A number of years ago a couple traveled to the offices of an Adoption
Society in England to receive a baby. They had been on the waiting list a
long time. They had been interviewed and carefully scrutinized. Now at last
their dreams were to be fulfilled. But their day of happiness was another's
Arriving at the offices of the Society they were led up a flight of stairs to a waiting room. After a few minutes they heard someone else climbing the stairs. It was the young student mother whose baby was to be adopted. She was met by the lady responsible for the adoption arrangements and taken into another room. Our friends heard a muffled conversation and a few minutes later footsteps on the stairs as the young mother left. They heard her convulsive sobbing until the front door of the office was closed. Then, there was silence.
The lady in charge then conducted them next door. In a little crib was a six week old baby boy. On a chair beside it was a brown paper bag containing a change of clothes and two letters. One of these, addressed to the new parents, thanked them for providing a home for her baby and acknowledged that under the terms of the adoption each would never know the other's identity. Then the young mother added one request. Would they allow her little son to read the other letter on his eighteenth birthday? She assured them that she had not included any information about her identity. The couple entrusted that letter to a lawyer and one day the young man will read the message which his mother wrote on the day when with breaking heart, she parted with him.
I wonder what she wrote? If I had to condense all I feel about life and love into a few precious words what would I say? I would have no time for trivia. I would not be concerned about economics, politics, the weather, the size of house or the type of car. At such a time I would want to dwell on the profundities, on what life was all about and what things were absolutely essential.
John in the desert was in the great tradition of the Hebrew prophets. He was aware that time was running out. In his burning message he had no time for peripheral matters. He was not playing Trivial Pursuit nor was he prepared to splash about in the shallows. Soon the sword of Herod's guard would flash and his tongue would lie silent in the grave. Superficial 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 frivolous things such as his dress, his diet and his fierce declamatory oratory. They wanted to interview him and then tell all their friends about their remarkable experience. "Who are you?" they asked. His answer was curt: "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 to their ears was clear: Repent.
There comes a moment when the preacher longs for his hearers to lose sight of everything except his message. "Don't listen to my accent. Don't look at my clothes. Don't comment on my style. Don't search my biographical details for my University pedigree. Just listen to what I am saying. Repent!
I would like to suggest this morning that Repent was the first component of his message. There are two others. Let's take a look at them:
1. First, John's message called people to Repentance.
2. Second, John told people to Share.
3. The third thrust of John's message was Serve.
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