Sunday, December 13, 2015

And the Good News is... "The Chaff He Will Burn"?

As we continue in Advent, this Sunday's Gospel reading is 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 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.
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.
Wait one second! Is that any way to preach? How negative of him. Haven't we been told that fear mongering and scare tactics don't work to lead people to Christ? Surely John can't have been an effective evangelist!

Thinking that, the next verse made me chuckle,
So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people (v18).
All I can say is that John the Baptist's method of spreading good news worked then, and it should still work today. I wonder how many pewsitters heard his tough words expounded upon today. Not that it should take a whole lot of explanation, but it seems that a good many of us have forgotten this simple fact:
"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom..." Psalm 110, Proverbs 9
As Matt Kennedy+ noted recently on Facebook,
 "The dominant American theology: God is love. I am good. There’s nothing to worry about."
Nothing to worry about except his winnowing fork and that unquenchable fire.

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