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More or Less Church

Joanna Depue "DJ/Deacon J" writes original songs and liturgies, does daily Farm office work and records Barbara's eMos on The Geranium Farm. A singer and dog trainer she utilizes healing touch in her private massage practice. PLEASE share YOUR original ideas for worship, special liturgies, prayers, songs, sermons and noteworthy blogs right here.
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Friday, December 14, 2012

Friday Focus: What Should We Do?

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? 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. 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." And the crowds asked him, "What then should we do?" In reply he said to them, "Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise." Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, "Teacher, what should we do?" He said to them, "Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you." Soldiers also asked him, "And we, what should we do?" He said to them, "Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages." As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, 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. 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." So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people. Luke 3:7-18
In our gospel readings we have become very familiar with the Pharisees and scribes trying to trip Jesus with trick questions. So this week it is refreshing to hear some honest questions from honest questioners. John is the fulfillment of the prophesies of Isaiah, calling on the people to Prepare ye the way of the Lord. His listeners are moved. They are inspired. But they are also confused. How exactly are they expected to prepare the way of the Lord? What should they do to make straight his path? They need some specific guidance on how to make the rhetoric real. They face a familiar problem. How do we translate scriptural teachings into meaningful, everyday behavior? Their reaction is: What next? What should we do?
John's answers are straight to the point and precisely fit the lives of each of his listeners. To the soldier, he says: don't abuse your power. To the tax collector, he says: no cheating. To everyone he says: share what you have with those who have not. These are the basics, the character-building blocking and tackling of a moral life. This is not yet the messianic message of love. As John is quick to add, he is not the Messiah. The Christ is coming. John's job is to announce that coming and to tell us to prepare for it. This Advent, it is a job he is still working at.
We take inspiration from John's eloquent and always applicable call to repent and prepare. To translate scripture into 21st Century action, John is telling us: live an examined life; get a grip on your purpose; compare it to your practice; correct your ways; comply with those of the Lord. You can spell it all out in just one sentence. It's as simple and as complicated as giving each day to God.
David prayed: Keep me from paying attention to that which is worthless. (Psalm 119:37) What a perfect petition to guard against the craziness that has come to surround Christmas. What a reminder to give these precious Advent days to God. Few of us are so spiritually mature that our daily communion with God flows organically and continuously. We need the discipline to set aside specific early morning time to get in touch with God, before our thoughts start to wander. Daily devotional scripture is always the best way to kick-start our prayer life. Then thank God, tell him your plans and ask him: What should we do? Start the morning as close to him as you possibly can. Then stay with him through the day listening for his answer. He always does.


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