R U the 1

(Matthew 11:2-11)

A group of alumni, highly established in their careers, got together to visit their old university professor. Conversation soon turned into complaints about stress in work and life, and the lack of fulfillment in life.

Now fulfillment means to make something happen, to carry out, to measure up, to complete, or to satisfy.

So anyway, the professor offered his guests some coffee and then went to the kitchen and returned with a large pot of coffee and an assortment of cups - porcelain, plastic, glass, crystal, some plain looking, some expensive, and some seasonal - telling them to help themselves to the coffee. When all the students had a cup of coffee in their hand, the professor said: "If you noticed, all the nice looking and expensive cups were taken, leaving behind the plain and cheap ones.

Now while it's normal for you to want only the best for yourselves, that's the source of your stress and lack of fulfillment. "Be assured the cup itself adds no quality to the coffee. In most cases it's just more expensive and in some cases even hides what we drink. What all of you really wanted was coffee, not the cup, but you consciously went for the best cups . . . and then you began eyeing each other's cups.

"Now consider this: 'A fulfilling life is the coffee; the jobs, money and positions you hold are the cups. They're just containers to hold your life, and the type of cup or the things, of this life don't define or change the quality of the life we live. Sometimes, when we only concentrate on the cup, we fail to enjoy the coffee God has provided us." Sometimes, when we only concentrate on the things our world treasures and admires, we fail to enjoy the fulfilling life God has provided for us. You see God brews the coffee, not the cups . . . so enjoy the coffee!

So how many of us tend to focus on the cups, rather than the coffee? Or how many of us try to change the coffee with flavorings and the like? How often do we try to sweeten or change our lives on our own?

When asked whether or not he was the Messiah by John the Baptist's messengers, Jesus pointed to the results of his work as fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy.

The response Jesus gives to the inquiring messengers almost comes back as a question: "Do you not see that the blind can see and that the lame can walk? Go and tell John what you see."

In pointing to his works, Jesus is implying the fulfillment of God's promises in and through Jesus himself. You see fulfillment in Christian terms means the accomplishment or completion of God's purposes in Jesus Christ. Jesus embodies God's words, actions, purposes, and will. Jesus is the cup, his words, actions, purpose and will is the coffee.

Now John, being in prison hasn't seen the great healings of Jesus' ministry. Nevertheless, John knows enough to send out his followers in order to discover the true nature of Jesus and to ask whether or not he is the Messiah, the one promised by God.

How many today are trapped in their own prison's and really haven't experienced the glory of God revealed to us in Jesus and are asking "R U the 1?"

However, Jesus doesn't give a simple yes or no response. Instead, Jesus points to his works, giving reference to the words of the prophet Isaiah, so that John will know that Jesus is the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy. Jesus knew that John would know the prophetic words of the Hebrew Scriptures that would then connect Jesus' deeds to the prophecy.

Isaiah's prophecy (Isaiah 35:1-10). Isa 35:1 The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, Isa 35:2 it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy. The glory of Lebanon will be given to it, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon; they will see the glory of the LORD, the splendor of our God.

Isa 35:3 Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; Isa 35:4 say to those with fearful hearts, "Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you."

Isa 35:5 Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Isa 35:6 Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert. Isa 35:7 The burning sand will become a pool, the thirsty ground bubbling springs. In the haunts where jackals once lay, grass and reeds and papyrus will grow.

Isa 35:8 And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness. The unclean will not journey on it; it will be for those who walk in that Way; wicked fools will not go about on it. Isa 35:9 No lion will be there, nor will any ferocious beast get up on it; they will not be found there. But only the redeemed will walk there, Isa 35:10 and the ransomed of the LORD will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.

Even if John can't completely predict what fulfillment will look like or how it will come about, he still must be confident and faithful enough to know it when he sees it. So John must know what fulfillment means because of his faith in the truth of the scriptures.

I suggest followers of Christ today are very much like John. After much effort to follow, to have faith, to do things right, we look forward to clear and unambiguous results from our efforts that yield the expected fruits.

But you know fulfillment isn't always what we expect it to be; it's not always obvious, and the fruit of fulfillment isn't always what we want it to be. Jesus wasn't what the people of his day were expecting as the fulfillment of God's promise, so many denied him. Well, fulfillment isn't always packaged the way we expect.

So there are three important questions for us to consider: " Do we know fulfillment when we see it? " Do we know, seek, and experience the Spirit of God at the beginning, in the midst of, and at the end of our works? " Do we know what fulfillment means in the eyes of the Lord? And these are questions we each must seek personal answers to. I can't answer them for you, because it's likely the answer will be a little different for each of us.

A couple of weeks ago I met a deer, almost face-to-face, on Old Annapolis Road near my home. As I approached it I went one way and so did the deer. So I went the other way and so did the deer. Eventually it just stood there in the middle of the road not knowing what direction to go, not knowing what to do.

I think for some people this is the way their life is. Their overwhelmed, have too many things on their plate, and in an effort to please everyone, try to do it all. And this idea of being overwhelmed eventually puts them in the same situation as the deer, not knowing which way to turn or what to do next, and I suggest this experience is exasperated at this time of the year.

These couple of weeks preceding Christmas we're bombarded with different things, opposing priorities, different ways to go so it gets to the point that we either try to do it all, or don't know which way to turn anymore, and we end up going no where, in affect we spend our time and energy spinning our wheels, or reacting very much like that deer in my headlights, parallelized.

So what direction will we go? What path will we take? In Isaiah's prophecy I just read he counsels, there will be a direction to go and a path to take; it's called the Way of Holiness. The unclean won't journey on it; it will be for those who walk in "the Way;" wicked fools will not go about on it. All those who take this path will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.

Like the deer on the road we need to pick a path and then boldly go. And I suggest the path we ought to take is the one that leads us to the ultimate fulfillment of life, the manger and the new born king.

John's question, "are you the one," is a valid question. It's a question all in this world should be asking. But as we seek the answer, know that the answer has already been revealed to us in a profound and unexpected way.

Remember it's not about what the manger is really used for, or even looks like, it's just a container; just like the cups the professor brought out for his students. What really matters is what's in it; namely Jesus, our divine coffee if you like. He is the way to living a truly fulfilling life. Today, for all of us, life's fulfillment comes from God through Jesus Christ The one born in the manger long ago, by the power of the Holy Spirit is our way, is our truth, and is our means for a fulfilling and fruitful life.


In addition to the Holy Spirit and the Holy Bible the following resources inspired and/or were used in part in the preparation of this sermon: 1. Lectionary Homiletics, Vol. XIX, Number 1, December 2007/January2008.

Read other messages by Pastor Wade