In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet,
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.
Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall become straight,
and the rough places shall become level ways,
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”
He said therefore 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? Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin 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.”
And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?” And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.” Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do.” Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.” Luke 3:1-14
We are in the final stages of packing for our move to Alaska. It is hard to decide what to take and what to leave behind. Preparing our own way forward is tough, despite the fact that we have moved many times. It puts me in mind of John's challenge. We have to get rid of the things that will impede us, the things that will weigh us down and hold us back.
Luke's Gospel tells of John's ministry as preparation for the ministry of Jesus. The people asked what then shall we do? And he told them very simple things in preparation of meeting God face to face. He told them to share what they had, to be fair and honest and be happy with what you have. Simple answers for complicated times, which is what we all need. In the midst of challenges and changes, God invites us to remember the basics we learned early on, maybe even before kindergarten. Share, take turns, be far and enjoy the people and things you have right here and now.
Today, as the challenges and changes stare us down, may we be given an extra measure of patience and grace. May we delight in the giving away, in the sharing and in the people of our lives. May we greet the changes as a new way to encounter the living God.