Good morning, this morning I’m going to do something just a little different. I’m going to change just a couple of words in the Gospel lesson to reflect a closer understanding of the Greek text. Follow along closely and see if you can spot them!
The Gospel according to Luke the 3rd chapter:
7 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? 8 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. 9 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.”
10 And the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?” 11 In reply he said to them, “Whoever has two pairs of underwear must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” 12 Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” 13 He said to them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.” 14 Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what should we do?” He said to them, “Do not shake down 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, 16 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. 17 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.”
18 So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people. The Gospel of the Lord.
So this is the third Sunday of Advent and our second week of journeying with John the Baptist before Jesus arrives on the scene. I like to think of John as the prequel. Or the light rain before the storm.
John comes to the crowd today to teach, and it's not too far off from what we have heard Jesus teach on right? But there is a slight difference, John’s teachings are like a light cup of coffee, maybe just a little milk to smooth it out. Whereas Jesus’ teachings are a sharp hot shot of espresso.
John doesn’t ask for anything unreasonable, anything out of common human decency. John says share and don’t take advantage of people. That’s what you have to do to prepare for God. Seems reasonable.
Specifically what John asks to share is basically underwear. It’s an intimate garment. It’s the first layer that someone would wear under their tunic. And John says if you have two, which for the record would be rare. Most people would only have one set of underwear, having two was uncommon. But if you did have two, John says give it to someone who doesn’t have one.
Now that seems reasonable, doable. Not too harsh of what is expected from God. Share, got it. That’s not to crazy. I think we can all manage to share what we have in surplus. Ok this John character isn’t sounding to crazy. We can get on board with this idea.
Next he says take what you earn and do not be greedy for more. Do not shake down others. The word in the Greek that we translate as “extort” in our text literally means to shake someone. Don’t shake someone for money.
This is what John says, live within your wages and do not be greedy. Understanding that these soldiers he was talking to would have been pretty high on the economical hierarchy at the time. They had money, substantial wages, and power.
John heeds them to check their power. Not to abuse it, and to do their jobs well and not take advantage of others.
So far, I haven’t heard anything that seems crazy, have you?
This John guy seems like a good guy to follow.
This God he speaks of seems like one who asks for reasonable things. Doable things. No one would stretch themselves too far to get on board with this kind of living.
This is why I call John the light rain before the storm. Because, the one who is to come? The one whose sandals John himself doesn’t feel worthy to untie. This one we are waiting for. This one who will come, this Jesus. He is no light rain… He is a storm of God’s radical love.
Jesus gets on the scene and gives us instructions to give not just one pair of underwear away, but sell all that we have! And give all that money away too!
He flips tables to teach about extortion and ethical treatment.
He challenges the authorities to teach about equality.
He sits down and shares meals with the unwelcomed, unloved, untouchable people in society to teach about radical hospitality.
So get ready, because y’all, the storm is coming.
Jesus comes to us to bring God’s mercy to those who need it. He comes to bring God’s justice to those who are longing for it. He comes to bring God’s generosity to those who cannot survive without it.
This is the storm that is coming, this is the savior we wait for, we pray for, we long for. This is our Jesus. Our Jesus who doesn’t take no for an answer, our Jesus who shows us what love is. What God’s love is. Our Jesus who is a sharp shot of espresso. Our Jesus who is the perfect storm of grace, love, mercy, kindness, and justice.
So as John urges us, let's get ready. Let’s get ready to welcome this savior. Let's prepare ourselves to live into the fullness of his grace. And to do our best to live into his teachings.
It won’t be easy. Following Jesus has never been an easy journey. But John gives us an idea of where to start this morning.
As we move into this next week, this week where we will talk about Jesus’ coming into this world and what it really means for all of us for God to become flesh, let us take some time to mull over John’s words.
Prayerfully consider what this Jesus means in our lives. Not just at Christmas but every part of our lives.
Because Christmas isn’t the end to the Advent season, Christmas is the beginning of everything else that is to come.
Christmas is the beginning of hope for the journey to come. This journey through another year.
What will following Jesus mean to you in the next year? How will it look in your life? How will God’s radical love manifest through you in the next year?
As Advent comes to a close, let’s get ready for the storm that is coming. Amen.