Summary: Theme is Repentance.... illustration from Shel Silverstein.... taking the garbage out.... John calls us to not "regret" but to take the garbage out of our lives.
In Jesus Holy Name December 5, 2010
Text Matthew 3:1-2,5-6 Advent I–Redeemer Lutheran
“Christmas Is Coming – Are You Ready?”
This past week Colleen was having several blood tests and checkups as part of her requirements for the upcoming mission trip. She ran into one of her doctors who had recently been at the same luncheon that she had attended. This recognition initiated a brief conversation.
The doctor noted that his fellow physicians had told him to slow down a bit. He was spending too much time at the hospital and on call. It was affecting his health. So he mentioned that a reoccurring story he had heard years ago kept playing through his mind.
As the story goes a grandmother and her granddaughter were taking an afternoon walk. It was a walk they took often. The granddaughter said, “Grandma, can I ask you a question?” The answer was: “Of course.” “Grandma, how come you spend so much time reading the bible?” To which the grandmother responded: “I’m cramming for my final exam.”
The doctor then said to Colleen: “I’m doing a lot more reading these days. Getting ready for the final exam.”
There is a final exam coming for all of us. Are you prepared?
This question brings us the River Jordan and a man named John. He was challenging people to be “prepared for the coming of the Messiah.”
All four Gospels tell us that the word of god came to John who began to preach “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” Repentance.
Repentance! Now that could be the problem. John calls out. “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.” Repentance is hard because our favorite phrase is not “I’m sorry”. But “It’s not my fault.”
Over Thanksgiving week end the grand kids dropped by the house for a few hours. In the process of playing, one grandchild bumped the other. It was a hard bump, maybe even a push. But she has been taught well and immediately said, “I’m sorry.”
The words were correct….but did she really mean them? Repentance is not regret! Well, that’s not the kind of pretend repentance John was preaching. John the Baptizer was not calling for “half-hearted” repentance. Many people feel regret over past bad behavior… but repentance is different. John was not speaking about God giving us a tune up, an oil change, a rotation of our tires.”
John knew if people were going to be ready for the coming of the Messiah, they would have to admit they were in need of a Savior. Before they would admit they needed a Savior they would have to confess they were sinners and that kind of confession only comes when the Holy Spirit gives someone a repentant heart.
The poet Shel Silverstein wrote a rather humorous poem called: “Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout Would Not Take the Garbage Out!” Let me share it with you.
Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout
Would not take the garbage out!
She’d scour the pots and scrape the pans,
Candy the yams and spice the hams,
And though her Daddy would scream and shout
She simply would not take the garbage out.
And so it piled up to the ceilings:
Coffee grounds, potato peelings,
Brown bananas, rotten peas,
Chunks of sour cottage cheese.
It filled the can, it covered the floor,
It cracked the window and blocked the door
With bacon rinds and chicken bones,
Drippy ends of ice cream cones,
Prune pits, peach pits, orange peel,
Gloppy glumps of cold oatmeal,
Pizza crusts and withered greens,
Soggy beans and tangerines,
Crusts of black burned buttered toast,
Gristly bits of beefy roasts….
The garbage can rolled on down the hall,
It raised the roof, it broke the wall..
Greasy napkins, cookie crumbs,
Globs of gooey bubble gum,
Cellophane from green baloney,
Rubbery blubbery macaroni,
Peanut butter, caked and dry,
Curdled milk and crusts of pie,
Moldy melons, dried up mustard,
Eggshells mixed with lemon custard,
Cold French fries and rancid meat,
Yellow lumps of cream of wheat.
At last the garbage reached so high
That finally it touched the sky.
And all the neighbors moved away,
And none of her friends would come to play.
And finally Sarah Cynthia Stout
Said, “OK, I’ll take the garbage out!”
But then, of course, it was too late…
The garbage reached across the state,
From New York to the Golden Gate.
And there, in the garbage she did hate,
Poor Sarah met an awful fate,
That I cannot right now relate
Because the hour is too late.
But children, remember Sarah Stout
And always take the garbage out!
We are all like Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout. We have not take the garbage out. We keep our sins, as wretched as they may be, we will not get them out. The garbage of our sins, stinks up our lives. John the Baptist is our reminder; “repent and let Christ take the trash out of your life. Be baptized. Make paths for Him! Flee from the wrath to come! Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.