Monday, November 29, 2010

Matthew 3:1-12

Advent 2 - Year A
Here are two responses to the nearness of heaven come to earth:
• Repent
Receive the "fire" of Holy Spirit
One is claimed to be more powerful.
Question: Is this a necessary sequence? Repentance is required for Holy Spirit fire? Is it an implied prerequisite to, "Follow me".
Regardless of how that is responded to, there is a basic duality here of gathered wheat or burned and scattered chaff that seems to be done away with by Pentecost time and a Holy Spirit that simply tells of Wonder and cuts through all language divisions.
Question: On what basis would a Holy Spirit not be conferred? Preordination? Resistance?
Whether one receives some form of Holy Spirit there is encouragement here to live well, fruitfully. A metaphoric fire from Holy Spirit burns wastrel trees and the fire from those burning trees, in turn, refines others. Around and around we go.
Question: All this may be helpful at the beginning of a movement. What happens after years, decades, millennia of there being no discernible connection between repentance and good fruits, between Holy Spirit fire and abominations? How do these play as part of a play filled with tree-trimming, unstoring creches, and heart-warming noels?
While this passage may have other helpful attributes, but it mostly helps us reflect on a past presence of G*D, not one still before us. At this point it would be more helpful to reflect on the genealogy that begins Matthew and to draw it from the point of Jesus through Pentecost to the present time and asking the question of what folks faced in their day and how they persevered. In anticipating a new heaven and a new earth we could use those reminders and a discerning of what our current situation is and how we might persevere in the midst of us until a surprising new presence becomes known to us.
Question: Given what you know about the lived situations and culture around you, how evangelistic is this passage? It has a feel that it is for the insider.
A note from the Wesley Study Bible: "Wesley connects this "fire" with "love". . . .(Notes 3:11)". Is this some sort of "tough love"? Does this modify the passage enough to suggest that John has a limited view of Holy Spirit and fire/love that will also show up when he sends his disciples to see what Jesus is up to? If there is room for modification because this is more about a projection of John than an experience with Jesus, what does that mean about how you would preach this in 2010?

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