The Hardest Question was an experiment in preaching the Revised Common Lectionary. All posting is finished, but the content will continue to live here in archive form. You can discover new content by former THQ curator Russell Rathbun at Question the Text.


Morpheus, I mean John…

Liberating the Comatose and Comfortable.

by Roy M. Terry IV

Gospel Reading:  Luke 3:7-18

For Sunday, December 16, 2012: Year C—Advent 3

This week’s Gospel reminds me of the movie “The Matrix.” Morpheus, the “John the Baptist” of this movie (who dresses a heck of a lot better than John), is on a mission to call out the old order and bring to light the truth—namely that we are all plugged into the machine (the Matrix).

Morpheus proclaims he is not “the One” but is seeking and preparing the way for “the One!” Along the way Morpheus has liberated a few from their coma, welcoming them to join him in seeking the One who will save them all. The only problem is that life connected to the machine is a whole lot easier, and more beautiful, than life outside the Matrix.

Outside the System

Outside the Matrix one finds a world darkened by the very system that was created for the comfort of insiders. Disconnection from the machine initiates a life of living on the edge, battling the system, not participating in the creature comforts, being chased by drones, who like our own immune system seek to rid the world of anything that might contribute to its demise.

Outside the system, the Matrix identifies an individual person as a virus. The Matrix needs the comatose and comfortable in order to feed off their energy. In return the Matrix creates the illusion of freedom, security and life for those plugged in.

Outside the system liberation and freedom are a constant struggle.

Who Warned You?

In the text John offers baptism as a preparation for the One who is to come. Stepping outside (literally), John calls for those who want new life to repent so they might see what’s really going on.

Crowds come for this baptism but what do they want baptism for? For John this is not a sign/action for self-gratifying assurance and safety within the old systems and institutions of the world. Through his baptism John offers the chance to break away from all the trappings of the Matrix. Where you find John and his proclamation of “good news,” is in the wilderness far away from the cultural safety net. So if you think this is all about making life easier and more comfortable—well…

Everything is Going to Change

John calls for repentance—metanoia—a complete turning around. Everything you thought was real, comforting, secure, and free has been a lie. A new life is coming but first you must break free.

To disconnect from the patterns of this world is not easy for everything is about to change. The dawning implications of what John’s baptism would require was not lost on his Lukan audience. By merely asking their questions, they let on to their awareness of being on the brink of a totally different, and yes, difficult, reality.

The Hardest Question

So what is the good news in John’s proclamation? Isn’t good news usually associated with that which is easy?

Rev. Roy Terry serves as the pastor of Cornerstone United Methodist Church in Naples, FL. In addition to working at the church, Roy enjoys supporting his wife and daughter’s equestrian pursuits, playing in the Holy Moly Band, getting a few tattoos and singing classic rock tunes at the local sports pub. He has been published in Christian Century, Duke Divinity School’s publication Divinity, The Ekklesia Project, and was a contributor in Diana Butler Bass’ work on re-traditioning churches, From Nomads to Pilgrims and Christianity for the Rest of Us.

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