Sermon for Sunday, December 5, 2021 – “A Deep Clean”

Second Sunday of Advent – Good Shepherd Lutheran Church – Decorah, Iowa – Rev. Amy Zalk Larson

Click here to read scripture passages for the day.

Beloved of God, grace to you and peace from the One who is, who was and who is to come.

I surprised my husband recently by deep cleaning the kitchen. It wasn’t just that I was cleaning, though that is a fairly rare occurrence. It was also that I was cleaning on a Sunday afternoon. At

our house, Sunday afternoon is Sabbath. We nap, take long walks, bake, read, whatever feels nourishing. Most important for Sabbath is that we do not do any laundry at all.  Supper is popcorn, cheese, and apples. It is a time of rest, a time to nurture our spirits.

But this recent Sunday afternoon what my Spirit most needed was to clean. I was feeling so weighed down by the state of the kitchen. One cupboard had gotten so full that things fell on 

my head every time I opened it. I couldn’t tell if we had any powdered sugar or four bags of it.

Dust and cobwebs and even box elder bugs had found their way into the corners of the pantry.

I knew that somewhere there were canned goods we could share. I needed to scrub and purge 

and make space.

Often, I feel those are burdensome, onerous tasks. I don’t mind picking up and doing light clean- ing. I just rarely have the time or energy for a really deep clean. But that Sabbath it felt really lib- erating to scour the kitchen. When it was done, I felt such relief and gratitude. Last weekend, I 

took on my clothes closet and dresser. Again, the cleaning and clearing brought relief, freedom, space, and gratitude.

During Advent, we are called to a similar kind of cleansing, self-examination and clearing out, personally and as communities. Today, the prophet Malachi describes a refiner’s fire and fuller’s soap – tools God uses to cleanse and purify us. John the Baptist calls us to a baptism of repent-

ance for the forgiveness of sins. He speaks of valleys being lifted, mountains leveled, obstacles cleared.

Malachi and John ask something deeper than a quick touch, spot clean. Their Advent calls to self-examination and repentance involve a reorientation of our lives. This a clear out the closets, 

get the dust from inside the light fixtures, flip the mattress over kind of cleaning. It is the kind of work we’re doing as a congregation in acknowledging, confessing, and lamenting the ways we participate in systemic racism and white supremacy.

Often, this can seem like burdensome, onerous work. Yet, the work of self-examination and re- pentance can also be so liberating, such a relief, so life-giving. There is much about the state of 

the world today that weighs us down. Literal and metaphorical stuff is falling out all over the place, hitting us over the head. There’s all this crud that keeps getting in the way of us seeing and 

accessing and sharing what is good. In the face of all of this, we could rage against it all. We could rage against others. We could try desperately to do something, anything, to help make ourselves feel better. We could despair and disengage, seeking only our own comfort.

The Advent call to repentance and self-examination offers us another way. We’re asked to join God in cleansing and clearing and making space within and around us so that we and all people can see God’s salvation, so that we and all people can see what God is doing to save and recreate us and our world. We’re called to examine our patterns of thinking, consuming, acting and being in com- munity, called to remove obstacles that prevent us and others from experiencing the abundant life God longs for us all to know.

This can seem burdensome and yet at the same time, it can also feel like not enough. That’s what we’re hearing often about the draft Racial Justice Statement. Shouldn’t we focus on action? We do need to act but we need to ground it always with deeper work, with clearing and cleansing. That’s what we seek to do in the statement. It’s what we hope to do with small groups reading and re-

flecting upon the book Me and White Supremacy this January and February. This book is a really helpful tool for reflection and self-examination. I encourage you to read it and to participate in a group. Watch for details coming soon.

This is hard, important work and we do not do it alone. We are joining what God is already doing.

God is always working to remove obstacles. John the Baptism promises that God lifts up valleys and tears down mountains to make a way in the wilderness when it seems there is no way. Mary uses similar language when she sings after learning she will give birth to Jesus. She sings that Jesus’ coming means the hungry are filled, the rich emptied, the lowly lifted up, and the proud brought down from their thrones and made low. Together John and Mary proclaim God is at work everywhere – in the natural environment, in political structures, in the distribution of food and resources, in our communities – to bring salvation and life.

We are called to join this cleansing, clearing, reorienting work of God. It begins within each of us and moves outward. This is daunting and challenging and so life-giving and liberating. And it is not our work alone.

God is already and always at work, to make a way for us, for you.

God is already and always at work to guide our feet in the way of peace.

Let’s take a moment for silent prayer.