SCRIPTURE: Matthew 3:2 (TM) – (Matthew 3:1-12)
His message was simple and austere, like his desert surroundings: "Change your life. God's kingdom is here."
It is hard to believe now, but the potato was once a highly unpopular food. When first introduced into England by Sir Walter Raleigh, newspapers printed editorials against it, ministers preached sermons against it, and the general public wouldn't touch it. It was supposed to sterilize the soil in which it had been planted and cause all manner of strange illnesses--even death.
There were, however, a few brave men who did not believe all the propaganda being shouted against it. It was seen as an answer to famine among the poorer classes and as a healthful and beneficial food. Still, these few noblemen in England could not persuade their tenants to cultivate the potato. It was years before all the adverse publicity was overcome and the potato became popular.
A Frenchman named Parmentier took a different tack. He had been a prisoner of war in England when he first heard of the new plant. His fellow prisoners protested the outrage of having to eat potatoes. Parmentier, instead, thoughtfully inquired about the methods of cultivating and cooking the new food. Upon his return to France, he procured an experimental farm from the Emperor, in which he planted potatoes. When it was time to dig them, at his own expense, he hired a few soldiers to patrol all sides of his famous potato patch during the daytime. Meanwhile he conducted distinguished guests through the fields, digging a few tubers here and there, which they devoured with evident relish. At night, he began to withdraw the guards. A few days later one of the guards hastened to Parmentier with the sad news that peasants had broken into the potato patch at night, and dug up most of the crop.
Parmentier was overjoyed, much to the surprise of his informant, and exclaimed, "When the people will steal in order to procure potatoes, their popularity is assured."
John came preaching a message of change – never a great idea since change doesn’t come quickly because of our reluctance to embrace it. Jerry Clower speaks of it with humor. He tells the story of his friend Marcel Ledbetter who feed his dog collard greens. Marcel’s friend said that his dog won’t touch them to which Marcel said: “Neither would mine for 2 weeks.”
Point being, if we get hungry enough we will try anything. Or, as in the potato story – if it is deemed valuable then people will desire it.
John has a hook – The Kingdom of God. His listeners were desperate for some good news. They waited so long for the promised Kingdom to arrive that they were willing to listen to even this strange man from the dessert… even if the message was to change.
John’s message was simple and direct. No flowery words or fancy illustration. He declared a reality, a truth. No one could miss the message. Kingdom of God and Change were forever linked.
If we don’t like what is going on in this world we can pray for change, we can hope for change, we can long for change, we can wish for change, we can complain … or we can start to change and in so doing start a movement to bring about change.
We are called by God to be change agents. The role isn’t easy and there will be plenty of people who will fight us at every turn. After all, “We have always done it that way.” They will complain, they will argue, they will get mad, they will leave, but if we remain faithful to God’s message and purpose change will come.
People started to listen to John. They began to tell their friends and neighbors about this strange man of conviction. More and more people flocked to hear him. They began to listen and respond.
There’s a voice in the wilderness crying,
A call from the ways untrod:
Prepare in the desert a highway,
A highway for our God!
The valleys shall be exalted,
The lofty hills brought low;
Make straight all the crooked places,
Where the Lord our God may go!
We need more people with convictions like John in our world. We need another Parmentier who dare to believe that what we have the world needs. Maybe God is waiting for our voices to be raised in the wilderness, crying out for change because the Kingdom of God is here!
God this discipleship stuff is hard. Do you really expect us to be change agents? Do you really want our voices to cry out in the wilderness? We are only a few people, do you really expect us to bring about change? Bring conviction, instill in us desire and commitment. Help us to raise our voices believing that the Kingdom of God is truly at hand.