Do You Have a Radical Message?

Mark 1:1-9     

     I think I have figured out why John the Baptist was such a radical person. Think about it. Who were his parents? Elizabeth and Zechariah. Zechariah was a priest, and it’s a lot of pressure, to be a holy man’s son or daughter.

     I was a preacher’s kid so I know the pressure one experiences to follow in the footsteps of their father. Look at me – although it took thirty years for God to get me to follow in my father’s footsteps.

     As I was growing up, both my peers and adults told me that preacher’s kids are the worst—they are the wildest. You’ve all probably got stories about preacher’s kids. Maybe preacher’s kids have a tendency to resist being forced into a mold God didn’t create them to be. The pressure of conforming to the expectations of others is very powerful. If you were the preacher’s kid, you were supposed to act better than other kids. And everyone was watching you to make sure you didn’t step outside the box.

     I wonder if that’s what made John the Baptist so radical. Long hair. Unconventional clothes. I don’t know what he smoked, but he certainly ate some weird things.

     But you know, those things attracted attention. He’s about the only one in the Bible who is known for what he wore and ate. It made a statement. But he not only was radical in his dress, he was radical in the message he spread. He reminds me a lot of Lady Gaga. Some of you might know who that is. She’s a very unconventional singer who became a headline story when she wore raw meat to a celebrity function and the media went crazy over it. She continued with other wild and crazy hair styles and off-the-wall outfits.

     I have to admit that I did everything I could to avoid listening to such an  unconventional, radical personality as Lada Gaga. Only after getting up my courage to watch her Thanksgiving special one year, did I find out she is a highly creative, talented young lady who fit into no one’s box. She may be more of a marketing genius than an eccentric. I bought her album and it was my favorite for many years. Why? Because she has a message that’s deeper than what attracts the media attention. They’re more interested in her oddities. That’s what sells papers and advertising. Unfortunately, they don’t spread her message.

     The message I heard from Lady Gaga is this: Don’t be afraid to be the unique and special person God created you to be. There’s no one on earth like you. Don’t try to squeeze into the box that others, including your parents, want you to fit in. If you do try to fit into their box, you won’t find happiness or fulfillment in life.

     I’ve read that the #1 most common regret expressed by people who are on their deathbed is this: “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” As the carrier of a message to be yourself, Lady Gaga lives her message.

     Lady Gaga makes me think about John the Baptist. A radical message sometimes needs a radical messenger. People outside the box attract a lot of attention. But rather than focus on his outer appearance, what was John’s radical message?

     John’s message was this: Change the way you think. Don’t think like the world has conditioned you to think. Because until we change the way we have been trained to think for two thousand years, the kingdom of heaven will never be at hand. Of course, John was speaking to Jews of the first century. But the message today is the same: change the way you think or the kingdom will never be at hand. Many Christians continue to think many of the same things the Jews of the first century thought.

     They think things like: God wants our sacrifices. God demands our obedience. God wants us to worship and praise him before helping our neighbor who is in need. God wrote the rules of behavior and they can never be changed. God wants perfect little robots who all look and act alike.

     I may look very conforming, but this preacher’s kid says “that’s BS.” God wants you to be you. God wants square pegs to be square pegs and round pegs to be round pegs. God wants the needs of his lambs and sheep to be more important than the need to follow religious rituals and ceremonies that do nothing for God.

     But that wasn’t the message of John that was so radical. Prophets had been saying those things for centuries. What was more radical was when John said this: Get ready for someone who is more drastic than me. Get ready to see and hear about the most unconventional image of God anyone has ever dreamed possible.

     Jesus was also perceived as a very unorthodox personality who fit into no one else’s box. But it wasn’t his clothes that attracted the attention. It was his actions that were so unlike everyone else’s. His loving and helping and healing actions to every person regardless of their gender or their race or their religion were the anomaly. And He drew audiences from far and wide to hear what he had to say.

     But even more important, Jesus gave a vision of God no one had ever considered before. He revealed a God who delights in giving, who sends rain on the good as well as on those who are not good. Jesus brought the message that God is generous, and loving, and kind. And that’s still a radical message today. So many Christians still believe God is capable of burning his children in eternal flames if they don’t believe everything their religion tells them. These are words from Jesus’s own mouth: “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” That’s pretty radical, don’t you think?

     Have you changed the way you think about God yet? Are you ready to share a radical gospel, a radical message — that God has been good all along — a God who came as a child in a manger to show us his true nature?

     Every person is unique, and special, and created in the image of God. The Scriptures tell us that each of us is a holy place in which God dwells. If you want to make God happy, treat every person you meet as if they are a temple of the living God.  And if God is in them, then there must be some good in them. The most important commandment is to love God with all your heart. If God was hungry, would you feed him? If God was cold, would you give her your coat?

         This season of Advent, let’s get prepared to share the radical good news about a child that was born and laid in a manger. God has been good from the beginning of time.

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