Going Deeper 12/14/18

The Gospel reading for Advent 3...
Luke 3:7-18   John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, "You brood of vipers!  Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?  Bear fruits worthy of repentance.  Do not begin to say to yourselves, "We have Abraham as our ancestor'; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham.  Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire."  And the crowds asked him, "What then should we do?"  In reply he said to them, "Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise."  Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, "Teacher, what should we do?"  He said to them, "Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you."  Soldiers also asked him, "And we, what should we do?" He said to them, "Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages."   As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, "I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals.  He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.  His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire."  So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people.

How about you?  Do you "Bear fruits worthy of repentance"?

John's baptism is referred to as a "baptism of repentance."  His message is that something is wrong and needs to be changed.  For us, repentance must be understood as a calling to recognize that something is wrong with each of us and all of us, and as a calling to change direction and seek to do what is right.  This involves much more than making sure our names are on a church membership roster and doing our duty (at least occasionally) by participating in certain rituals... i.e. going to church.  To "Bear fruits worthy of repentance" starts with recognizing the need to be radically changed from the inside out.

What does this change look like?  Throughout the Scriptures, God calls His children to remember what He has done as Creator and Rescuer, to respond by loving and serving Him above all things, and by loving and serving others with radical generosity.  We are called to share whatever abundance of blessings we may have received from our Abba/Father with His other children who are in need, and to make sure that we do not exploit others for our own gain.

If this message cuts us to the heart, we need to be careful with our reaction.  It's not simply a matter of trying harder to get our act together.  This concept of bearing fruit points to a type of organic change.  What we all continue to need is an ongoing change of heart, and this starts, continues, and ends with a Spirit-inspired and Spirit-empowered growing relationship with God, who desires to transform and restore us to our true, created selves.

As we recapture our created in-the-image-of-God form, fruit is borne.  We become less and less centered on our selves and more and more centered on God and others.  And that is a beautiful life!

With You in His Grace,
Mark

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