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Advent II: Matthew 3:1-11

December 4, 2022

Imagine two friends, we’ll call them Miriam and Sarah, sitting in the evening sun, finally getting a moment of idleness after a long day. They live in a small village, not far from the river Jordan. They’re keeping an eye on the smaller ones, but it will have to be pretty bad before they’ll get up to sort things out. They’re tired.

“Did you go hear that latest prophet fellow?” asks Sarah.

“Who, John? Nah, he’s just like all the others, down to the leather belt and camel hair clothing. Just like Elijah and everyone else who thinks you just put on the right clothing, and everyone will believe you’ve got something worth hearing. All talk and nothing ever happens.”

“I’m not so sure,” muses Sarah. “I think this one’s the real deal. Folks are coming from all over to hear him. Even from Jerusalem and around Judea.”

They sit in silence for a while.

“He says that the kingdom of heaven is near.”

More silence.

“So we should turn back to God.”

Miriam snorts. “Second verse, same as the first.”

“No, really,” protests Sarah. “You should have heard him have a go at the city slickers down from Jerusalem. A few Pharisees and Sadducees.” She giggles. “He called them a brood of vipers. He says it isn’t enough just to be Jews. He says we need to bear fruit worthy of repentance, whatever that means. And every tree that doesn’t bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”

“Well then, it should be a pretty spectacular fire with the kind of folks we have around here,” replies Miriam, “not to mention those hypocrites in Jerusalem, siding with the Romans.”

Silence again.

“Did he bother to say what the kingdom of heaven is like this time?”

“He didn’t, but the people around me were remembering the prophet Isaiah’s visions. You remember, the wolf and the lamb living together, the cow and the bear grazing, the lion eating straw like an ox. No one getting mauled or hurt. Everyone living the way God’s wants them to. No more violence.”

“That’ll be the day. Send the Roman army home. Ha.”

“He says that another one is coming, just like in the scroll from Isaiah. And this one will baptize with fire and the Holy Spirit. This one, he’s going to separate the grain from the straw and burn up the straw.” Sarah sounds worried, or maybe it’s eager.

“I think that I want to be baptized. No, really.” This is in response to a look from Miriam. “This one is different, I can tell.”

“I think that you should just keep your head down, look after the kids, and don’t draw any attention to yourself. What do you stand to gain from spending time with these guys? It’s not safe.” Then, suddenly, she shouts, “Gabriel, if you so much as touch a hair on your sister’s head, so help me I will pound you all the way into next week.” A rather grubby boy about four years old takes a large step away from a small child playing in the dust by herself, oblivious to the danger she has so narrowly escaped.

“It’s funny, given how we’re running all day long just to get food on the table and stop the kids from killing each other. But I feel like I’d like the chaff burned out of my life, out of this village. Like I’d be better if the trees that didn’t yield fruit were cut down. Like we’d all be better off if we all got ready for the kingdom of heaven. It’s coming. I can feel it.”

“So what are you going to do differently?” asks Miriam, not unkindly. She just knows that Sarah is a dreamer.

“I don’t know,” is Sarah’s reply. “I think that I’ll start by talking to a couple of John’s followers. I can’t just drop everything and join them on the road. I’ve got my life here. But I want to hear more about this one who is coming. I know that we all mess up and that I can turn back to God. Every day.”

“Well, it’s one hell of a way to start a revolution. You let me know how it works out for you, OK?”

“OK,” says Sarah.

And a few minutes later, “See you tomorrow.”

“Yeah,” replies Miriam. “Same time, same place.”


Questions for reflection:

I wonder what your favorite part of this story is?

I wonder what you think is the most important part of the story?

I wonder what part of this story is about you, or where you see yourself in this story?”

I wonder what part of this story we could leave out and still have all the story we need?