Luke 3:7-10

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?” Luke 3:7-10

John has a quite a bit more to say in Luke’s telling of the story than the other gospels – and he begins by insulting his audience. I’ll admit, I’ve never opened a sermon by calling the congregation a brood of vipers…but then again, I’m not John and I hope they come back next week whereas John might never see them again.

Having gotten their attention, John tells them three things. 1) Bear fruits worthy of repentance, 2) Don’t use your religious heritage as a defense mechanism, and 3) You better be quick about it because God will get you if you don’t.

But an even bigger surprise is the reaction of the crowd. They don’t immediately reject him and his words. They don’t rise up (like will later happen when Jesus preaches in his hometown synagogue) and attempt to snuff John out. Instead, they simply ask, “What then should we do?”

Whether or not anyone actually proves willing to change their behaviors or not – we’ll see in the text tomorrow the sort of thing that John exhorts them to do – their question suggests a certain degree of open-mindedness that presents a stark contrast to much of what we see currently going on in our country.

We hear lots of name-calling, lots of labeling, lots of race-baiting (see #1 above.)

We hear lots of tribalism and echo-chamber-driven echoes (see #2 above.)

And we hear lots of doomsday forecasts of how life as we know it will end if the other side wins (see #3 above.)

What we don’t hear nearly enough of is the simple question, “What then should we do?” But that IS the question that holds the only real hope for moving anything forward in any kind of productive manner. After we have talked ourselves blue in the face, the only thing that really makes a difference in the real world is what we do.

My son got a new job last month. I’m proud of him and I hope it goes well. The odds of it going well are significantly increased if he actually shows up to work every day and does his job to the best of his ability.

We elected a bevy of new governmental leaders last month. Our expectation now (we hope) is that they roll up their sleeves and get about the work of governance. Regardless of their tribe, it is the work they do that finally matters most of all.

For far too long we have either located the Christian faith in our heads (what we believe) or our hearts (how we feel) while leaving the rest of our bodies behind. An integrated faith, a wholistic faith, is ultimately expressed in what we actually do on a daily basis.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, John is waking us up on a Monday morning. Forgive us for all the ways that we sidestep reality by our defensiveness, our closed minds, and our unwillingness to change. Guide us today, that we might know what we ought to do. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


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