Summary: This sermon is about keeping perspective in our ministry.
Isn’t it great when we meet someone who has their life in perspective? I mean they don’t have an inflated view of who they are or their importance.
It’s a Wonderful Life is one of my all time favorite Christmas movies, if not one of my favorite movies period. Most of us are familiar with the story line. George Bailey, played by Jimmy Stewart, grows up in a small town in New York. He is set to go off to college, after working and saving, when his father dies. The board of directors demands that George take over the business. He says okay, and gives the money to his younger brother to go to college. The Great Depression hits and he manages to save the family business. His partner, Uncle Billy looses some money and George takes the heat, facing a likely prison sentence. George contemplates suicide. As he is ready to kill himself, his guardian angel, Clarence, shows up. While George is taking a tour of the town with Clarence to see what life would be like if he had never been born, his wife, Mary, is scouring the town to drum up help for her husband. George winds up back a home, and much to his surprise, the whole town turns up at his house with cash to help him out of the crisis. George never lost his perspective. He was the biggest businessman in town, except for the villain, Mr. Potter. By far, he was the most popular man in town. He had helped hundreds of people build their own homes. He never let himself think that he was “Mr. Big.” Hundreds turned out to help him when he needed it, but he would have never asked. He would not have believed that anyone would help. Even though he was the most popular man in town, he never let that affect him.
Turn with me to Mark 1:4-11.
Read Mark 1:4-11.
John the Baptist had a great perspective.
John was an incredibly popular man. He was the talk of the town. People gathered at the water coolers at the office and talked about this great prophet. He made headlines in all the newspapers. CNN sent crews to do reports live from the side of the Jordan River. People flocked from the capital city of Jerusalem, and from all over the area. Jerusalem was some twenty miles away. That’s no big deal today, when we can just hop in the minivan and cover twenty miles in less than a half-hour. In John’s day, that was about a day’s journey. Add to that the fact that the walker had to descend some 4,000 feet down a rather steep incline to reach him, made the journey all the more difficult. Think about this, when the traveler wanted to return he had to climb up 4,000 feet. That is nearly a mile down and a mile up. People came from everywhere to see this man.
Back in the mid-90s, we went to Indiana to visit Tammy’s grandpa. On the way back we kept seeing all these VW microbuses. After seeing a couple dozen of these, we asked each other, “Why are there all these VW microbuses?” Then it hit me, I remembered seeing a story of the news that there was an incident at a Grateful Dead concert in Indianapolis. The concert was canceled and the next one was in St. Louis. So we traveled with hundreds of these “Dead Heads” as they are called from Indianapolis until we hit St. Louis. There was something about the Grateful Dead that attracted a large following. We saw license plates from just about every state in the country: Pennsylvania, Utah, California, Texas, among others. People flocked from all over to witness a Grateful Dead concert.
Why were people flocking to John? Why were people walking several days and climbing that 4,000-foot valley to witness his preaching and be baptized by him? There are several reasons.
First, he was the first authentic prophetic voice in almost 400 years. The last time anyone had here the voice of God through a prophet was 400 years before in the person of Malachi. To put that in perspective, the United States is a little over 225 years old. The Pilgrims came to the New World in 1620, which is a little under 400 years. The voice of God had been silent over that same span of time.
The second reason is that lives were being changed. John was preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Repentance is more than just being sorry. It indicates a change in the direction of life. Whenever lives are changed for the better, people are attracted. If we are apart of a Church where lives are changed, people will want to be apart of it.