the article said. John was quite a character - lived a
more rustic life than we can imagine in our era of
comfort and convenience - those of us who think that
we're roughing it by going to a cozy cabin in the
mountains or by crawling into a bed in a travel trailer
or even a down-filled sleeping bag under the stars, just
don't get it. John was called an ascetic, or a nazarite.
This meant he lived as simply as possible, that he took
a personal vow. He wore skins for clothing, camels'
hair, no less - can you imagine how itchy camel's hair
would be? And he ate what was handy - yep - wild honey
and locusts - bugs! A couple years ago, my grandkids
learned a song in Bible School about John the Baptist.
It was called Bugs for Lunch and went something like
this. Not sure I remember the tune - I may have to make
Jesus said John the Baptist
The greatest man who ever lived
And if old John was with us today
He’d tell us something like this …
If you’re on the wrong road,
go the other way!
If you have two coats, give one away!
When Jesus comes, prepare the way!
and don’t forget your bugs.
He ate bugs for lunch! Yuk!
He ate bugs for lunch! Yuk! Yuk! Yuk!
He ate bugs for lunch! Yuk! Yuk! Yuk!
John the Baptist ate bugs for lunch!
Now you know why the thought of John the Baptist makes
There was more about John that
was unsavory besides his diet! He didn't know about the
kind and gentle approach to get folks to prepare the way
for Jesus. He screamed at them - 'you brood of vipers!
Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Repent,
you low lifes! Repent!'
John's behavior was in the great
tradition of the Hebrew prophets like Isaiah. He was
very much aware that time was running out. In his
searing message he had no time for anything that was not
absolutely essential. His lived his beliefs and his
lifestyle proved it. He was not playing Trivial Pursuit
or even Survivor or Fear Factor. Soon the sword of
Herod's guard would swing through the air and John would
be silenced forever. Curious people came out from
Jerusalem to see him. They were intrigued by this
strange phenomenon of a wild man preaching repentance.
They were fascinated by the incredulous sight of his
clothing, his diet and his fierce sermons. They wanted
to be able to tell all their friends about their unusual
experience. "Who are you?" they asked. His answer was
short: "I am not the Christ." "Are you Elijah?" "No!"
"Then who are you?" they persisted. They had their
doubts about who he was but his message was quite clear:
Every preacher longs for his or
her hearers to forget everything except her or his
message. "Don't pay attention to my clothes. Don't
listen to my accent. Don't search my academic biography
for my University pedigree. Just listen to what I am
He tells them that just because
they are children of Abraham doesn't mean that the
requirements have been eased or that they can slack off.
We hate to hear John the Baptist say that because we
know how it translates to our situation. We can hear him
now. "Just because you are members of the church, just
because you give your weekly offerings, just because
your great-grandparents were in this church, just
because you've been on the council, just because you are
the minister, doesn't mean you can just sit back and
take it easy and give in to this temptation of thinking
this matter of being Christian is under control." In
other words, don't presume your past has taken care of
Billy Graham, who has often
played the 20th century role of John the Baptizer, had
these comments about the disease running rampant in our
world: "We're suffering from only one disease in the
world. Our basic problem is not a race problem. Our
basic problem is not a poverty problem. Our basic
problem is not a war problem. Our basic problem is a
heart problem. We need to get the heart changed, the
One of the hallmarks of our age
is the absence of guilt. Many agree with that fact. Some
say its healthy that guilt has fallen from power; others
see it as a bad sign. The absence of guilt in today's
society does make it very difficult to talk about
repentance. For if there is no feeling of guilt, then
the need for repentance is minimal, if it even exists at
In fact, the word repentance is
an antiquated word. It belongs with sackcloth and ashes
and mourners benches. Some see repentance as something
that we do only if we get caught. But repentance is far
more than saying the requisite, "I'm Sorry" if we get
caught cheating on the IRS or on our spouse. Repentance
is not simply turning over a new leaf. Repentance is far
more than starting over again. Repentance is also more
than reciting with every one else the prayer of
confession that we pray each week. It is getting rid of
all our spiritual and emotional, our interior, garbage.
The poet Shel Silverstein wrote
a rather humorous poem called: Sarah Cynthia Sylvia
Stout Would Not Take The Garbage Out! Let me share it
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 taken the garbage out. We hold
onto our sins, as disgusting and wretched as they may
be. We refuse to 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 baptised! Make straight paths for Him! Flee from the
wrath to come! Produce fruit! This is Advent and this is
its message. REPENT!!!!