Summary: John the Baptist calls us to repentance which calls us to live differently, as the body of Christ
2 Advent A Matthew 3:1-12 9 December 2001
Rev. Roger Haugen
Once there was a man who was a bit of a bum. Talented and successful, he neglected his wife and his children, his work and his friends, his community and his colleagues. He drank too much, lost his temper too often, was cruel too many times. Then one day he had a tremendous religious experience and was transformed totally. He became a good and loving husband, a generous and sympathetic father, a diligent and creative worker, a loyal friend, a dedicated member of his community. He was sober and kind and patient and gentle. At first everyone rejoiced in the change. They said that they had known all along that he was a good man. Then they realized that the change was for real and that, to continue their relationships with him, they would have to change too. He lost his wife and his family and his job and his friends. He went back to being a bum and got everything back. Then he had another religious experience and once more became a new man. What do you think happened after that?
Today we have John the Baptist coming out of the wilderness, wearing wild animal skins, smelling badly, and preaching repentance. He is not genteel or polite, he offends all those who might be offended but he cuts right to the chase, “repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near. You have been waiting for the Messiah, pay attention – he’s coming.” He is saying to the people of his time, and also to us, “repent, get ready, prepare the way of the Lord.” Cut through all the distractions, eliminate the nonsense in your lives and pay attention. Stop turning away from God, God is in search of you so quit running after all that glitters.
Following the news of ex-Beatle George Harrison’s death, "Today" show anchor Anne Curry interviewed Anthony DeCurtis, a writer for Rolling Stone magazine. DeCurtis talked at length about Harrison’s search for a meaningful spiritual life. Curry said, "Apparently Harrison was the most spiritual of the group [the Beatles]; in a recent interview, he said, ’Everything else in life can wait, but the search for God cannot wait.’"
John the Baptist said, “but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals.” God is coming, pay attention; stop running after that which does not matter.
But there is a group of church leaders who have a problem with John. He doesn’t dress properly, he speaks without proper decorum, he smells. How can they pay any attention to what he says – he obviously doesn’t belong in the right circle.
On the television show M*A*S*H, Dr. Charles Emerson Winchester III made it clear what separated him from everybody else. "I’m a Winchester," he was heard to say more than once. For him, it was his family name that made him superior to everyone else. Other people carry other burdens. One woman received her education at Harvard and found a way to work Harvard into every conversation. That’s what John the Baptist was dealing with in this lesson. In scripture’s