Thursday, December 1, 2011

Advent IX

Few of us who call ourselves preachers would choose to be identified as "the voice of one crying out in the wilderness." (Mark 1:3) Such may be descriptive of the preaching of John the Baptist, but we would rather he not be our model. As we read the gospel record about the Baptizer, we see him as a single solitary voice proclaiming a message no one really wants to hear. His preaching was so radical and different, there were no others who might be thought of as homilectical kinsmen.
Those of us who preach are often guilty of wanting our preaching efforts to be liked. The temptation is to choose being liked over preaching with such truth that it is painful and difficult to hear. When John preached his message of repentance that declared something wrong which needed straightening out, he was not concerned about the consequences. He even looked at the religious power brokers of his day and called them "a brood of vipers!" His preaching was offensive, or as we say in rural South Georgia, "It stepped on some toes!" It finally cost him his head.
Unlike John, we often search for another way. In our system, the church is our employer and not pleasing our employer can result in not being employed, or at the very least, working under difficult circumstances. It may be understandable why we might hear ourselves wondering how a part of a sermon might be too strong or offensive and then choosing not to preach it, but in these early days of Advent with John the Baptist prowling about, you cannot help but think about what he would say about us if we chose comfort over faithful forthrightness.

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