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Wednesday, December 13, 2006
What Should We Do? Preparing the way for God’s Messiah relies on openness to change. Intimate relationship with God moves us through questions into expectation, through repentance into actions of sharing. The good news does not consist of promises limited to a distant future. God is near. God rejoices over us. In love, God invites all into renewed relationship. Scripture: Luke 3:7–18The gospels place John’s ministry in the wilderness. Several key points are made by that location. Wilderness had been the setting of Israel’s sojourn between exodus from Egypt and entry into their new homeland. Wilderness meant preparation and discovery. Also, John’s wilderness is far from Jerusalem’s temple and Herodian palace. John provides an alternative voice to those places and persons of power. From the outside, to outsiders, John evokes repentance. Repentance. The Greek word translates as “have a change of mind” or “go beyond the mind you have.” Narrow understandings that link repentance exclusively to sin do not do justice to its broader meaning. Repentance depicts a change of life and heart evidenced in action as well as attitude. John associates repentance in the focus scripture with “bear fruit,” a synonym in Jewish wisdom literature for one’s actions. The crowds who travel to the wilderness to hear John include two groups of outcasts: tax collectors and soldiers. Both groups were held in disdain by first-century Jewish society, often viewed as collaborators with the Roman occupation regime. John’s demanding call for repentance graciously includes them in the summons to redirect life toward God and neighbour. All, then and now, are invited to renewal. The beneficiary of John’s message is not just the Messiah whose way he prepares. The beneficiaries of repentance will be those provided with warm clothing or food. They will be those previously cheated or bullied. The Spirit works through acts of justice and compassion, as well as acts of refraining from injustice, to prepare the way for Messiah and God’s realm. The repeated refrain of the focus scripture is “What should we do?” The same response follows Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:37). The “questioning” of John by these people reflects openness to the gospel he announces. They ask, not to entrap John, but to embody the answer given. Questions serve as prelude to discipleship. So John and the crowds pave the way for God’s reign as announced and embodied in the ministry of Jesus. In our readings, hope arises from recognition of God’s nearness. Philippians 4:4–7 invites the church to be known for gentleness and to be freed from anxiety because of that nearness. Isaiah 12:2–6 beckons trust and aims to dispel fear because of God who is “in your midst.” As is fitting for a Sunday celebrated in some traditions as Rejoice Sunday, another theme in these readings is joy. Listen to the verbs used in these texts. Sing aloud. Rejoice. Shout. Sing for joy. Zephaniah 3:14–20 rejoices in the hope of Jerusalem’s restoration through the One who will “gather” Israel. Beyond that, verse 17 reveals that God rejoices over us. No wonder Philippians begins with the plea to rejoice in God always. Such joy at God’s nearness helps us discern why the early church heard the challenging message of John as good news. • • • • • John announces good news, even while calling for reorientation of our lives in light of this news. The other readings rejoice in God, who is in our midst. For whom are these texts good news and why? What are the questions John moves us to ask; and in their light, what then should we do?


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Kairos-Milwaukie UCC Blog

Reflections on the Revised Common Lectionary by Rev. Rick Skidmore and Rev. Jim Ogden.

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