Monday, December 9, 2013

Advent IX

All four gospel writers tell us about John the Baptist.  While none of us doubt his prominent place in the work of God, few of us would volunteer to trade places.  While I have complained to God about some of the places He has put me--at times saying I deserved better and other times lamenting the presence of so many contentious people--no place compares to John's preaching assignment.  His sanctuary was a dusty windblown wilderness and his baptismal place was a river.   Being obedient to his call meant calling the religious pillars of his day a brood of vipers and constantly preaching a message which told his listeners they were sinners in need of radical change.  No family stood behind him.   No clergy colleagues surrounded him.  No preaching awards or popularity prizes were given to him.  In the end, his faithfulness cost him his head.
No one, this preacher included, would choose the ministry road chosen by John.  The truth is we have gotten far too comfortable with our parsonages, compensation packages, pensions, robes, and positions of prominence.  Preaching like John the Baptist is not something we would ever consider doing.  We enjoy our popularity among parishioners and fear too much the damage it might do to our career track when the Bishop pronounced us un-appointable.  Feeding the ecclesiastical machinery with a ton of paperwork is a more suitable and much safer work than using John the Baptist as a ministry role model.
In this second week of Advent when John the Baptist texts abound, it would be appropriate for most us who preach the gospel to begin our message with, "Woe is me, I am lost..."  (Isaiah 6:5)  Before preaching that message about the need of people to repent in order to prepare for the One who is to come, it may well be that we preachers have some repenting to do.  Perhaps, the fact that such never really occurs to us speaks to the seriousness of the heart problem.

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