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Knoxville, TN, United States
Interim Pastor of Evergreen Presbyterian Church (USA), Dothan, AL.

Monday, December 11, 2017

John The Very Anxious Baptist

2017-12-10 Mark 1:1-8 John The Very Anxious Baptist


Only 15 days 'til Christmas.


Did anyone else's blood pressure just go up?


It's supposed to be the Sunday of peace.

We lit a candle of peace.

We sing about peace.

Peace on earth.

The Prince of Peace.

Sleep in heavenly peace.

So for the preacher to remind you that the end is nigh kinda kills the mood.


It's not my fault.

It's that Apostle Mark.

Mark's telling of the gospel jumps right in, with both feet, splashdown into the icy cold waters of un-peace and unrest.

Mark has no Christmas story.

Mark has no sweet baby Jesus child.

In Mark, Jesus just appears, a full-grown man.

He leans his ear toward the distant howling of that weird preacher, John, who also just appears.

John's out there, in the wilderness, waist-deep in the river, baptizing everyone he can get his hands on.

John proclaims the coming of Jesus, but John does not say, "Merry Christmas."

Not even, "Happy Holidays."

John screams at the people, "Repent!" Repent you brood of vipers! For your end is near!

The way he says it, you don't know if you've got 15 days or 15 seconds.


We all want peace.

We all want the world to be at peace.

We all want our families to be at peace.

We all want our souls to be at peace.

But the good news of Jesus Christ does not start with peace.

Not in this book.

In Mark, the good news begins with un-peace, with John, a very anxious baptist, who's making everybody else anxious, too.




Mark 1 says,

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins….

Now John was clothed with camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.

Kathy called a few days ago and asked if she could do the Children's Sermon.

That was a really sweet thing to do this week.

If you ever want to make a pastor's day, call and ask if you can do the Children's Sermon.

But, still, I had mixed feelings, because I had a very Biblical idea that I thought the kids would love.

First, and sadly, you can not order locusts on Amazon.

But you CAN get cicadas.

A can of 100% REAL, edible Cicadas (double exclamation point).

For only $9.99 and free shipping.

Meat Maniac Inc. – promises: "These cicadas are oven roasted and dehydrated… not fried, with no colors or perservatives (sic)."

"Dried Cicadas contain over 50% protein and are low in fat" and "they have a delicate nutty flavor."

"There are approximately 10 large cicadas per can."

Which would have been more than enough for Children's Sermon.


But, Kathy called.

Sorry, kids.

Maybe next year.

All this is to say, John was weird, like a prophet of old.

A strange, sour man.

You think his food was hard to swallow, try sinking your teeth into his anxiety-producing message.

This is not the time to be jolly.

'Tis the season...

to repent, for the end is near, the kingdom is at hand.




You know the problem with the world these days?

There's just too much to worry about.

And not nearly enough time to worry about it all, even if you give up sleeping, and some of us have.

At least we have a football coach.

The world just feels like it's on edge.

The edge of something.

Something big.

Now, I doubt the people who came to John were all that different from us.

Their world was smaller.

But their worries were just as countless.

Their world was on edge, too.

So John appears.

All edgy.

Dressed weird.

Eating weird.

Shouting at everybody.

Quick! You, heathen! Get thee baptized! Because He's coming.

Not exactly sure who He's gonna be.

But he's big, and powerful.

I'm not worthy to unlace his shoes.

I use water, but He will baptize you with the fire of the Holy Spirit.


Now, the people probably weren't sure exactly what that meant.

But they had an idea.

A very worrisome idea.

You see, since the time of their great-grandparents' great-grandparents, they'd been told that someday, the Messiah would come.

The one to bring God's great day of reckoning upon the earth.

"The great and dreadful day of the LORD" (Mal 4:5).

"The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes" (Joel 2:31).

But first, "a messenger" will appear, a voice, crying out in the wilderness, "Prepare the way of the Lord!"

And out of nowhere, here's John the Baptist.

Doing exactly what the scripture said.

Doing bible-y, prophety things.

Eating bugs, for goodness' sake.

He's the real deal.

The people see him.

And they start to think: if he's real, then, maybe… the stories from the Bible… maybe they're really real, too.



And maybe our end is nigh.

Maybe our end is nigh.

How's your blood pressure, now?





Every week, we pray, "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done."

Be careful what you pray for.

We say the words, but we have no idea what we're asking.

We have no idea how dangerous this prayer could be.

What we mean is, "My kingdom come, my will be done."

You don't want peace. You can't handle the peace.

Not God's peace.

What we want is to be pacified. Distracted. Entertained.

We want Jesus to come on our terms.

To come whistling down the road of wishes.

To slide down the chimney with gifts for the good boys and girls.


You don't want God's apocalyptic peace.

The peace John and Jesus proclaimed.

The peace where peacemakers are the Children of God.

The peace where the poor are housed, the hungry are fed, the meek inherit the earth.

The peace where the rich and the full are sent away weeping and gnashing their teeth.

We don't want the peace of God's justice.

Because that would mean the ways of the world would have to change something mighty.

It would mean we'd have to change.

We'd have to repent.

Just like John told us.




John said, "Repent! For the kingdom of heaven has come near."

Other translations say, "the kingdom of heaven is at hand."

Take your pick.

The repenting stays the same.

When we hear "repent" we think apologizing.

We think it means being deeply and sincerely sorry.

And maybe you should be.

Maybe there are things you need to feel sorry over.

Maybe you should tell someone you've hurt you're sorry.

Apologize. And make amends as best you can.

But that's not what John meant.

God is not moved by how bad you feel.

John's repentance isn't about working up a good apology.

It's about changing your ways.

Changing the culture.

Literally, the word means, turning.

Turning things around. Turning upside down.

Turning from sin and turning to the ways of righteousness.

It's a change of attitude, a change of mind, a change of spirit.

A change of how we all treat each other all the time, every day.


We're witnessing an example of this kind of repentance right now.

Men in positions of power are being called out for the ways we've treated women and other men, when the cameras are off and the doors are locked.

The mighty are falling, someone new every day. And it's painful to watch.

Almost as painful as it is for the women who say, me too.


If we want peace, true peace, the lasting peace of Christ, we've gotta wade into the waters of ice-cold injustice.

We've gotta feel the discomfort of others.

We've gotta shake in the shoes of other people.


Peace is not the absence of suffering.

Peace is suffering made meaningful.

If we want repentance, if we want peace, we've got to own our anxiety.

We've got to claim our worries and face them.

We've got to take responsibility for the unrighteous ways we treat each other, and then correct ourselves, correct our workplaces, correct our homes, in the name of God.

Then – then – there can be peace.

Then – then – Christ can come.

Then – then – we'll be lifting up the valleys, we'll be making the paths will be straight, and the way of the Lord will be prepared.




They say you should live each day as if it was your last.

I know what they mean, but that just makes me anxious.

I wonder, what if we lived each day as if Christ was coming in 15 days.

Two whole weeks and a day.

Suddenly, that seems like a lot more time.

Time to get stuff done.

Time to check things off the list.

Time to do the work of repentance.


The kingdom of heaven is at hand.

It's near.

But not quite within reach.

It's still a few days away.

There's a lot of time between now and Christmas.

Time enough for us all to make some peace.