Isaiah 11.1-10 Psalm
72.1-7,18,19 Romans 15.4-13 Matthew 3.1-12
In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea proclaiming, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’
The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord…
has called the people of Israel down to the River Jordan. He repeats the
warning that generations of prophets have given Israel, and which Israel has
heard and taken to heart, as a result of which Israel has changed course,
returned to her Lord and so saved herself many times.
many people, hearing the same warnings, come now to hear them again from John,
and follow his lead. He calls for national repentance and about turn, and they
repent. So should we.
same voices cry out now. They speak up and warn us. They give us the same
warning that alerted our forebears, which they took to heart and were converted
by. They heard and obeyed this warning. They did indeed prepare themselves for
the Lord, and they received from the Lord all the preparations he provided for
them. These warning voices do not come from official sources. You will not hear
them through the media. You will not hear them in schools or universities or
any centrally-funded institution. In the churches, those voices have been
reduced to a whisper. They can be heard only in whatever unpoliced spaces are
left to us.
previous generations recognised these messengers and valued the gospel they
articulated enough to record it and pass their witness on to us, so that
through all the turmoil of the history of our people there is a consistent
Christian voice and witness. We can read that history and for recent centuries,
and above all we can hear and read the words of Scripture.
the Baptist tell us that we have to get up and go back to the beginning. Our present
situation is wobbling towards its end. The society that does not receive what
the Lord sends it will not survive. Only if we go back to re-learn the original
discipleship which founded our society will it continue. If we take what the
Lord sends us, the unity, the peace and the living standard may continue for
another generation. But we have to return to the source from which we came. We
have to go down to the river and there be re-born as a people. We have to wade
in and be completely immersed. We have to cross the river to reach the wild
territory on the other side. That is the place untouched by domestication or
civilisation, the way the world existed before the land was settled and before
there were laws and governments. There we have to follow the Lord in the
simplicity of nomads, trailing along after him in order to discover who he is.
We have to learn that ‘a wandering Aramean was my father’, Abraham, who got up
and left home and followed the Lord who promised. The Lord said, ‘Come’, and
Abraham went and that is the way in which we have to follow the Lord. Like
Moses we have to get up and leave the civilisation of Egypt, go out into the
desert and become homeless nomads, who only follow the voice of their master. We
have to be the flock that goes wherever he goes whose one intention is to keep
up with him
When he saw many
Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said ‘You brood of vipers! Who
warned you to flee from the wrath to come?…
leaders are clearly concerned about its own future, for they are coming to John
in repentance, trying to return to the very sources which they spurned as long
as things went well. They read the signs of the times enough to know that
things are no longer within their control. They want to know how to return the
situation to normal. John points out that it is they who are responsible for
this breakdown, and for the destitution in which the growing dispossessed of
Israel have been reduced. The forces that they have unleashed are now running
out of their control.
are our Pharisees and Sadducees? Are they not the
centralisers and globalisers who want to make us more biddable, more malleable?
Aren’t they the ones who regard us as less-than-citizens, less conscious of our
full dignity as heirs of European and Western culture – less aware of our
status as heirs, or as Scripture says, as Sons? Have we not been undergoing a
long slow putsch, in which we let go of our responsibilities and dignity while
breaking the covenant between a people and their leaders, the power-brokers
accumulate our powers into their hands – all simply because they are afraid? Have they not subtly raised themselves above
the law, and taken their client groups with them? So now there is not one law
for all, but one law for some, another for others, and so they have divided the
nation, into the new more worthy class, the special reserved groups, and the
old despised English – too white and too male.
Do not presume to say
we have Abraham for our ancestor…
Pharisees of our Age want to believe in their own irreplaceability, that they
are immune to time, and will never have to give way to what is not of their own
making. They will not give way to anyone, not even their own children. They
regard the future as their enemy and so they make themselves the enemy of the
future and therefore the enemy of man.
this voice, the gospel that comes to us, this country does not continue to be
our home. Left to ourselves we fouled it, have no idea how to maintain it, so
becomes unrecognisable and we become unrecognisable to one another. There are
large parts of our country in which the people scowl and shout at us to go
away, and tell us that this country is theirs, not ours anymore.
are the pharisees of our generation? Who else could it be – but us? We have
become the pharisees. It is us who are blocking the way. It is us who have
muted the gospel. We have stupidly put ourselves between Christ and those who
are drowning. We are the clients and employees of the agencies that impose
layer upon layer of regulation upon our people. We are the ones who attempt to
store the gospel away and keep it out of reach and out of sight. It is us who
have held the whole world locked up. We are our people’s goalers. We are the
warders in this camp. They may not know who to blame or which name to call, but
we should know well. We are the clergy, the professionals who intend to make ourselves
indispensable and so to place ourselves between man and God. Let judgment begin
with the self-proclaimed house of God. Our comeuppance is on its way.
Even now the axe is
at the root of the tree…
In all the years in which our age group has led these
institutions, they have not been renewed. They could only be renewed from the
same impetus from the same source which brought them into existence in the
first place. The nation has received no true gospel from no voices carried in
from the wilderness and the national community and has continued to run on the
momentum from previous generations until that momentum was gone. The nation has
it rides on the waves as though at the turn of the tide, in slack water, unable
to make way, set itself a course. Nothing our national leadership can say can
give us any sense of purpose. The nation has heard nothing from the Church and
so has received nothing of the gospel that created it. The gospel is not heard
in the churches. Instead it offers a different message, offering substitute
gospels, phoney gospels, pretend salvation…all of which attempt to elevate the
imaginings of our leaders to a vision to secure this against challenge and to
make our present situation permanent and declare the irreplaceability of the
There is no worship coming from these churches. Futilely yet
manically, those now in power are reinforcing their position against whoever
offers any challenge to them. The active are prevented from working. The
articulate are prevented from access to the media. We are told that everything
is already being done for us and that there is no need for us to concern
themselves. The young have their phone and games consul; the elderly sit before
their television screen. Everyone is sent into the isolation of their own
separate cubicle, and permitted to communicate with one another only through a
keypad. Those who not employed to impose this regime on us are distracted,
sedated or left to despair. We gave our consent to all this by signing our name
or putting a tick in the box.
The people in power have been attempting to drive the gospel
out of the Church. They have closed the bible, put away the prayer books, and
locked the building. They are only prepared to open them as museums of a way of
life that they do not ever want to see again. They have shut the churches that
are the sole source of our dignity as people and as a national community. They
have belittled all the generations of Christians who built the nation and despise
those Christians who do not join in with them in this great act of
renunciation. They have continually taken the words we inherited from our
parents out of our mouths and in their place offered us their own slogans. They
have replaced what was familiar to us with what they imagine would be easier,
more acceptable and uncontroversial. Now there is no density to their
contemporary liturgies, no weight to their words at all. They have silenced the
voices of those who say ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’
As a result, the people have been made poor and silent. They
are divided and isolated. They have been segregated into groups or scattered.
There is no consciousness of their identity as ordinary people, a working-class.
They have no gathering places that are not provided by the state and policed by
it. They are left without any sense of what to do and what to look forward to.
They are those without aspiration; they who are without are the poor in spirit.
They have received no encouragement or motivation. The harvest is ready and so
the fields are white (we would say that they are golden). The people are ripe.
We can now go in and gather them and bring them in. We will have to do this
with the voices of our leaders and teachers, our pharisees and moralists,
dinning in our ears and every kind of obstacle put in our way – for these
pharisees believe that the people are their fodder, for them to tax, use and
exploit and neglect. The Law-Abiding are sure that it is their task of keep
these people quiet.
begins: See I am sending my messenger. We British have received many
messengers from the people of God, from Israel and the Church. Those who have
brought us the Word of God have sustained our nation with it. If the British continue to read the bible they
will continue as a nation and as a national political community. Even if only
some small number of the British read the bible book, Britain, though always
seeming about to die, will never die. Those who do read the bible will keep
alive those who don’t. Those who read it, they will provide the leadership.
They will be sin-and-fear-impervious. The fearless and robust, who have the
self-mastery to accept responsibility and do not blame others for what is
wrong, will compensate for and carry the fearful and weak who are always look
for someone weaker than themselves to take the blame and from whom recompense
can be taken.
religion of The Cult is no more than the enforcing of obedience to that
religion and war against those who do not comply. The Cult is simply war with
those who do not comply with the cult.
two systems are truly incompatible because they rest on opposite sets of
values. Truly, this contrast has to be clearly made and presented in our public
debate and political life, and efforts to suppress this debate by denying this
contrast are dangerous to the health of our political life. Those leaders of
ours who attempt to deny this contrast and this incompatibility are attempting
to stop this debate, and to suppress the freedom that essential to our culture
and values, and they will bear responsibility when explicit conflict results.
we must ask our leaders why they ostracise and punish those who point out these
political and cultural contradictions. Their refusal to allow debate of these
central issue of our political and cultural identity has corrupted our national
life. They themselves have become a cult of truth-suppression that needs to be
dealt with before larger issues can be addresses. They have covered up each
other’s wrongdoings. They have not given our citizens the full protection of
the law, and they have concealed their failures to do so. They have given
protection not only to those who have broken the law but to those who wish to
replace our law with another. Our leaders refuse to hear those who
appealed to them. They concealed the truth and used the power of the law to
persecute and silence those who stood up against them. Lord, save us from the
servants who betray us.
Back to the
Then the people of
Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the
Jordan, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing
people of Israel entered the land promised to them through the river Jordan.
Now John takes them back out into the wilderness so they can have all their sin
removed from them and are able to re-enter that promised land.
should follow John and do the same. We should go back to the beginning of our
Christian history. We should admit how far we have wandered out into the
Badlands. We should turn to the Lord and follow him through the waters into the
land he has promised to us and though it were the first time.