Monday, December 02, 2013

Matthew 3:1-12

Year A - Advent 2 - Needed Change 2
December 8, 2013

In those days, in this day, any day—tomorrow is just a day away. Changing today is our last best opportunity to welcome the fullness of tomorrow or to further limit it.

So, what needs to change today? It won’t be a going back to some idealized past. It will have to do with making a shift in the momentum of the past. It will have to do with making life easier for those with whom we are joined hip and spirit. It will have to do with doing more than waiting. It will have to do with more than not making things worse.

Remember that the wilderness outside the boundary of promise is the locus of John’s work. It is also to be the locus of our work. Standing inside a promised land makes it too easy to hold on to the limited power and privilege we have managed to rise to. Inside the promise raises our fear level that we may lose the little we have. Outside the boundary makes it easier to hear, “Be not afraid—proceed to bear “good fruit” just because you can.

Here ends today’s comment.

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To encourage you to consider purchasing our new book, Wrestling Year A: Connecting Sunday Readings with Lived Experience here is the comment for this pericope from this new resource:

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Here are two responses to the nearness of heaven come to earth:


  • Repent
  • Receive the “fire” of Holy Spirit

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 negated by Pentecost and a Holy Spirit that simply tells of Wonder, cutting through all language divisions.

Question: On what basis would a Holy Spirit not be conferred? Preordination? Resistance?
Whatever form of Holy Spirit is received, there is encouragement here to live well, fruitfully.

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 heart-warming trees, creches, and noels?
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 ask questions 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 our current situation that we might persevere 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? Is it only for an 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 the context of this year?


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