My wife has a big heart. In the summer of 2016 I was going to be doing a lot of traveling. Sara decided to basically open a hotel for dogs in our humble seminary dwelling. Sara was more than happy to take on all comers.
Now I don’t know what you folks know about essential oils but they have many benefits. They smell nice and they can be quite relaxing. They do not, however, make for good flee medication. One of Sara’s tenants, a huskie mix with a beautifully thick coat, smelled better than all of the other dogs. So good, in fact, that flees from all over Sewanee must have wanted to make their home in her fur.
Well, this dog’s fur became so popular that it must have gotten overcrowded and some of these flees had to jump off. And the next best thing to thick dog hair was our carpet and couches.
I remember the phone calls one by one getting worse and worse.
“Shika seems to be scratching a lot, I’m sure it’s just dry skin.”
“What do flees look like?”
“What do a lot of flees look like?”
“I think maybe Shika has flees.”
“Shika definitely has flees”
“I think we have flees now.”
“We definitely have flees but I’m going to get rid of them before you get home.”
Well, they were still there when I got home.
And they were nasty
Soon I had red bites all over my legs and some on my arms.
Each trip through the living room was a sharp bite which would result in terrible itching.
It was torture.
When we hear John the Baptist’s harsh words in Matthew we might think that the fate of chaff, and those like it, is like being in a house with flees.
Television and movies give us these frustrating, if not comical notions of the fate of those who are deemed unworthy.
If that is the future promised to chaff, then let me be a witness.
You do not want to be chaff.
It is painful, itchy, torture.
But what are we then to do?
What can we do for ourselves?
When our flee problem continued it was not for lack of trying on Sara’s part.
She had used every powder and spray in the grocery store.
She looked up every remedy on the internet she could find.
She burned out two vacuum motors from all of her attempts to suck up each one of those buggers.
And yet those flees survived every assault.
They were buried deep and hunkered down.
We needed something outside of ourselves.
We needed something more powerful than ourselves.
We needed something even more potent than witch hazel essential oils.
And that is where the truth of the Gospel lies.
The people on the banks of the Jordan listening to John the Baptists were not flees.
The flees were not in the wilderness.
The flees were in Jerusalem;
In the powerful religious rulers who let orphans starve in hunger and widows live in poverty.
The flees were in Rome;
In the powerful political leaders who treated people like property and countries like capital.
Everywhere these people walked they faced hypocrisy, prejudice, and injustice.
The people on the banks were itching for something they couldn’t scratch themselves.
They were infested with flees that they couldn’t get rid of themselves.
They needed something beyond their power and understanding.
These people were itching for Jesus Christ.
Eventually, we relented and called the exterminator.
And with a few puffs of his magic spraying wand, the flees were dead.
Flees are so persistent because they live off the smallest fleck of dust.
Flees are so persistent because their eggs can survive vacuuming, store bought sprays, and most other civilian attacks.
But this man’s spray destroyed even the future of flees.
And this is what Jesus promises to do.
When we look at all of the problems facing the world, we don’t know where to start.
Poverty, prejudice, war, famine, and disease all seem so intimidating.
They seem like impossible webs no one can untangle.
Humans have waged war against these things and failed.
But Jesus will not fail.
He will remedy all of the evil in the world.
This season of Advent is time and space for us to name all of the things that make us itchy.
For just a moment, think about what is makes you itch.
From the smallest slight of a neighbor to the systemic predicaments that everyone promises to fix but keep going and going.
You know what they are better than anyone else.
Call them to your attention for a moment.
Don’t ignore them.
Admit that there are some flees in your life.
There are some things that get under your skin.
Many have been stirred crazy by all that is wrong with the world and have been, like those by the river Jordan, driven out into the wilderness looking for answers.
We are looking for solutions to the big questions, we are looking for someone to end our struggle.
We are looking for someone to finish what we have been trying to fix for all of time.
Perhaps instead of a winnowing fork we can imagine Jesus with a flee spraying in hand.
He is coming to put an end to our itching.
He has promised to put an end to all the suffering of the world.
Next week we will hear from Mary about how he will do that.
But this week, the promise is good enough.
This week the rumor has become a promise.
So, fling open your doors and let him in.
Because he is on the way.