Advent 2021: A Season Of Healing And Hope – December 12
December 10, 2021
What then Should We Do?
(Rev. Dr. H. James Hopkins is Senior Pastor of Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church)
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? 8 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. 9 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.”
10 And the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?” 11 In reply he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” 12 Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” 13 He said to them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.” 14 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.”
15 As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah,[a] 16 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[b] the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 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.”
18 So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people.
Luke 3:7-18 (NRSV)
The crowds asked him, “What then should we do?”
In today’s scripture the crowds that have flocked to the wilderness to see John the Baptist respond to his preaching with a question, “What then should we do?”
In response, John speaks directly to the crowds (ordinary people), the tax collectors and the soldiers. It is significant that two of these three groups, the tax collectors and the soldiers, were generally not well thought of. They would be unwelcome in most communities. The tax collectors were viewed with contempt because they had great power and were frequently unjust. The soldiers were disliked because they were agents of an occupying power, outsiders to the Jewish population.
John does not condemn them for the jobs they held. Rather, he urges them to use their power and influence to build the community up rather than tear it down. He implores them to commit themselves to the healing of their fellow human beings.
The healing John offers does not begin with a list of acceptable identities. It begins with an invitation to provide clothing, act justly and refrain from the abuse of power. It begins with the commitment of all to use the power they had for the common good.
The beauty of the healing John promises is that it is accessible. It is achievable. We can get started on it immediately, today, the third Sunday of Advent 2021.
God of ordinary people, tax collectors and soldiers. God of us all. Thank you for inviting us to participate in our own healing, the healing of the world. Help us to get started today.