Rev. Michael Brewer’s weekly words
So he was saying to the crowds who came out to be baptized by him: “Offspring of vipers, who has warned you to flee from the wrath that is coming? Then bring forth fruits worthy of a change of heart and spirit, and do not begin to say to yourselves: ‘We have Abraham for our father.’ For I tell you, God is able to raise up children for Abraham from these stones. And already the axe is laid at the root of the trees; so that every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”
And the crowds asked him, saying: “Then what shall we do?” And in answer he told them: “Let whoever has two coats give to the one who has none, and whoever has food shall do the same.” But there were also tax collectors coming to be baptized, and they said to him: “Teacher, what shall we do?” He said to them: “Collect no more than what you are required to.” And also soldiers asked him, saying: “And as for us, what shall we do?” And he said to them: “Do not extort money by threats of violence or false accusation, but be content with your wages.”
And as the people were in expectation and all were questioning in their hearts about John whether perhaps he was the Messiah, John spoke in response to them: “I indeed baptize you with water; but one is coming who is mightier than I, so that I am unworthy even to loosen the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with holy spirit and with fire; his winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
— Luke 3
Three messengers had to descend and enter into humanity in preparation for the coming of the Christ. We find the appearance of their gifts in the centuries before Christ. One of these is wonder, which appears most outspokenly in the work of the first philosophers. A second is compassion, commonly associated with the teaching of Buddha. The third is conscience.
We can find these three gifts appearing in various places around the world in that time, but one significant place is in the Old Testament. If you want to look at the world with wonder, try reading many of the Psalms, for example the Eighth; or you can read the Song of Solomon. A wonderful way to develop compassion is to work with the book of Job. And of course the prophets were the conscience of the Hebrew nation.
All of these three gifts were concentrated in the being of John the Baptist. His words awakened the conscience in those whom came to him to be baptized; hence their question: What shall we do? His answer to their question awakened compassion: care for those less fortunate, and do not oppress them. And out of that arose the question in wonder: could this be the Messiah? To this question comes the answer one who is even more wonderful is coming.
Many of the events of recent days can suggest that the gifts of these three messengers—wonder, compassion, and conscience—are being strongly called on in this season. We are in a time when traditional thoughts, opinions, and values must be rigorously tested; when we must be prepared to change our heart, our mind, our spirit.
Such demands upon us can help us to know: The Kingdom of God is near, nearer than ever before.