Friday, September 9, 2011

The long and Winding Road

In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said,“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord;make his paths straight.’” Now John wore a garment of camel's hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them,“You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.“I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” Matthew 3:1-12

Today, we travel to New York to cheer our daughter Emily on as she swims across the Hudson. This is not simply an athletic feat, but she is raising money for the leukemia and lymphoma society in their fight against cancer. She witnessed her Dad's valiant struggle with cancer, and although he is healthy now, she knows we all must do our part for others. Six years ago she was hit by a car as a pedestrian just after she began graduate school. She was sidelined for a long time and she still carried scars from that accident. Despite the challenges, the pain and the uphill battle, she fought back and now can swim three miles. Tomorrow it will be in open water and we pray that God makes the currents favorable and the water calm for her passage. She struggle back not for herself alone but for the love and care of others.

John encounters a bunch of religious leaders coming to him for baptism and he gets angry. Angry because these men lead a life of ease and comfort, and do nothing for the poor and the needy in their midst. They often condemned the weakest, as sinful, so as not to have to care for them. And so John sees clearly their hypocrisy, the empty repentance, their showy turning. We all can rest when it is time for service and care. And yet God invites us today through the intensity of John the Baptist, to be serious in our repentance and to use the gifts and skills we have for the love and service of others.

Today I ask simply for the strength to see the need and respond, not with judgment but with open arms, not from a place of my own limitations, but with the limitlessness of God's love. May all that we do today be for the renewing and love of God's people everywhere.

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