How many, I wonder enjoy doing or watching quizzes? One of the favourites is always the "who am I " questions. And I'm sure most will have seen the who am I games on shows like Sale of the Century.
So who am I? I lived a long time ago, I wore unfashionable clothing and ate an odd health food diet, I preached that people should turn their lives back to God and baptized as a sign of cleansing.???
Yes he's a prophet, a difficult sort of figure. The little that we know of John's character tells us that this Baptizer is the sort who doesn't mind how uncomfortable he makes a person feel. He was not the easy going type, not high on the list of who to invite to your next dinner party and the people of his day just wanted to sort out just who he really was.
Prophets and other difficult types of people make us uncomfortable because they question our identity and talk about unpopular subjects like justice and judgement.
Now in the gospel reading we heard the people were asking about John's true identity because of the things he was doing and because they were eagerly expecting the Messiah. John was clear about his identity and he spoke to the people with some strong words.
"You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?"
John could see past the sensible reasons for how society was, past the rules and regulations, past the family histories, the rational explanations for wealth and poverty and John the Baptist hit people square in the face with their own responsibility, their own guilt and culpability for the problems of their day.
"And the crowds asked him, "What then should we do?" he said to them, "Whoever has two coats must share with the one who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise."
John could say the same to us today - we who have, bear responsibility for those who have not, where ever they are in our world.
But the range of vipers in todays world is much more insidious than that. Here's just a few examples:
On the internet there are over 600 adds for Child prostitution in Sri Lanka alone, inviting paedophiles to come to take advantage of children of any age.
In West Africa a bus load of 90 small children were discovered by police, they had been taken from poor parents with promises of getting good education for them - they were bound for a slave market to be sold as child workers; many such buses are not found out.
A big international paedophile racket has been selling Chinese children into prostitution in the US - it was uncovered recently in Italy.
You brood of vipers! Johns message still rings ou today.
The number of millionaires increases, but at nowhere near the rate of increase in the homeless and poverty stricken, even in Australia.
You brood of vipers!!
And if we, like the crowds in John's day ask what can we do?
I believe we'll get the same commonsense response of "share and do what you can" because all of us bear some responsibility. John the Baptist wasn't talking to a group of the worst criminals and offenders, he was talking to those with enough motivation and conscience to go out and hear him. So to those with enough motivation and conscience to be here today, the message is the same - "share and do what you can."
Do we share, do we give, do we leave the insidious vipers unchecked? thankfully, Jesus coming is a marvellous sign of God's grace, but still John's message is the necessary and just preparation for Jesus coming and we need to hear his message again and again, til God's love rules every where.
May God's grace help us to live in faith, to be givers in the spirit of Christ. Amen