Open Wide – Br. Luke Ditewig

Br. Luke DitewigLuke 3:1-6

Shopping these days feels like sensory overload. We’re bombarded with messages: Your home can be the best with these trees, ornaments, garlands, and nicknacks. Here’s the present for you. Get ready—Christmas is coming! December and year round, our culture tells us to look good and to have the right stuff. That what we have and how we look determines who we are.

We want to have our living spaces in order before anyone comes over. Don’t drop by because it—and I—might not be together. This is hard for me. I have always strived to keep my rooms organized with my loose ends and junk nicely hidden under the bed, in the closet, or under carefully draped fabric.

While it may not be an orderly space, what’s particularly important to your presenting image? We’re taught to consider what we wear, the stuff we own, the people we know, the places we’ve been, and what we have done. We consider what we let others see and for what they don’t see. Get ready—someone is looking at us!

In our Gospel text, someone is coming. God comes to John in the wilderness: not a fun place out in nature, but a harsh land where few people go. John looks odd, dressed in camel’s hair eating locusts and honey as Matthew and Mark tell us. An odd man in an odd place, and lots of people came from all around the region. John is not fancy nor fashionable, but many people listen and do what he invites. John is not the awaited guest; he points to Jesus. Get ready—God is coming!

John is part of the larger plan. Previous prophets, including Isaiah, told of John, a voice “crying out in the wilderness.” John did not pretend to be someone he was not, as we are prone to do. He took on the simple ascetic lifestyle of prophets before, enabling him to focus on his task. Despite crowds who come to hear and were baptized by him, John knew he was preparing the way for Jesus. “This is not about me. One far greater is coming. I’m not even worthy to untie his shoes.”[i]John pointed to Jesus, so that, as Isaiah said “all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

Salvation is Jesus who loves us when everything is revealed. Jesus loves though we try to portray ourselves as fully good and put together when we are broken and messy inside. God sees through our facades. God goes to absurd lengths to love us, inviting, forgiving, sending prophets to call us back. God invites radical honesty and letting ourselves be loved. Get ready—I want all of you!

To prepare the way of the Lord, John does not say to clean up the city, decorate a palace, or plan a parade. John doesn’t say dress to impress or make your presentable. John proclaimed a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Acknowledge what’s wrong, where you’ve made mistakes, how you’ve hit, hurt and hid. Baptism is death to illusions, to facades, to masks. Isaiah says: mountains and valleys will be leveled out. There will be a clear view. Nothing will hinder. All will walk on straight and smooth paths.

What’s gets in the way between you and God? What do you not want seen? What do you hide? Repent the prophets invite. Admit pride, lust, desire for approval, neglect of others, the evil we have done and the evil done on our behalf.

Preparing the way means opening the door and letting God in to see us as we are. Not masked by new décor, not stuffing piles under the bed. Not putting on the masks of being all put together. Invite God into the honest messiness of our hearts.

This Advent, hear the prophets’ call. The host, indeed the guest, of heaven is coming to us. Christmas is coming. God is coming, saying: I want all of you. As one hymn puts it:

Fling wide the portals of your heart
Make it a temple set apart
From earthly use for heaven’s employ
Adorned with prayer, and love, and joy.

Redeemer, come! I open wide
My heart to Thee, here, Lord abide
Let me Thy inner presence feel
Thy grace and love in me reveal.[ii]

[i]Mark 1:7

[ii]Lift Up Your Heads, Ye Mighty Gates” by Georg Wessel (1590-1635); tr. Catherine Winkworth (1827-1878)

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  1. Elizabeth Hardy on December 17, 2022 at 11:30

    Along with admitting where and whom we have caused hurt or injury we might pause to give thanks for times we have been lifted up and blessed by others in most unexpected ways. Although this is not a ‘message board’ I would just like to say that reading the comment from Carol Bolsover that was posted December 23rd, 2021, (headed ‘Constance’ which interestingly was my mother’s name), brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for your blessing on me. I too find community and hope in the comments others write. Yours gifted me in a way you will never know. Peace, healing and hope to all of the extended SSJD community that shares their faith with others. Elizabeth Hardy+

  2. Elizabeth Hardy on December 20, 2021 at 11:20

    Where I grew up people never called ahead. They just came by. If you weren’t home (no-one locked their door) they might sit down and have a cup of tea from the pot sitting on the stove, wait for you or leave what they had brought. Imagine that that is how we are with God – he doesn’t call first – he just comes by and sits down and waits for us -after giving us the gift he has for us. No time to hide, mask, bury or evade. Scary – but exciting. Thank you for this very novel homily. My favourite of the year. Blessed Christmas and Happy and Healthy New Year to your Br Luke and all the brothers. Elizabeth Hardy+

    • Constance on December 23, 2021 at 14:18

      Thank you Elizabeth Hardy. I’ve read your comments often. I always look for them. Your feedback is always loving and pertinent. I wish you a most blessed Christmas and New Year. May you be gifted with health and happiness. Carol Bolsover

    • Barbara on December 17, 2022 at 11:52

      I so love your comment. Thanks.

  3. Constance on December 4, 2020 at 14:43

    Wonderful message. Congratulations on your ordination tomorrow. May God bless you tomorrow and always.

  4. Rev. John Crosswaite on December 4, 2020 at 08:50

    Br. Luke, once again your words unpack God’s Word. Thank you for this radical honesty… which breaks through many facades.

    And joy and prayers tomorrow for your ordination to a life of service and surrendering to God. Blessings to you and to your bothers at the monastery and your parents.


  5. Alex on December 4, 2020 at 08:16

    Thank you for sharing your gifts for interpretation and for clear, loving expression. These come through even in silent retreat. Blessings on your upcoming ordination.

  6. Carolyn J. smith on December 4, 2020 at 05:40

    Thank you Brother Ditewig for the relevant reminder!!
    Also congratulations on your up coming Ordination!
    Grace and Peace Carolyn J.Smith

  7. Leslie on December 19, 2019 at 13:19

    Although I don’t disagree with the homily, nor any of the comments, I must balance the unpretentious reception of Jesus “just as I am” with the King who inquired of his guest, “Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?” Yes, my life is disordered. Yes, Jesus comes into my disorder with love. I still am called to continuously amend my disorder to the standards of the King.

  8. David Doolittle on December 19, 2019 at 09:44

    Luke, your comments are always inspiring as they are here. happy christmas! warmly, david doolittle

  9. Jeanne DeFazio on December 19, 2019 at 09:29

    All I can say is “Wow”. Hitting the nail right on the head:

    Sharing this today!

    Jesus loves though we try to portray ourselves as fully good and put together when we are broken and messy inside. God sees through our facades. God goes to absurd lengths to love us, inviting, forgiving, sending prophets to call us back. God invites radical honesty and letting ourselves be loved. Get ready—I want all of you!

    Many thanks

  10. SusanMarie on December 19, 2019 at 08:44

    Very wise words. For me, this is an invitation to accept the messiness of my life and to be okay with God (and humans) seeing it and being with me in it. It’s also an invitation to forgive myself for my internal and external messiness. Thank you.

    • SusanMarie on December 4, 2020 at 08:17

      Br. Luke, I enjoyed reading this again. This message is always and forever an important one, and the more I live into it, the happier I am in the ways that really matter.

      I saw the notice the other day about your upcoming ordination. You are in my prayers. SSJE is blessed by your presence and your commitment, and we, your readers, the beneficiaries!

      • Christopher Rigdon on December 18, 2022 at 22:43

        I needed THIS message!

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