Preparing our Hearts

A Faith from the Margins to the Web Bible Study for the Third Sunday of Advent

FFMTW Bible Study Group

Luke 3:7-18


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.

Jonathan read the lesson for the third Sunday of Advent for the group.  

“Mmm…repentance and being humble…those are right at the core aren’t they.”  said David.

“You know, this is pointing out something that is happening below the surface, that was going on for longer than maybe those who were there ever knew. It’s like getting to the undercurrent of what is really going on.  People were working but not getting paid what they deserved. Others were trying to hang onto more than the needed, while other people went without. It’s like they’re getting called out on what is really going on. And it isn’t just, ‘hey people, work hard for your wages.’ Its also, ‘hey, employers, pay your people right for the work that they do!’

Ty said, “You know, when you think about it, all three of these lessons.  First, we’re being told TO prepare ourselves. Then, we’re being told what signs to look for, to remind ourselves to be ready.  And here, we’re being told exactly what we need to do, HOW to prepare yourself so there will be no misunderstandings about what is expected.  The specifics are right here.”

“Plain and simple” said David.  “Right here, there it is. So, it becomes my decision to accept that and live into that.  It’s a simple program, really. I mean, we find all the parts of it that feel hard. And we DO have a choice.  But at the end of the day, it’s not all that complicated. We choose to live in Christ’s way.”

“You know, it strikes me that these same issues that were going on 2,000 years ago are still our struggles today” I added.  “Fair wages, giving up some of what we have so that others can have what they need. We still struggle with it, even when it is laid out that pure and simple.”

“Yeah, that is true” said David, “and it may have even been harder in those days than we have it today and yet we can get caught just thinking about ourselves and our own lives.”

“But even in the midst of this: at the very time that was happening, God was preparing the hearts of all of humanity to become human and enter into this whole, crazy, messed-up world all because God loved us so much” I said.  “God had a choice, too. I can’t help but be overwhelmed by that amount of love.”

“You know, I’m still struggling with pride” said Jonathan.  “I am always happy to help someone else, but when others want to help me I feel that pride welling up.  Accepting help, accepting love: for some of us, that is the challenge. My Mom used to joke that she wouldn’t give me toys because I’d take them outside and give them away to the other kids.  But, I’m trying to turn toward God and even accept that I need to receive. That’s the harder part for me.”

“You know, the Good News for me here is that we can learn so much from each other and from spending even just a little more time in God’s word” said Willie.  “I know, my pastor tells us to read the word but times like this remind me of WHY we read the word. There is so much here to help us, to point us in the way we need to go, and we don’t need to be so busy and preoccupied that we forget to read it AND to share it with each other.  In the sharing God works through us, and through each other. That is how we prepare.”

It was Willie who offered up a closing prayer:

“Dear Lord, I thank you for gathering us all together.  Do you see what you just did here, Lord? You brought us all together, and we learned more about you.  So, as we go out of here, knowing some of these truths that we learned today, may we be men and women enough to live into that Christ-like behavior.  Thank you, and may God grant us serenity and wisdom as we leave here to continue to do God’s work in the world.”

Amen.

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