The Lectionary This Week: December 13

In the gospel passage from the lectionary this week, we find John the Baptist exhorting the crowds to repent and bear good fruit. But like Jesus, John cautions that the fruit of repentance isn’t found in dogma or religious expressions — it’s found in the way we treat other people.

The Passage: Luke 3:7-18 (NRSV)

John said 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 worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

10 And the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?” 11 In reply he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” 12 Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” 13 He said to them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.” 14 Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what should we do?” He said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.”

15 As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, 16 John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

18 So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people.

Repent With Justice

The lectionary this week shines a spotlight on a connection that many of us would rather ignore – the direct link between repentance and the practice of social justice.

Over the past several months, we’ve been bombarded by a series of insane proposals from the Trump campaign, culminating with this week’s call for a total ban on any Muslims entering the U.S. Even Dick Cheney has labeled Trump as someone whose ideas go “against everything we stand for and believe in.”

Let that sink in for a minute. If Dick Cheney has condemned your conservative Republican agenda, then your presidential campaign has clearly gone off the rails.

Trump is nothing less than a privileged lunatic with a microphone. I get it. What should bother us more than Trump are the crowds of people who attend his campaign rallies and cheer wildly when he suggests policies and actions that are blatantly illegal, unjust and oppressive.

It’s fair to say that a high percentage of those who attend Trump rallies identify themselves as Christians. Decent, hardworking people who have repented and been baptized. People who profess to having an up-close-and-personal relationship with Jesus.

The lectionary this week reminds us that the fruit of repentance isn’t found in words or beliefs. Real repentance – the repentance that bears fruit – must be lived. And one of the ways we live it is by treating others with justice, compassion and respect.

That’s something Trump can’t understand. But as Jesus followers, it’s something we’re called to not only understand, but to practice in our everyday lives.