Numbers 1:1-4, 17-21, Isaiah 11:1-9, Matthew 3:1-12
A heated and passionate argument occurred the last quarter of the year in the world of Major League Baseball. It was an argument between Sabermatricians and Traditionalists. Sabermatricians have a new set of statistics to evaluate the performance of players.
The debate centered around pitcher Felix Hernandez, with a record of 13-12, the fewest number of wins by a Cy Young winner. He also didn't pitch in the heat of a playoff race. But the award traditionally goes to the best pitcher.
Debates centered around numbers are always fascinating.
In our year long focus on the Story of Scripture, our last month has focused us on the Story of Israel: Exodus, Wilderness, Law & Order and then more order: the numbering of society
I want to offer three points today: You are a number. You are a number of things. You are not a number.
You are a number.
We read today of the numbering of adult males in early Hebrew society. This had several purposes...
Army development, census purposes, creating of community, marching alignment as they move toward the promised land.
- We don't like to think of ourselves as a number. But if I were to give you a certain number, you might identify it: for example, 15 digits is your drivers licence, 16 is your credit card, 10 is your phone number and 4 is your atm code. In part, we are a number.
You are a number of things.
In the Gospel of Matthew, John the Baptist shows us how diverse we are as individuals. What are some of things we are called in this passage?
Recipient of a Kingdom Invitation (its near)
Baptized in water (clothed in Christ)
Fruit producer (in keeping with repentance)
Not a merit based inheritance (we have abe as our father)
Baptized by the Holy Spirit (By Christ)
Wheat gathered into a barn (saved)
You are not just a number.
The Isaiah passage invites us to a whole new realm. In Christ, we have been invited into a new life, a new relationship, a new role in this world.
--Where New life with its fruit emerges from a lifeless stump.
--Where the Spirit of God with wisdom, understanding, counsel, power, knowledge and fear of the Lord is resting.
--Where judgment occurs not only because of what we can see and hear.
--Where righteousness and justice help the needy and poor of the earth.
--where a wolf lies down with a lamb (leopard/goat, calf/lion/yearling, cow/bear, lion/ox
--and a little child shall lead them
The prophet describes wonderful images of traditionally relationships of enmity: the infant/cobra, young child/vipers nest
This vision of a coming kingdom is rooted in our readings final words. How can all of these things come to be? Because:
no harm or destruction on my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord.
Order opens us to freedom, and the best form of freedom is spiritual freedom.
Today, if you find yourself as a number, don't be a single digit: be part of the community where the Spirit is alive.
Today, if you find yourself as a number of things, be those things for the glory of God.
Today, if you find yourself as not just a number, always remember Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, and coming King.