What Can We Do? - Reflections 12-09-2021

Texts for the Third Sunday of Advent
December 12, 2021

Zephaniah 3:14-20
Isaiah 12:2-6
Philippians 4:4-7
Luke 3:7-18

John the Baptist returns this Sunday. He is unrelenting in his call to repent. This Sunday he starts out by calling the crowd a brood of vipers. He goes on to talk wrath, axes and chopped trees, and fire.  Luke ends this section “with many other exhortations, John proclaimed the good news to the people”. Exhortation and good news are not a standard pairing of concepts. But with John, it works, doesn’t it?

In the first verses of this week's Gospel, notice how the crowds respond: “Then what shall we do?”. Three different groups ask that question and John’s answer is different for each. The crowd is called to be generous and kind-hearted to those in need. Be God’s compassion in the world. The tax collectors are called to be honest and fair. Be God’s justice in the world. Soldiers who can use their power over the people for gain are, well, not to do that. Be content with what you have. Note how John’s challenging invitation is made to all people, but aimed at the brokenness which tempts them to a different decision.

John’s call to each person is to repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins. I wrote last week about how radical the call to repent can be. You could use the word transformation. It offers a brand-new way of living which Jesus lives and teaches in his ministry. Jesus came to heal, to free the prisoner, to stand by those who are simply not seen by the world, vulnerable and forgotten.

I think this scene leads the reader right to the question: What would John say to you if you shouted out “Then what should we do?”

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Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Iowa City

Gathered by grace. Scattered for service.

123 E Market Street
Iowa City, IA 52245