the one about being simple, but not easy...
December 17, 2018, 8:00 AM

Sermon from December 16, 2018

Text: John 3:7-18

Grace and peace be with you from God our Creator and our Lord and Savior Jesus who is the Christ; will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord our rock and our redeemer; amen!

So, what better way to begin this third week in Advent than to hear John the Baptist yell to all who gathered to hear him, “You brood of vipers!” He kind of lays it into them doesn’t it? Calls them out – calls us out.

How’d you hear about this wrath that is to come? You who fall back on your traditions and history – you better watch out. God doesn’t really care about all that. You better watch out, all of you!

John the Baptist’s words are incredibly harsh and can cause great fear to rise up within you. It is no wonder that those who gathered around him asked – possibly quivering with fear in their voices, ‘What then should we do?’

I kind of chuckle every time I read John’s response because, well… it doesn’t seem to fit. It seems too easy doesn’t it? Share what you have an abundance of – in possessions and food. Don’t take advantage of people, be content with what you have.

I had a friend who in a recent discussion about this text said, “This is like if I said to my own kids – You are the worst of all time and I am going to punch you in the face, throw you out into the street, and never speak to you again.” And they responded, “what can we do?” And I said, “just take the trash out.”

As many of y’all have commented to me these last few weeks – I’m getting in better shape, I’m feeling good, and I’ve lost weight – at least enough for others to take notice.

One of the main questions I’ve been asked (both seriously and jokingly) is, ‘what did you do?’ What is the secret to losing weight? How did you go about doing it! Has it been a diet, a complete life change, a complicated procedure? The answer of course to all of that is really, ‘no.’

Just watch what you eat – don’t over indulge and exercise – even a little bit.

It really isn’t any more than that.

We live in a world today – and the world I feel has been this way for a long time – that wants really complicated answers to life-rending questions.

How can I be saved? How does God love me? What can we do to get more people involved?

I think we expect to hear some complicated answer. We expect to be told to jump through these hoops or adhere to this strict guidelines or rulesets.

Yet, more often than not the answers to many of those questions are quite simple.

How can I be healthy? Eat in moderation, exercise – even just a little bit.

How can we get more people involved here? Ask them and invite them – literally talk to them.

How can I be saved from the wrath John warns about? Share what you have. Don’t take advantage of people. Know that you are loved.

How do I know God loves me? Because God created you, became flesh for you, lived for you, died for you, was resurrected for you.

Sometimes the answers to what people think are tough questions are really quite simple.

Now, of course living into those simple answers can be quite difficult. That’s what we fight against constantly.

You say eat in moderation and exercise to feel healthy and lose weight, but it feels good to eat and exercise can make me feel tired, sore, and it hurts sometimes.

I know. But, we’re here to help live and go through it together.

You say to get more people involved and a part of the community here I have to talk to them, but I’m scared. What if they say no? What if they ask me questions and I don’t have an answer?

I know. But, we’re here to help live and go through it together.

But, if I give away what I have, I’ll have less. What if I can’t clothe myself or provide enough food for me family? If I just do this little thing, sure that person might not get the best deal, but it is better for me and my family.

I know. But, we’re here to help live and go through it together.

Sometimes I don’t feel that love or it doesn’t happen in the way that I expect or want. Sometimes it is hard to remember that.

I know. But, we’re here to help live and go through it together.

This morning we hear John the Baptist paint a picture that seems pretty bleak and hopeless for the world. He calls those gathered around him – and in turn each of us – a brood of vipers. A place no one wants to be. Dangerous and not kind. He calls on those around him to not rely on the things they’ve always been told. Just being descendants of Abraham isn’t going to be much of anything since God can raise up descendants from the rocks. Don’t let your history and knowledge of who you are get in the way of actually living into what God calls you and has created you to be.

So, what must we do?

Share what you have. Don’t take advantage of others. Be kind to those around you. Be content with what you have.

The answer to the question of ‘what must we do’ isn’t difficult or complicated. In fact, it is rather simple and unexpected.

Of course, living into those simple things can prove difficult because we make it difficult. Yet, we remember that we are gathered together to live, work, play, and serve with and for one another. We don’t venture off alone, but we strive together to live into the simple answers that John the Baptist gives the crowd this morning.

And, when the question eventually comes up from others, ‘How… how can you do this? Why do you do this?’

Again, our answer is simple. So, simple we forget it most of the time.

We do this – we share what we have; we’re kind and open to those around us; we’re content with what we’ve been given; we live a life for others rather than taking from others – we do all this because God loves us, and God loves you, too. And we know this love because of the gift that we celebrate in God coming to creation as Jesus Christ.

Now, we don’t always live into those simple truths and ways. But, we do it together, never alone. And well – we know God is with us too through it all. Amen.

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