Friday, December 14, 2012
John the Baptist is not the kind of guy who holds anything back. Calling the Pharisees and Sadducees, "A brood of vipers!" does not mark him as one who lacks boldness and courage. If he were a United Methodist preacher, we would call it a "moving sermon." And, of course, as he preached about a baptism of repentance, he was telling the ordinary folks who listened that only a radical response would be enough to ready themselves for the One who was coming to baptize not with water, but with fire. Repeating a few prayers and tossing a few coins in the collection was no longer going to cut it. Only a radical life style change would do.
This old fire breathing, scripture thumping, prophet would have quite a task in our ecclesiastical culture of watered down religion. He would tell us in a heart beat that what passes for discipleship in the church today is mostly form and ritual with little substance and power. He would warn us there is no time for spiritual pretence and church politics. He would tell us baptism is not a sign of social respectability, but a mark that we are available to Jesus to do whatever He desires for us to do. And, he would get in our face, so close that we could smell the locust and honey on his breath, and tell us to quit doing some of the stuff we are doing and start doing some totally different things.
It is no wonder John the Baptist is Advent's most unpopular guy. Do any of us really want him around? Does anyone really want to hear what he has to say? Is anyone really ready to take serious this business of repentance? Is anyone interested in a changed heart and a changed lifestyle? What one of us would not choose the current spiritual status quo over the radical Word John puts in our face and our heart?