pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Plenty of Chaff

Reading: John 3:7-12

Verse 12: “He will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

Today we read the second half of this week’s John 3 text. Verses 1-6 come tomorrow. Maybe that seems backwards. But sometimes we need to see the problem before considering the solution.

John has been preaching and baptizing in the wilderness along the Jordan River. Some of the religious leaders come out to see what’s going on. These men of high piety and fine robes are curious about this wild man. He is wild indeed! Upon seeing these fine men, John lashes out, saying, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?” Talk about a gut punch. He then tells them that claiming Abraham won’t save them. Upper cut! And, oh yes, the ax is at the roots of the tree – right there at your ankles. Quick jab! John finishes them off with this explanation of the wrath to come: “He will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” This sweeping right hand blow ends the encounter without a word from the Sadducees and Pharisees.

John cut right to the chase. He was direct and decisive. We smile or grin as we imagine this scene unfolding. Yes, we do. Until we realize that these words are in Matthew 3 for our benefit, not for the religious leaders’ benefit. We like others to think us “religious.” We enjoy our comforts. Don’t dig too deep, though. The reality is that we all have plenty of chaff in our lives – probably enough to start a small blaze! So we must ask ourselves: What religious facades do we hold up? How and why do we seek to practice religion instead of living out a real faith?

Good questions to sit with until tomorrow, when we delve into John’s call to repent. Happy wrestling!

Prayer: Lord God, make clear to me those things that you’d like to burn from my life with your refining fire. Give me the courage to see them and then the conviction to offer them up to you. Amen.


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Hear the Cries

Reading: Genesis 21: 8-15

Verse 17: “What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid”.

Hagar and Ishmael are sent out into the wilderness. They are given a small amount of food and water. Soon these run out. Hagar must have been struggling with this fate – we all would. Why would life have to end like this? What do you think being rejected and cast out felt like? People all over our nation are wrestling with the idea of being outcast, rejected, marginalized. Some are like Hagar, on the inside looking out. Others are on the outside and many are trying to understand and are trying to be a part of the solution.

Hagar prepares to die, along with her son. Both weep tears. Ishmael’s are probably of sadness and loneliness and confusion. Hagar feels these emotions, but more: anger, hurt, unworthiness, isolation, hopelessness. But as they cry, God hears them. God says to her, “What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid”. Those words – “do not be afraid”. These words are echoed throughout the story of faith. They say, God is near, God is with us. Today is not the end. Hagar and her son will not only survive, he will become a great nation too. God is saying that they matter, that their lives are important to God. God hears the cry of the outcast and the rejected. They are of sacred worth to God. God is their God too.

God continues to hear the cry of those that some see as less worthy, as less than. Jesus certainly heard their cries too. He invited us to hear the cries of the needy, the marginalized. And he told us to respond, to meet needs, to love them just as he first loved us. There is a great need in our nation right now for social justice and equality. May we, as followers of Jesus Christ, hear the cries of the outcast and oppressed. And may we, like God, choose to walk with them.

Prayer: Lord God, strengthen me for the day ahead. Gird me up to love all people well, to model that love after Jesus’ love. Lead me to act justly and to love mercy as I strive to walk humbly with you. Amen.