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3 Advent - Matthew 11:2-11

It was a dark and stormy night.

The small band of travelers trudged through the mud and the rain to the bank of the river,

which was swollen and surging, and they stopped, considering whether to keep going.

Saint Teresa disembarked and went ahead on foot: "We are doing the Lord's work, so how could we die in a better cause?"

In the angry river she lost her footing ... and nearly her life.

When she finally stumbled to safety, she prayed, "O Lord, when will you stop with all

the obstacles?"

The Lord answered, "Don't complain, daughter; this is how I treat all my friends."

Teresa replied, "That's why you have so few of them."

The greatest of all God's prophets sits in Herod's prison cell, alone with his doubts.

He sends his disciples to the one he baptized with his lonely, mocking question: Are you

the one..., or are we to wait for another?

Jesus sends back an unsatisfying answer.

Go and tell John what you hear and see, which of course is all any of us can do.

Theological arguments ring hollow in hell.

In the grip of suffering and tragedy and prison, right answers don't help.

Who cares how a flashlight works when you don't have one?

Jesus tries to widen John's view through eyes that have also looked into John's.

Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.

John would surely hear the echoes of Isaiah, recognize the drumbeat of the faith.

He would surely see the lives transformed in the direction of God's will, which is what

his baptism and preaching were all about.

And, as professor Craig Koester points out, he would likely also think, "and I'm still in jail."

Why, O Lord?

We can not and dare not presume to answer for God because we do not know.

It's not for lack of trying.

Everything happens for a reason, we tell ourselves, because it has to be true, right?

It has to be true because...well, because we so desperately want it to be.

Maybe there is no reason.

Or maybe there is a reason we don't want to hear, a reason that would thicken the

darkness rather than lighten it.

Or maybe there are reasons sometimes and no reasons other times, and maybe there is a pattern, and maybe there isn't, and maybe there are patterns and randomness, and maybe there is an order that includes some chaos, or maybe life is chaos that includes some order.

We don't really know, and that drives us crazy, so we try our hardest to convince ourselves

that God knows and that God can be trusted.

But John is in jail and the river is fast and deep.

The diagnosis is cancer, which some people overcome, and some people don't.

The blind receive their sight, but not all of them.

The poor have good news brought to them, but not all of them.

There are more people who are homeless than there are blankets and houses to provide.

They say what good have you done, by saving just this one, Tony Arata sings.

It's like whispering a prayer in the fury of a storm, which we also do today, because

prayer does make a difference, except when it doesn't.

Some are healed, and some are not; the prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective, but not guaranteed.

And of course this time of year intensifies the darkness as much as it does the l