Repentance and Fruit, two sides of the same coin

Luke 3:1-14

December 5th & 6th, 2009


        Gilbert Barnes, a former member of this congregation, who is now in heaven used to have a nick name called boom, boom.  That is because he was an expert in the use of dynamite.   If I remember our conversations correctly he was one of the men who helped level many hills and straighten many paths so that I-64 which runs through southern Illinois could be constructed.    His “dynamite” skills were also used in creating the dam which resulted in Carlyle Lake.   His work was necessary to flatten things out, remove various obstacles, so that our drive could go smoother, and that water would flow to its proper spot.  To many a kid this is a dream job, destruction and danger.   I think it is safe to say that John the Baptist has never been referred to as “boom, boom”, but in effect he too was sent to do the preparation work needed so that the grace and love of Christ would flow smoothly into the lives of those who paths are anything but straight, and valleys are anything but filled in.   However, his work is not ultimately about destruction and danger, for like Gilbert Barnes, he was part of a building process which in the end ‘resulted “all flesh seeing the salvation of God”. 

        You got to admire John the Baptist, for he was a truth teller, and it didn’t matter who heard it.  He wasn’t concerned about political correctness; he wasn’t concerned about offending the establishment or anyone else for that matter.  He was in the truth business, and whether it was saying to the masses “You brood of Vipers” or to King Herod you are having an adulterous affair, he said it.   Yet, his message was more then helping us recognize the need for Christ.  His message was one that   included a washing and making us whole through the baptism of repentance, and the forgiveness of sins found in Jesus alone.    Yes, he too was proclaiming “good news”. 

        So why did he come to prepare the way?   How great is our need for the Savior?   Lucy and Charlie Brown are leaning on the fence.  Lucy turns to Charlie Brown and says, “Discouraged again, eh, Charlie brown?  You know what your trouble is?  The whole trouble is that you’re you.” Charlie Brown replies, “Well, what in the world can I do about that?”  To which Lucy retorts, “I don’t pretend to be able to give advice; I merely point out the trouble”.   In our relationship with God, this may sound too pessimistic.  I’m sure those going out to be baptized by John in the wilderness of all places, knew that indeed we are made in the image of God.   We may have heard the saying “God doesn’t create junk”, creation is good, including his creating of each of us.   We are as the bible says “fearfully and wonderfully made”.   Those John spoke to even knew their bible, for they were Abraham’s children, and part of the divine covenant.    True enough, but John was sent to show them and us, that the reason we can be and are connected to our merciful God is not because of “of our blood lines”.  It is not because of a “divine spark” within us.  It is not because of what we do or promise to do for God or others.   It is solely because of the one who would travel into our valleys and raise us up.  It is solely because of the one who would bring us down from the overwhelming mountains we face, and settle us again on a level plain.  It is solely because of the one who would bring us back on the path, after we have veered off in directions that didn’t have our God or the love of our neighbor in mind.    

        What is so refreshing about John the Baptist is his message of truth.   On Wednesday, we had our weekly chapel here at school.  In this chapel I showed the children this JTB (John the Baptist) truth mirror.    My hair was all messed up, I had black marker spots on my face, my one shoe was off, and my shirt was undone.  Yet, each time the students mentioned to me that something was not right, I responded with these words ‘I’m fine”.  It wasn’t until I saw myself in this mirror I could see that I was telling myself a lie.   However, and this is very important, there was a picture of Jesus in the corner.  You see the “John the Baptist” truth mirror always pointed to Jesus.   You see the truth is not just found in an unfinished road.  “Boom, Boom” didn’t dynamite the roads so that large unfinished destructive holes could be found in various parts of Southern Illinois.  That work, was merely a precursor to the smooth highway that would soon come.  The final “road word” has been completed for us by Jesus.   As people baptized into his death and rising in his resurrection our true and greater “you” is not one of trouble, but one of wholeness and peace.    “And I’m sure of this he who began a good work in your will bring it to completion on the day of Jesus Christ”.  (Philippians 1:6). 

        So then how shall we live?   How shall we bear fruit?   By the grace of God in Christ Jesus we live in faith.  Faith that we have been washed, and forgiven by Christ alone, and that our sins and our failures cannot outdo his work for us.  We then live outside of ourselves in the life of our neighbor, and sights of this abound in the scriptures and in our lives.   For example , it is religious, godly work then to share with those who have little, to live life in fairness to one another, and live in contentment.     We are called to walk on the smooth roads of God’s forgiveness, stopping often to deliver and bear fruit for the sake of those around us.

        Thanks be to God for John the Baptist, the truth this forerunner proclaims, and the Savior who willingly delivers the salvation of God.  Amen.