Sunday, December 16, 2018
Light three candles…begin your prayer time by lighting the first two purple candle, the Hope and Peace candles…and light the rose or pink candle…the Joy Candle.
READ: Luke 3: 7-18
3:16 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 the Holy Spirit and fire.
3:17 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.”
So, who are you in this story? Careful…that is a loaded question. This week we light the third candle, the rose or pink candle for Joy. Joy. What is joyous about John the Baptist calling the crowd a brood of vipers? What is joyous about telling the crowd that the wheat will be separated from the chaff, and the chaff will be burned in an unquenchable fire? Is there any joy in that?
During seminary, ELCA students are required to do a cross-cultural experience. I spent 12 days with other students and a professor in Honduras. We spent the first day in a “richer” area with a Mall that I could not afford. As the days progressed our bus was boarded by “police” with machine guns. We never showered. We wore the same clothes. We were fed generously by people who spent all day over hot stoves preparing for “us” while they ate left overs. We slept in a village with no power because the land owner stole it for himself. During the day, we worked on rebuilding homes destroyed in a hurricane 8 years earlier, only to realize the next morning, the men of the community “re-did” all our work at night because it wasn’t done correctly.
On the last day, we arrived at a single village among miles of neighboring villages. They were lined up along a dirt road that lay next to fields and fields of fresh veggies and crops. Among the crops was a very large home or compound and men in jeeps, carrying machine guns. The children ran to us with dirty smiling faces. No one wore shoes. The women were missing most of their teeth because their bodies took their calcium to give to their nursing babies, and there were very few men.
Where are all the men?
Dead. Or in prison.
The land across from the village was owned by a single landowner. All the men had worked for him. He cheated them from their pay while he knew they were starved. He beat and abused them.
The organization that led our trip tried to help each village “organize” and become self-sustaining. They all jumped at the chance. The next day, when the men went to “work” the land owner accused them of trespassing and gunned them down or had them thrown in jail. The message was clear. Organize and die.
All the villages, from a fear that I pray I never truly understand, rejected the organization’s offer. Their men were freed, if they were still alive. They went back to work.
Except this one village we visited. They “organized.” They received a cow from the organization. They now had fresh milk – calcium. They received lessons on growing their own crops among the “poor rocky” land of their small village. The crops grew. They organized “jobs” and every person had a role in one area of preserving food for the year. They received a bull. They had calves. And more calves. Corn began to pile high in small shacks.
Then, when their 10th calf was born, they tithed it to the village next door. Watching them and receiving the calf, gave the next village the courage to try to organize. The joy from this little village exuded from them, and when we worshipped along side them…in their little church filled with handmade instruments and hand-woven tapestries of every color of the rainbow, we saw where their joy grew from…it grew from their relationship with God. By the time we met these joyful people, they had tithed four calves. And continued to give God all the glory. A people with nothing, saw other people with nothing, and gave…joyously, trusting that God would continue to provide for them the way God had already done. “There is enough if we share.”
The joy from John’s message to all of us vipers…the parts of us that are selfish, fearful, untrusting, sinful…those parts of us will be cast in the fire, and what will remain? The wheat. The saint. We are all vipers. We are all children of God. During this season of Advent we wait for that time when the only name that will remain is Child of God.
God of Abundance, everything we have belongs to you, and you have freely shared it with us. But we do not acknowledge or share in the same way that you have so generously done. Help us to trust. Help us to see our neighbor’s need along side our abundance and bear fruit. In the name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen
Where are the places you see the abundance of your life? Share with a friend or in the comments below.
About Mitzie…Mitzie Schafer is a Deacon in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. She has a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice from Florida Gulf Coast University and a Master of Art in Religion from Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary with a concentration in Christian Education and Christian Spirituality. She has been writing curriculum and teaching faith formation for more than ten years. Mitzie’s faith is grounded in the belief that God is the initiator and we are the respondent. That God’s yes is always bigger than our no. That being created in the image of the Creator, makes us by our very nature, creative. And that God LOVES ALL people.
Comments to this page will be moderated. Open and kind discussion is welcomed; hateful and vulgar speech will not be tolerated. This is a safe space.