I was released from the hospital a few days ago, having been diagnosed with pneumonia. I did not preach a sermon this week, but have a thought about Saint John the Baptist anyway.
This man is the one whom God called "my messenger"- or "my angel", the meaning of the name Malachi, the prophet who spoke of him in these terms; Malachi foretold that Elijah would come to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers (and the word is "fathers" rather than the generic "parents" of the New Revised Standard Scam). This "angel," the one who came in the spirit and power of Elijah, none greater born of women according to our Lord, made a most remarkable statement. We all know the words from John 3:30: "He must increase, but I must decrease."
In a time when many people want to dodge the plain duty of obeying the words of scripture by asking the hypothetical "what would Jesus do?", in hopes of having no clear answer (at least nothing as clear as what is written), I ask "what would John say?"
Contrasted against clerics who teach that God calls no one anywhere to repent, as they build "affirming" churches, John says, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
Contrasted against teachers who promise universal salvation, John warns that "the axe is laid to the root of the tree."
Contrasted against leaders who build their own little kingdoms in open and unashamed disunity, calling for a following of their own, John tells his own disciples to follow the Lamb of God rather than himself.
Contrasted against the lure of human ego, he welcomes his own decrease, and has the humility to lay down and die a martyr's death, knowing that God will succeed when he steps aside.
It takes courage to listen to what John says. But, it is the only way to be prepared for the coming of the Lord.