelevant and out-of-touch than it does being countercultural and sacrificial. Perhaps this is a truth we need to speak clearly: being a high expectation Body of Christ that seeks health and wholeness is going to have a cost to disciples. The new year provides ripe timing and a more open mindset for reorienting our focus on discipleship. With resolutions fresh on the brain the idea of walking the walk with the one who will burn away our useless chaff and prune our gangly branches if we get close enough to him seems more doable.

We must remember, however, that we can’t do this on our own. It’s only through Christ that we are able to baptismal fonthave the faith to follow, and this is integral to the good news we share. Not worthy to until the thong of Jesus’ sandal, we are nonetheless dearly beloved and saved by grace through this faith that we can’t even muster on our own.

So today remember your baptism. If there are those in your community who have not yet been baptized, assure them of God’s love and care and invitation to discipleship. The waters wait. God loves. The world needs to know and see and experience this very good gospel.

In Worship

Consider at some point in worship finding a creative way to recast the reading for the 21st century, specific to your context. Consider songs that emphasize turning (metanoia), preparing the way for the Lord, and living as faithful disciples.

Consider using the psalm excerpt (51:6-17) as a responsive call to worship and confession. Weave verses 12-13 into the sending, charging worshipers to go into the world to share the good news and return again to worship and praise.

With Youth


Explore what it means to prepare the way for the Lord. Youth know what it’s like to prepare for final exams, to prepare college or summer program applications, to prepare for a race or game. Discipleship is not a one hour some weeks commitment. It’s not just a Christmas “thing” either. Preparing the way for Jesus is a part of our 24/7 existence as Christians. Every decision, choice, and action matter and can be part of our preparation for Jesus’ coming into the world. God never leaves us. Our salvation is secured. Our path is before us. Will we follow perfectly? No, of course not! Will we follow faithfully? Yes, by the grace of God, even our faith is gift.

Together in community we are strengthened and equipped for the discipleship walk. It’s not the way of the world or mainstream culture, but it’s the way that leads to lasting life and real relationship.

Invite youth to contemplate how they can take “small bites” from a big goal of faithful discipleship in 2017. How can they walk wet in the world and not fall down? In what ways can they hold each other accountable and build one another up?

With Children

Invite the children to gather with you around the font. Perhaps you’ve done this frequently—whenever there is a baptism, each year when we remember our Lord’s baptism, or on other occasions. Remember that for children, repetition is key to learning (and helpful for adults, too!), so don’t shy away from spending time encouraging children and their families to share these stories of faith, love, and growth.

Pour fresh water into the font, recall some of the words that are spoken at baptism, let the children dip their fingers into the water and make the sign of the cross. If you use oil to make the sign of the cross at baptism, allow the children to see and touch the oil, perhaps marking each other. Gather small evergreen branches and let the children splash water on congregants. Remind the children how much God loves them, and that God is well-pleased with them too, and has named and claimed them as children. Finish with a simple prayer.

Weekly Stewardship Bulletin Insert

“And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, the beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’” Just as God was pleased with Jesus, God is also pleased to name and claim us in the waters of baptism. In baptism we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, that gift that stays with us and keeps on giving while we’re living. This week consider how you are being a faithful steward of the gift of the Holy Spirit and your baptismal identity as a beloved Child of God. How might you share this important part of yourself and your life with others who need to hear the Good News?

Stewardship at Home

This week is a good week to celebrate baptism and how as stewards of the Good News we remember our own baptism so that we can share with others. This is a good time to get out any pictures, copies of bulletins, candles, shells, and other remembrances of baptism to retell the stories of the day each family member was baptized.

If you live alone, consider calling or emailing family members to share your baptism memories and stories. Remember your baptism every time you use water this week. Make the sign of the cross and say a simple prayer of gratitude for the saving gift of life that comes through water and baptism.

Consider making a gift in thanksgiving for your baptism to a water charity. Practice telling the story of your baptism and why it is important to you and to your life as a disciple of Christ.

Photos: Joe Mabel, USDA photo by Lance Cheung, and auntjojo, Creative Commons license. Thanks!

Note: Reprint rights granted to congregations and other church organizations for local, nonprofit use. Just include this note: “Copyright (c) 2016, Rev. Sharron Blezard. Used by Permission.” Other uses, please inquire:

About the Author

The Rev. Sharron Riessinger Blezard is an ELCA pastor currently rostered in the Lower Susquehanna Synod. She came to ordained ministry after teaching secondary and college English, working in non-profit management and public relations, and moonlighting as a freelance writer. See more posts by .

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