Unlikely Prophets
Matthew 3:1-11

When you think of a man wandering in the wilderness and eating locusts and wild honey who do you automatically think of?  That’s right, John the Baptist.  Can you guess who it made me think of?  Bear Grylls!  For those of you who haven’t caught up with him on TV he is the ex Special Forces guy who now spends his time being dropped from a helicopter into the wilderness and surviving on what he finds there to eat and drink.  Locusts and wild honey would probably be high on his menu. 

Funnily enough this somewhat eccentric individual has become one of the promoters of the Alpha course, a course designed to teach the Christian faith to enquirers.  In various interviews and articles he talks about his simple faith in God and the hope that he has in him.  Unlike John the Baptist he isn’t wandering around shouting at the top of his voice “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight”.  His is a more subtle approach, but he is taking advantage of his vocation and station in life to spread the good news of Jesus Christ.

John the Baptist was calling others to repentance through Baptism, in preparation for Jesus who would come after him.  Bear Grylls is doing something similar, preparing the way for people to come to a course to learn about Jesus.  If Bear Grylls can do it surely you and I can do it too.  Preparing the way for the Lord doesn’t have to involve eating flying insects and wearing itchy clothes.  It’s actually something we do every day as we go about our daily existence. 

Our congregation’s mission statement, which was re-iterated at our Annual General Meeting a couple of weeks ago and was the opening point for our Church Council planning night on Thursday goes like this, “God has blessed us!  To celebrate this we encourage one another, we build one another up in faith, we use our gifts to serve others, we reach out to our community with God’s Good News, and we walk with those who are learning to know his love.”  That statement encourages us to follow in the footsteps of John the Baptist, the apostles, Martin Luther and untold thousands of other individuals who have lived out a life of faith and shared it with others.

As we live our lives in the blessing of God, we do have opportunity to encourage one another, we’ve seen it happening in our community in so many ways in the last year it isn’t possible to name them all, we’ve been finding new and innovative ways of providing encouragement, from cards to meals and lifts to hospitals.  Just knowing that others are on hand to support and encourage you through the good times and the difficult ones, is a true blessing. 

We have opportunities to build each other up in faith too, it has been and continues to happen in homes, schools, offices and workplaces, via emails, phone calls and text message.  Through worship, playing music and praying for each other, we build each other up AND use our gifts to serve others.

As we live out our lives we reach out to others with God’s good news, sometimes without even realising it.  Sometimes just by being there we proclaim God’s love to others, and also walk with those learning to know God’s love.  We are after all learning to know God and his love for us, each and every day, there is no end to the journey of discovery, we are all learning and growing.

When we baptise infants we commit to praying for the child and their family, to teach them the Lord’s Prayer and the Ten Commandments.  This is a beginning point not the ultimate destination.  Yes in Baptism we receive forgiveness of sins and are made children of God, but if that were the end of the journey with God, there wouldn’t be a lot of point to it all.  God wants to be in a relationship with us, to share his love with us along the way and have us love him in return.

Our confirmation group have just spent twenty four hours together continuing to grow and learn about their faith and the impact it has and can have on their lives and the way they live it.  They have been preparing short faith/life statements to share with our congregation on their confirmation day in February next year.  Each of them has a unique story to tell, and so do all of you.  For some of you the journey is just beginning, there may be just a small seed of faith just sprouting in you, maybe not even at the point of germination yet, but God loves you and wants that seed of faith to grow and flourish and bear fruit.

What do I mean when I say bear fruit?  I mean following through with those things in our mission statement, sharing the good news of Jesus Christ and his death and resurrection for our sake, living lives as a blessing to others, giving of our first-fruits in response to God’s gift of life and hope for us.

I would be willing to bet, if I was a betting man, that none of you gathered here today would consider yourselves to be a prophet.  I can’t think of a single Biblical prophet that did either, but do you know what, God used each of them, even against their will, to spread his message, to take his word to the ends of the earth and share it with the lost and the lonely, the poor and the weak, the rich and the wealthy. 

John the Baptist was an unlikely prophet, but he went proclaiming the way of the Lord none-the-less.  Bear Grylls, John Smith of the God Squad, you name it, they are unlikely prophets.  I’d like to encourage all of you in the lead up to the celebration of the birth of our Lord and Saviour to prayerfully consider how God has used you to speak his Word into the world, or maybe how he might use you to do so, through word or deed.  You too may be an unlikely prophet.