Minnesota Episcopal
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Episcopal Church in Minnesota

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Lectionary Reflection

Year C, Advent 3
Episcopal Standard Lectionary and Revised Common Lectionary

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.


Reflection on Luke 3: 7-18
by John G. Gibbs, PhD

So far during this Advent with Luke we have seen the coming of social justice on an inclusive grace-filled scale, the impact on today of Christian goals for our tomorrows, and on last Sunday the anchoring of salvation history in world history. It is very clear throughout that for Luke salvation is both personal and political (without being partisan). Though hidden at first, the import of Advent is being worked out gradually across continents and through centuries as the constructive effects of God's Shalom are worked out within and between nations.

Next comes John the Baptizer with a two-fold message that moves through judgment to "good news" (3:18). His call for a complete turn-around mandates: "Bear fruits worthy of repentance." Do not even begin to think of yourselves as privileged before God. Do not imagine that your nation is "exceptional" in any moral way. They said, "We have Abraham as our ancestor." So? "We have Lincoln as our forefather." So? Would you even stop to hear his Second Inaugural were it proclaimed abroad again?

That's the judgment. So, now what? To the crowds John insisted: you "must share." Whether it's a question of adequate clothing or sufficient food, you "must share." To the tax collectors: "collect no more" than you are supposed to. To the military: "Do not extort money…" Do not threaten the electorate or testify falsely in order to get more for yourselves.

If every Yes implies a No or more Nos, what is the gospel's No? In few words: share and be fair. Don't do the opposite or any variation from that. There was so much hope in John's judgments already that "the people were filled with expectation" even to the point of speculating that John might be the Messiah. That's understandable if we remember, as those people did, Isaiah's promise as recorded by Luke that "all flesh shall see the salvation of God" (3:6).

John and his disciples were not rivals to Jesus and the disciples. Not only Jesus, but also John the Baptizer "proclaimed the good news to the people" (3:18). John cleared the threshing floor for a creative purpose: "to gather the wheat into his granary." [Cf. I. Howard Marshall, Luke: Historian and Theologian (Zondervan, 1971), 124, 146] John made clear that he was not the Messiah, only the forerunner whose function was the apex of prophetic hope pointing toward the Messiah. During the period of hope, and before the time of promises fulfilled, there is no place for exceptionalism. What is coming in Advent is exactly "not here yet."

[In a study situation where communication flows kinetically in all directions one might contrast Mitt Romney's book No Apology: The Case for American Greatness with Howard Steven Friedman's book The Measure of a Nation: How To Regain America's Competitive Edge and Boost Our Global Standing (Prometheus, 2012). See Arthur Goldwag's review of both books at on October 7, 2012.]

Printable version



To Reflections on other Readings for Year C, Advent 1:

Reflections available at the active links
Standard (Episcopal) Lectionary
Revised Common
Old Testament
(Hebrew Scripture) Reading:
Zechariah 14: 4-9
Jeremiah 33: 14-16
Psalm 50
Psalm 25: 1-9
New Testament Reading:
1 Thessalonians 3: 9-13
1 Thessalonians 3: 9-13
Luke 21: 25-31
(this page)
Luke 21: 25-36
(this page)

John G. Gibbs, PhD, resided in Park Rapids, MN, when he wrote this reflection in 2012. John and we welcome your comments. Please address your comments or additional reflections to John G. Gibbs or any MEESC member, or mail them to:

c/o C. Morello
4451 Lakeside Drive
Eveleth, MN 55743-4400 USA

The MEESC assumes that all correspondence received is for publication on this web site. If your comments are not for publication, please so note on your correspondence. The MEESC reserves the right to decide which items are included on the website.


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