The Weekend Word
The Gospel reading for the Third Sunday of Advent
“He said therefore 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 in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.Even now the axe is laid to 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 shall we do?”And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.”Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?”And he said to them, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do.”Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.”
As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ,John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. 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 barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
So with many other exhortations he preached good news to the people.”
(Luke 3:7–18 ESV)
The Gospel of the Lord.
“What then shall we do?”
The King was coming and those who would be His subjects were unprepared.
They believed that they had their religious and ethic bona fides in place, yet the herald of the King declared them to be nothing more than snakes.
Should the King come and find them in their current state, He was coming in judgment against them, not bringing victory for them.
When the King arrived He reiterated this word to those who would be his disciples;
“You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit.A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit.Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”
(Matthew 7:16–23 ESV)
They needed to repent…and bear fruits in keeping with that repentance.
We need to ask what they needed to repent of…and we can discern that from John’s instructions to them.
He didn’t tell them to do penance… he demanded a change of heart toward their neighbor.
They needed to love their neighbor as themselves, a position of the heart that is the fruit of true repentance.
They were to be compassionate and generous when able… “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.”
They were to act ethically in their vocations…“Collect no more than you are authorized to do.”
They were to be people that acted justly…“Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.”
The fruit of the repentant heart is evident in how we treat each other…as is the fruit of the heart that has not been touched by the Spirit.
“Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality,idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions,envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”
(Galatians 5:19–24 ESV)
The world we live in has made the works of the flesh seem acceptable to Christians…we justify our idolatry, meanness, anger, and divisions as being twisted proofs of our righteousness.
We hate the right people for the right reasons…
The fruits of the Spirit are considered a sign of weakness…
Don’t you know we’re in a war?
The King speaks again;
““You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
(Matthew 5:38–48 ESV)
The King is coming again.
Repent and bear the fruits of repentance…