Since I wasn’t preaching today, this is just two random thoughts about today’s gospel (Luke 3.7-18).
Here’s the first:
At first glance it’s all rather grim, especially if one postulates that life-long anglicans are the nearest modern equivalent to those that John criticised for treating salvation like a birthright.
But John’s retort, rather than filling me with dread, fills me with hope. “God can raise up children for Abraham from these stones,” he says.
Praise the Lord for that. Because I don’t want my salvation to be dependent on my track record, or my pedigree. I want it to be dependent on the grace of God. Because, frankly, I trust the grace of God more than I trust my own past. And, yes, I trust the grace of God more than I trust the church and the illusion of solid reliability that is increasingly showing signs of wear and tear.
Here’s the second:
Although I don’t much like justification by works either (see above – I prefer grace), I love the fact that John takes seriously the questions posed to him by the tax collectors and the soldiers.
“Bear fruits worthy of repentance,” John tells them. They hear the words, and they want to live them out, they really do. So do I, I really do. They ask him, “What do your words look like in real life? What do they look like in my life?”
And the answers John gives are answers that can last a lifetime. They’re practical answers that honour the situations in which these people find themselves, and show them, gently but firmly, how to make good choices in difficult times.
This gospel reading prompts me to ask my own question: What do the fruits of repentance look like my life? And how will God help me, a mere stone on the ground, become a child of Abraham? I give thanks today, because although John’s words are challenging, with God, everything is possible.