3rd Sunday of Advent 16.12.12 Luke 3.7-18

8 12 2012

Wrong Expectations

This is a great passage. The language is direct and powerful from the outset. John is addressing the hearts of his people and demanding some action. Two things are clear – living faith is not a merely intellectual exercise, and repentance involves more than a change of mind

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? 8Bear 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. 9Even now the axe 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.’

10 And the crowds asked him, ‘What then should we do?’ 11In reply he said to them, ‘Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.’ 12Even tax-collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, ‘Teacher, what should we do?’ 13He said to them, ‘Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.’ 14Soldiers 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.’

15 As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, 16John 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. 17His 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.’

18 So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people.

Reflection

To help give shape to the reflection I am going to suggest three types of question: head questions, heart questions and hand questions. They are about our intellectual response, our emotional response and our practical or behavioural response.  I hope that you will want to work at all three levels. You might prefer to stay in one area. But beware of staying in your comfort zone. That’s rarely where profound preaching comes from.

‘Head Questions’

  1. Why was John so fierce with those looking for baptism?
  2. What is the connection between the use of the word ‘good’ in verse 9 and verse 18?
  3. What is the expectation of the people in verse 15?


‘Heart Questions’

  1. How would you feel if called a viper? (Defensive, perhaps?)
  2. What force does the phrase ‘more powerful than I’ have? (See verse 16)
  3. How does this passage make you feel about the ‘good news’?


‘Hand Questions’

  1. The people explicitly ask what they should do. Do you ever ask that? Are you ever asked it? If not, why not?
  2. The instructions in verses 11-14 are all about possessions or money. What do you make of that?
  3. What are you going to do differently because of engaging with this passage?


Finally

These questions are intended to challenge you to engage more closely with the passage and to hear and feel what it has to say to you.  That’s more than a five-minute task. And so is the follow-up – working out what you might want to say to others as a result of engaging with the passage with head, heart and hands.  Take your time.

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