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Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Today’s Reading | Luke 3:1–20

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’” 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. But Herod the ruler, who had been rebuked by him because of Herodias, his brother’s wife, and because of all the evil things that Herod had done, added to them all by shutting up John in prison. (NRSV)

In this passage, the people need a simple message. John the Baptist is preaching about baptism that leads to the forgiveness of sins, but some don’t understand the need to repent, because they feel that being ancestors of Abraham is more than enough. But it isn’t.

John expected those wanting to be baptized to change their ways, so he further simplifies his message: share with those in need, do your job with fairness and to the best of your ability whatever the job may be, and be content with what you have.

This sounds so simple, but life gets in the way. Shouldn’t ethical guidelines for life include these things anyway? Of course we don’t have to go far to interact with someone in need. We should always do any job fairly and to the best of our ability, in fact, to our maximum potential. And if we are doing a job as well as we possibly can, hopefully others will see its worth and express appreciation. No matter what, God will.

Heavenly Father, as we journey through Lent toward your glorious resurrection, help me to always remember your expectations of me. Let them be a guide for serving you. Amen.

Written by Ellen Schaller, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

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