Hosting this retreat session, Songbird begins by quoting Luke 3:7-18, including John the Baptist's charge to the gathered crowd to practice distributive justice and not to hanker after exhorbitant wages, bringing to mind the well-popularized and popularly decried salaries and bonuses of the investment house and bank principals we've been hearing about during the past year. Luke 3:16, 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." and Luke 3:18 ...he proclaimed the good news to the people.
good news? For Paul, the gospel, the good news is death and resurrection. The death to self, to greed, to excess, the new birth into a servant community that cares not only for the needs in its midst but offers itself to a broken world. And we are baptized into the Good News; our first death and second birth at the font of life also is a baptism, a total immersion into the cleansing, anointing, refining Spirit of Pentecost. Baptism brings us God's word and promise, we no longer need to trust ourselves. Yes, the Spirit burns the chaff with fire that doesn't quit yet purifies and refines the chosen, royal, people of God's own choice.
As Songbird points out, "He's powerful, John. People wonder if he isn't the Messiah himself. When we look around the world today we see plenty of messianic figures, people who proclaim one truth or another. He's preaching the opposite of today's popular prosperity gospel, more like the common sense thinking of our grandparents' generation. Make do with what you have; do a hard day's work and earn what you're paid; keep an eye out for those in need and help where you can." I love Songbird's observation that, "It seems strange that his rules involve money and wages when he lives in the desert and not in the community of commerce."
For reflection Songbird suggests:
John speaks of wheat and chaff being sorted, and we tend to think of this as an outer process, a division of faithful people from the rest of the world. But perhaps we can apply this to the inner life. As we begin this Advent, can you identify the wheat and the chaff in your life? Are you ready to leave the chaff behind?I like this a lot; I'm more and more aware that my denials of my own pain and cascading disappointments are huge these days and I cannot change or trust God to change what I refuse to acknowledge. Oh, yes, there often are insidious improvement in attitudes and situations we weren't aware of, but this is big stuff. Am I ready to leave the chaff behind? Jesus asked the guy by the Bethsaida pool, "Do you want to be healed?" And the guy replied, "Sir! there is no one to pick me up and put me in the pool after the angel stirs the waters." Yes, with my entire being I want and need to be healed but cannot do life on my own by myself. There has been no one to pick me up and put me in the pool... these days I barely can stand, let alone walk.
from Songbird, A Prayer
Advent God, in this season of anticipation, prepare our hearts and minds to receive the truth about our world and our lives. Help us to sort ourselves out with the help of your Holy Spirit. We pray in the name of the One who is Coming. Amen.