Summary: Can you imgaine what fun John the Baptist would be as your local vicar

NR/SMM 05-12-04

Mt. 3:1-11 John the Baptist’s ministry

Story: Have you ever stopped to think what would happen if Bishop Graham appointed John the Baptist as your local vicar instead of me.

Ursula don’t answer that!

Imagine yourself asking John the Baptist round for dinner.

What would you have expected?

1. His clothes.

He wouldn’t have turned up in an Armani suit and a Pierre Chardin shirt.

What you would have got was a rugged man with a slightly dishevelled look.

And if we were honest, he’d probably look more like a gypsy than what you’d expect of the vicar.

2. His diet

And if you asked him if he had any dietary

Requirements - he would tell you that he’s

vegetarian. And he would then probably add:

“Well actually I’m into locusts and honey.”

That would be enough to drive any hostess up the wall. Where can you get locusts at this time of the year?

3. His conversation

And then I wonder what his topic of conversation over the dinner table would be.

John the Baptist had few social graces.

When the Pharisees and Sadducees came out to look at his work - did he welcome them as honourable representatives of the religious establishment?

Did he smile and exchange pleasantries over


Did he try to engage them in polite conversation Did he ask them about their work or for their own perspective on the Messiah?

Did he meet with them at the World Council of Churches to further interfaith dialogue?

No - but what he did do was to call them a bunch of poisonous snakes that were soon to be consumed by the flames of hell?

Not exactly the way to make friends was it?

4. His first sermon at Christmas

Could you imagine his first Christmas sermon – in St Nicholas (St Mary in the Marsh). Actually when you’ve heard mine you might rather wish you had John the Baptist!

What would his message have been be? Would he have told us simply to go on “being nice to one another?”

Or would he have preached a message of

repentance - with fire and enthusiasm.

5. John the Baptist was not a conformer

Obviously someone had forgotten to put Dale Carnegie’s book “How to make friends and influence people” in his Christmas stocking.

The world, in which we live - demands conformity. It demands that we live and think and act just like everybody else.

Those - who have the courage to resist conforming - may face great opposition. They will often be ostracised.

Henry David Thoreau the great American poet once said:

“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music that he hears, however measured and far away”.

Do you hear a different drummer this morning/evening?

It is essential that we listen to the voice of God inside of us.

We are called - as St. Paul said - not to be conformed to this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, so that we may discern what is the will of God.

6. His diplomacy

John the Baptist would not got into the Foreign Office. He just wasn’t diplomatic enough.

When he got round to King Herod, he told Herod that he was committing adultery - and that it was wrong.

And that eventually cost him his head. But he didn’t care for pleasing “the Good and the Great” – He cared only for God.

7. Baptism of John

Our Gospel reading tells us that John the Baptist came “preaching a baptism of repentance for the

forgiveness of sins” (Mk 1:4)

And I think there are three R’s associated with repentance.

1. The first R is recognising our sinfulness

God has high standards and we need to

recognise that we fall short of them. That’s what recognising our sin means.

Mk 1:5 tells us that this is exactly what those first century Jews did: “The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins they were baptised in the Jordan River”

We too have confessed our sins in the words of the General Confession we used this morning.

“We confess that we have sinned against you in thought word and deed

2. The second R is receiving God’s forgiveness

Mk 1: 4 talks about John proclaiming a "baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”

The people that came out to John to receive

God’s forgiveness. Today, this same forgiveness is available to each one of us, through the blood of Jesus Christ.

That what the Absolution is all about, when we said together:

“Almighty God who forgives all who truly repent, have mercy on you, pardon and deliver you from all your sin….”

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