Re - Rooting our Lives

Can be listened to here

Gate Pa – Year A  th Sunday of Ordinary Time,


Psalm                          Psalm: 72:1-7, 18-19                                                        
First Reading:                         Isaiah 11:1-10                                        
Second Reading:        Romans 15:4-13                              
Gospel:                        Matthew 3:1-12        
What I want to say:
explore the relationship between John and Jesus
talk about taking the axe to the roots being about our identity – what shapes our lives and give our lives meaning – we need to be rid of those elements that lead us away from God’s generosity, peace and goodness.

What I want to happen:
take time at the end of each day to give thanks for ways God brought peace and hope into your day,  and to reflect on the roots that might help you to live peace.

The Sermon

     1.     Introduction:

In our advent walk
today we encounter John the Baptist
traditionally described as the forerunner to Jesus
their relationship clearly really important
one of few topics all four gospels talk about
nearly agree about
            given they don’t about birth Jesus or resurrection
            shows how much care they took with this
all four gospels tell very similar story
important story
suspect more important than we realise

    2.     Why is it so important?

in Jesus world – the one who came first is most important
            John comes first
increasing speculation that Jesus was disciple of John
            if that is true
            again John would be seen as the most important
            the one that would take priority
remember still communities of Johns disciples around at time gospels were being written
those communities would have been pretty clear that John was teacher
            most important
            not at all happy that this upstart disciple being described as the one people should follow instead of John
more so because Jesus changes John’s teaching
So all four gospels are at pains to show how John understood himself as preparing the way
Yes John comes first
yes John is older
that is why number of commentators think that the gospels leave out that John was the teacher and Jesus the disciple
why they make it really clear that even he, John, understood that Jesus would supplant him
These carefully crafted stories are written to counter the claim that
            John is superior
that his message was superior.
ð They are crafted to meet the opposition both from John’s disciples and from others who knew the story
They are also carefully crafted to show how Jesus stood in the tradition of Johns message of repentance

     3.     Repent

what is repentance?
most of us probably think repentance is about me and thinks I do wrong define repentance as
1. deep sorrow, compunction, or contrition for a past sin, wrongdoing, or the like.
2. regret for any past action. [1]
problems with that
first is - never be just bout individuals
            our concept of individual just doesn’t exist in those times
            smallest unit not individual – but the extended family
understand John and Jesus use of that word repentance
need to see how used in first testament is
The Hebrew word shûb (pronounced shoove) occurs 1058 times in the Old Testament. It simply means to turn, either literally changing direction (returning) or as a metaphor for a radical change in lifestyle and behaviour. It is not used of a mere change of intention, unconnected with behaviour.
Another point to note is that whenever you turn, you turn from one thing and turn to another.
The constant refrain of the prophets is calling Israel to repent from their idolatry and return to their God. Here is an example from Jeremiah 4:[2]
 repentance is communal
John stands in prophetic tradition
            which calls for a turning from one way see world
            to another which places God in centre
            and calls for a living out of Torah as way of living in presence of Living God
            returning to idea of how communities work
                        all have place
                        all cared for

     4.     Pharisees and Sadducees

enter the Pharisees and Sadducees
Interesting that in this story they are placed together
generally – Sadducees – ruling elite -> centred on temple and maintain ceremonial and ritual laws around temple the ritual
-         Pharisees are intellectual reformers – calling for much bigger understanding of Torah
clearly for John
            and for Jesus
            calls for reform did not go far enough
            understanding of what looked like to live in presence of God
                        live Torah
                        was still too watered down
so John gives them a bit of a bollocking
accusing them of being too lax because they believed that because they were descendants Abraham
God was on their side
John reminding them none that was true
social aspect law was as important if not more
until they take that seriously
            Identity as children Abraham – worthless

    5.     Axe to trees

great line about axes to roots
not only tree chopped down
roots ripped out as well
calls into question where their roots lay
- images God shaped lives
- what shaped their priorities
- values
- where their source of their sense of self-worth lies

     6.     the priority of Jesus

come to the crunch
the priority of Jesus
this is why this whole story is told
ð Jesus is the true teacher
ð Jesus carries on teaching and the work of John.
Message paraphrases it like this
“The real action comes next: The main character in this drama—compared to him I'm a mere stagehand—will ignite the kingdom life within you, a fire within you, the Holy Spirit within you, changing you from the inside out. 12 He's going to clean house—make a clean sweep of your lives. He'll place everything true in its proper place before God; everything false he'll put out with the trash to be burned."[3]
I suspect most of us feel pretty uncomfortable with the last line of this reading this morning
His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire
feels really judgemental
and was described as such on Tuesday
Jesus judging between us
condemning some to eternal fire
and others to life
not an image many of us know what to do with
again there are problems with this
first is
            not just about individuals
            that is not how this culture operates
while we can read it as being about individuals
            also about whole communities
and it is about the aspects of those within us and within communities that are
as message puts it
“He'll place everything true in its proper place before God;
everything false he'll put out with the trash to be burned."
we are back with an axe at the roots.

    7.     so what are we to do with this?

we are the people John is speaking to today
like John – preparing the way
story of fruit salad plant
wonder – where are our roots?
            what roots need to be chopped out
-         what images God lead us away from God who loves us first
o   who forgives us before we even work out we need forgiveness
o   who invites us to live same love and compassion
-         what values lead us astray – hindering us being people of generosity, joy and peace
-         what priorities prevent us being a people of hope
as i said in pew sheet
take time at the end of each day to give thanks for ways God brought peace and hope into your day,  and to reflect on the roots that might help you to live peace.



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