John the Baptizer Bugs Me

“I’m just saying…John the Baptizer Bugs Me”

I started looking ahead toward Advent this afternoon – planning my preaching, teaching, and leadership initiatives for season.  My aim was just to paint the grand picture, but all afternoon I’ve been bothered by one passage in particular.  On the Second Sunday of Advent, I’ll be preaching from Matthew 3:1-12, telling the story of that pesky prophet named John who was called to “Prepare the Way of the Lord.”

People like John have always bugged me.  They expect more from me – from the church.  They are so demanding.  What’s worse is that they are not all talk.  I can deal with those kind of folks, the ones who talk a big game, but never actually suit up and enter the fray.  But folks like John actually practice what they preach.  They prod with both their words and their example

When folks like John show up in church, they cause nothing but turmoil.  They ask pesky questions – the rhetorical kind that answer themselves and make us feel uncomfortable.  I wish they’d just leave me alone. 

“There are plenty of other churches in our community,” I think to myself.  “What don’t they go there and leave me and my nice little congregation alone?’

My church is actually doing pretty well.  Oh, we have our challenges, like everyone else.  Money is tight.  There are plenty of grey hairs in our fellowship.  Still, we are growing a bit.  Attendance in worship is up 8-10% annually over each of the last several years.  We’ve almost doubled our Sunday morning Bible study participation over the last eighteen months. 

We are a faith community that is developing a social conscious.  For example, this past week a small group in my congregation got the bright idea of giving food and fellowship to the homeless in our city.  This group of five or six individuals gave away over 70 bagged lunches and built relationships along the way.  This wasn’t a top-down ministry project, but a bottom up, organic sort of thing.  These people felt the passion and acted on it.  That’s pretty special, if you ask me.

Sure, for the most part we operate with the archaic “attractional” to doing church.  Bring them in and love the best we can.  But at least we do that well – at least the loving them the best we can part of the equation.  Bringing them in is a work in progress.  Meanwhile a significant portion of our fellowship is sensing that God is calling us to become an intentional “missional community.”  That’s a much more biblical model for being church and it’s pretty exciting. 

So you see, I am pretty comfortable right now with my church.  I don’t need John the Baptizer or any of his disciples messing things up. 

People like John make me feel uncomfortable.  They are wild, feral, crazy, undomesticated, and untamed kinds of people – and they have the audacity to suggest that Jesus is like that, too.  When they read the Gospels, they don’t see the “Hollywood” halo around Jesus head; they see the sweat on his brow.  They don’t see a safety net; they see a bungee-cord.  To them Jesus is a wild man who is always pushing the envelope, calling them to move beyond their comfort zones into unfamiliar territory. 

Characters like John remind us that discipleship is risky business.  It demands of us courageous faith.  They reveal what Jesus was like in their behavior and they call us to follow him with their words.  That’s what it means to “prepare the way for the Lord.”

The “John the Baptizer” kinds of people point toward Jesus – not the sweet, sanitized Jesus whose picture hangs on the wall in the hallway outside my office.  They point us toward the wild man Jesus who lives out there on the edge and invites us to join him there as heralds of the Kingdom of God.                        

That’s what makes me so uncomfortable. 

How about you?

One Response to “John the Baptizer Bugs Me”

  1. When they read the Gospels, they don’t see the “Hollywood” halo around Jesus head; they see the sweat on his brow. They don’t see a safety net; they see a bungee-cord.

    This ‘ride’ can be so exciting! So grateful Jesus isnt the boring monk I grew up hearing about!

    Loved it!

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