Bugs for Lunch!

"Bugs for Lunch"? sounds like something straight from Fear Factor, doesn't it? Creepy Crawly Cuisine: The Gourmet Guide to Edible Insects. Man eating bugs. Fear Factor? No, these were all books on Amazon.com that I found when I went looking for information on John the Baptist for today's sermon. I even found an article from Australia about eating grubs, the edible larvae of cossid moths - they're delicious sauted, 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 it up.

Jesus said John the Baptist was great
The greatest man who ever lived
And if old John was with us today
Hed tell us something like this

If youre on the wrong road, go the other way!
If you have two coats, give one away!
When Jesus comes, prepare the way!
and dont forget your bugs.

He ate bugs for lunch! Yuk! Yuk! 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 me smile!

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: Repent.

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 saying. Repent!

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 your present.

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 heart transformed."

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 all.

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 with you.

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!!!!

Read other sermons by Pastor Faye