First Lesson: Isaiah 11: 1-10
Responsive Reading: Psalm 72: 1-7, 18-19
Second Lesson: Romans 15: 4-13
Gospel Lesson: Matthew 3: 1-12
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Homer Simpson was mad! Homer being irresponsible like always, was late bringing the garbage to the curb for pick up. Homer then gets angry as the sanitation workers drive off, then refused to be swayed to turn around at Homer’s outburst. Homer refers to the garbage men as nothing but “trash-eating stink bags.” Springfield Sanitation wasn’t going to pick up Homer Simpson’s trash any more off after this.
Homer Simpson was not one quick to learn a lesson. Homer was never going to apologize for his insults. Homer vows to run for political office to be the new Sanitation Commissioner of Springfield. Homer being known by friends and neighbors as nothing more than a local “hot-head” figures to be a long shot against a beloved public servant in Ray Patterson. Homer Simpson though figured out something important about human psychologically that we love giving people our responsibilities .“Can’t someone else do it?” becomes Homer’s campaign slogan.
Homer was going to reinvent the sanitation workers by bringing round the clock garbage service to the town. Homer was going to see to it that the sanitation workers would be able to remove every smelly diaper at the snap of a finger. Homer’s promises lead to a landslide victory. The start of Homer’s time as Garbage Commissioner is a smashing success. Homer begins to deliver on everything promised. The people of Springfield love Homer Simpson until he blows through the yearly garbage budget in thirty days. Let’s just say Homer Simpson’s big promise of “Can’t someone else do it? Led to the whole town of Springfield being a stinky, mess from which it could never recover.
Homer Simpson’s catchphrase of“Can’t someone else do it?”, certainly has its appeal. The other week, I was in my garage after some of our cold weather. I start up my car only to see the low tire pressure light is on. So what I was going to need to do is drive across town to Leblanc’s, bend down in freezing weather, unscrew the valve caps, and fill the tires up. Doing this had about as much appeal as chipping ice from one’s driveway . I understand “Can’t someone else do it?” certainly having its appeal especially when it comes to religious obligations.
Let me tell a third story, some years ago; there was a gentleman living in a small town on the North Dakota prairie. His alarm goes off at 7:00 AM on a February morning. The gentleman looks outside. The wind is whipping. The temperature is supposed to reach zero on that day maybe. He was planning on going to church that day. There weren’t going to be all that many people there, though. The ones who would show would be kind of weird. The simplest thing to do would go back to bed and miss church that day. 7:15 rolls around, his wife comes into the room. “Honey, honey, you need to get up or else you will be late for church.” The man said, “It’s too cold, I’m not going.” Only for his wife to say “You have to go, Honey, you’re the Pastor.”
What these stories of trash-collecting, cold-weather troubles, and even going to church remind us of are the following that life is going to full of moments where we’re going to be asked to take on tasks that we might not find all that glamorous. The type of tasks that we wish someone else would do for us.
Let me tell you the story today of someone who specialized in doing some of the most unpleasant tasks in life. John the Baptist stood out in a crowd and according to most people not in a good way. The scriptures note John’s strange wardrobe and even stranger diet of wild honey and locusts. Seriously, who wants a preacher that eats bugs without shame? Nothing, John the Baptist did in life was easy. Did John seek to live in the cosmopolitan Jerusalem? No. John the Baptist lived off the grid far away from people. John the Baptist had no formal theological education. John the Baptist didn’t even have a real appealing message preaching nothing but doom, gloom, and baptism. What made John the Baptist stand out though is he had conviction like no one else, even to the point of losing his life.
Something surprising happened to John as he began preaching, he starts attracting followers from all over. In fact, when Jesus was gathering his “disciples,” Jesus choose two of John’s closest followers to be his own (John 1:35). Someone sitting in 1st Century Judea could have come up with a long list of reasons not to listen to John the Baptist; only the Gospel has John the Baptist advancing Jesus’ ministry on Earth like no one else.
Today, we will gather for two important events in the life of our congregation as we not only baptize Everly but receive new members into our fold. Today we as a congregation make a series of promises to walk alongside and support Everly and our new members in the years ahead. Our natural inclination is to think like Homer Simpson that there is someone better than us for this task. What the story of John the Baptist reminds us is that there is no one better than us for the task then who God puts in place to complete it.
Carey Nieuwhof who is a Christian author writes about the challenges facing Christian churches in the 21st century. Nieuhoff writes that the churches that thrive in the 21st century will not necessarily be the ones with the best sermons. People can turn on the T.V. or Internet to find more great preaching and often greater entertainment. Instead, the churches that thrive are going to be the ones that elevate relationships with each and every person that walks into their doors from the youngest infant to the wisest old man.
There is truth to the saying that people are more connected than ever, but also more disconnected than ever.
So what do we want for Everly and our other new members on this day? We want them to embrace a faith that can bring them hope when seemingly nothing but darkness surrounds them in life. We want them to cling to the faith of the promises of Baptism that John the Baptist proclaimed to those who came to see him in the wilderness. We realize this faith will be supported by those closest to Everly who promise to walk alongside her on this day. We (not anybody else) have to be ones to do this to avoid the church becoming nothing but a stinky mess. We have the power to change the world around us often in ways we cannot begin to fathom.
Malcolm Gladwell tells the following story. In 1995, Hush Puppies the classic suede shoe was on the verge of extinction. A mere 30,000 pairs a year were being sold in small family stores and Wolverine the parent company considered them no longer economically viable to produce. Then something strange happened, a couple of company executives received word that their shoe had become hip again in Downtown Manhattan. Retailers who would have never considered Hush Puppies were now selling Hush Puppies. They soon received word that trendsetters couldn’t get enough of Hush Puppies. Pretty soon, prominent fashion designers wanted to incorporate hushpuppies into their shows. By the end of 1995, sales of Hush Puppies were up 14 fold to 430,000 per year. By the end of 1996, Hush Puppies sales had increased another 400% to well over a million and a half pairs sold. In 1997, sales increased yet again. What happened is some time before the Hush Puppies explosion, a few kids in the East Village of Manhattan dared to be different, just like John the Baptist. These kids were going to preach a word that no one else dared to preach. The word of Hush Puppies would soon spread like wildfire. What the tale of Hush Puppies illustrates is how ordinary people no different than you and me possess power to influence others beyond what you can even imagine.
“I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”-Matthew 3:12.
Just think a simple, uneducated country preacher named John in a land far away from this one many years ago starting preaching Baptism for the forgiveness of sins. John’s Baptism like “Hush Puppies” began to spread without explanation. John’s followers would soon become Jesus’ followers who would proclaim a “new baptism” promising “life eternal.” This Baptism comes to Sychar, Today.
As we baptize Everly on this day, we remember that Baptism like Advent is about the future, not the present. Plenty of churches don’t get Baptism because they judge it on account of what they see today. Baptism doesn’t become a reality until the day of Resurrection.
“Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?..For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.”-Romans 6:3,5.
Infants don’t seem to be the best testimony to God’s ability to change the world until we see a little, lowly crying infant lying in a manager. It is infants like these through whom God brings salvation to his people. Amen
 “Trash of the Titans.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation.11. Sept.2016. Web. Nov.29.2016. “Trash of the Titans” is the 22nd episode of season 9 of The Simpsons originally airing on April 26, 1998.
 Trash of the Titans.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation.
 Trash of the Titans.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation.
 I believe that I heard this anecdote at Olivet Lutheran in Fargo, sometime when I was a student at Concordia College.
 Matthew 3:4.
 Mark 6:14-29.
 Matthew 3:5.
 Nieuwhof, Carey. Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Will Help Your Church Grow.The reThink Group, INC. Charlotte, NC. 2016. Print.P.119
 Gladwell, Malcolm. The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. Back Bay Books of Little, Brown and Company. New York. 2013. Print (2000). P.3-5.