A sermon preached at John Knox Kirk of Kansas City, Missouri, on December 7, 2014.
Editorial note: I’m working on correcting spacing issues. Thank you for your patience in the meantime.
So….John the Baptist.
As a preacher, John the Baptist wouldn’t have lasted a day
In the Presbyterian Church I grew up in as a child, in southwestern Iowa.
MAYBE he could’ve been the preacher down
At the Pentecostal Church of the Second Blessing
the one in the metal building, you know, out on the outskirts of town,
But NO WAY in my home church.
It’s not that we were some big, shoe-shined, tall-steeple, metropolitan church.
Mine was a typical Presbyterian church in rural America,
A church that had choirs for all ages,
And a good youth group
Church camp up at Knox Knolls…
And elders who looked like elders,
And deacons who acted like deacons,
And trustees—well, I was never sure what the trustees did,
But they sure looked sober and respectable doing it.
In short, as I heard people there say:
maybe we weren’t all that great,
But we weren’t all that bad either.
How’s that for a church motto?
Law-abiding, taxpaying, comfortably middle class. Don’t rock the boat.
That was my church.
We were the kind of church that liked our religion
in small, controlled, organized doses.
Nothing fanatical, please. But nothing very challenging, either.
Frankly, we seemed perfectly happy for God
never to say anything to us other than
what we expected to hear already,
And all that we expected to hear at my church
was “I’m okay. You’re okay.”
“God is nice; therefore, we should be nice to each other[i].”
So, if John the Baptist had pulled up one day as the New Preacher
looking like a cross between Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead
And “captain caveman”—
–with his unkempt hair and scraggly beard,
and if he moved his wardrobe of one camel’s-hair outfit
into the closet of the pastor’s study,
and put his box of locusts
and jar of wild honey into the pantry—
–eyebrows definitely would have raised.
We’ve all seen eccentric preachers before,
But John would have taken the cake.
…And come to think of it, that cake might have been
the LAST thing he got to eat on his new job.
Whispers would reach crescendo,
Calls would be made, you know—
“Who did we offend to get a pastor who looks like THIS?”
Maybe they would have hung in through the first sermon,
But the first time John stepped into the pulpit and unleashed
One of his fire-breathing,
–that would have been the end of him.
The Personnel Committee would meet…and, POOF—no more John. [Read more…]