Gospel LK 3:10-18
The crowds asked John the Baptist,
“What should we do?”
He said to them in reply,
“Whoever has two cloaks
should share with the person who has none.
And whoever has food should do likewise.”
Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him,
“Teacher, what should we do?”
He answered them,
“Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.”
Soldiers also asked him,
“And what is it that we should do?”
He told them,
“Do not practice extortion,
do not falsely accuse anyone,
and be satisfied with your wages.”
Now the people were filled with expectation,
and all were asking in their hearts
whether John might be the Christ.
John answered them all, saying,
“I am baptizing you with water,
but one mightier than I is coming.
I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor
and to gather the wheat into his barn,
but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
Exhorting them in many other ways,
he preached good news to the people.
Heaven | Hear | High Opinion | Have Heart for Others | Hardest | Holy Spirit | Habits
Has anyone here thought about heaven? What do you think Heaven is like?
A place to worship God? A place where we get to laugh and smile all the time? A place with great music? A place where we are with those we love and who love us?
We all want to go to heaven. This was no different than in Jesus’ time. When people were coming to the river Jordan to be baptized into a new life, they asked John the Baptist a simple question:
“What should we do?”
Because they wanted to be able to to to Heaven when the savior, the Messiah arrived. What do you think they wanted to hear? I think they wanted to hear John say “You guys are set – I’ve baptized you – you are all good to go.” I think they wanted it easy. Because most of us (and I say us, because the people who came to John in this chapter are just like us – normal folks) have a pretty high opinion of ourselves. We think we do good work. We think we are good people. We want Heaven, but don’t necessarily want to work for it.
Have Heart for Others
John’s answer to each of them spoke to where each person was personally.
- For the tax collector – be fair in collecting taxes.
- For the soldier – don’t use your power in ways you shouldn’t.
- For the person with means – share your wealth with those poorer than yourself, so others are not without basic necessities.
John suggests each of us position our heart for serving others, where it is hardest for each of us. He wants us to be in the habit of thinking where we can use our power to make life better for others.
Remember last week when we spoke about John wanting to make it easier for people to get to God, by leveling mountains and filling valleys? Most of us think that the mountains and valleys that separate us from God are thing that are put in our way. What I want to suggest is that we each have our own self built mountains and valleys which separate us from having a heart that would reflect the Holy Spirit. And each of us has to figure out how to best “level the mountains and fill the valleys.” Or as my son Thomas noted – build elevators to get over the mountains and bridges to cross the valleys. Not only do we have our own obstacles, but the way to overcome those obstacle will be different for each of us.
I have a challenge for each of you and myself as well. And it’s not original. Ask yourself:
“What should I do?”
Not necessarily to be saved or to get to Heaven. But what should I do to have a Heart like Christ. How do I build a habit to better serve those I have power over?
Serve Where It Is Hardest
Think about what is hardest for each of you to do. For me, one of the areas I know I can work on will be to be less reactionary to my boys and to try to understand their motivations in situations before I react.
Now, you might think – but I’m just a kid – I don’t have power over anyone. But you do. You have more power than you imagine. You have the power to make your mom or dad or grandparent’s life easier by helping in unexpected ways – sometimes just by saying please and doing something like bringing them a glass of water. Maybe you and your sister get into arguments and you get angry – being kind and polite in disagreements can be a huge mountain you can get rid of. Sharing that last cookie with your brothers could be a valley you can bridge. Just start by getting in the habit of thinking about others first.
Bringing someone a glass of water or sharing that cookie won’t get you into Heaven – we need to rely on Jesus for that. But serving others with a a Godly intent sure puts our hearts in a place that makes it easier to accept his gift of salvation.
I’m going to close paraphrasing a line that a preacher wrote about this gospel that inspired me for this week’s message:
Participating in God’s kingdom is available to us where we are, requiring only the modicum of faith necessary to perceive the sacred in the ordinary. It is, in short, entirely within our reach.