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.”
And the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?” In reply he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” He said to them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.” 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.”
As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, 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. 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.”
So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people.
Meditation for Sunday December 13, by Kate Moorehead
I wish I could sit down with John the Baptist and ask him to tell me about his life. What an autobiography it would make!
John is a fascinating character. In the Gospel of Luke, we hear of his birth to Zechariah and Elizabeth, prestigious Jews who lived in Jerusalem. Zechariah was a high priest in the temple. His son John would have had the best education, a solid religious upbringing, good food, and beautiful clothing. John was born into the elite class of Judaism.
The next time we see John, he is dressed in camel’s hair and eating bugs. Obviously, there was some major break between his childhood and adulthood. He gave up a life of privilege to serve God. For John, proclaiming the good news is about shedding all the social privileges of this world in order to rightly see and live into the kingdom of God.
John does not seem to be concerned with what anyone thinks of him. He has let that all go. For John, it is not important to please anyone but God. He always tells the truth about what he sees. When people come to him to be baptized, he can tell that they come only for security and not for discipleship. Their cowardice and selfishness make him angry. John is fiery, untamed, and insistent in his mission and message.
What would John say to you if you came to him to be baptized? Are you ready to give your life to God? Are you ready to be hated by others if that is necessary? John said goodbye to a life of privilege and had the courage to say yes to God.
The Very Rev. Katherine B. (Kate) Moorehead is the tenth dean of St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral in Jacksonville, Florida. As dean, Kate serves as vice president of the Episcopal School of Jacksonville, the Cathedral School Early Learning Center, Cathedral Arts Project, Cathedral Care nursing facility, and Aging True Community Senior Services, all nonprofits birthed from the cathedral. Kate is a graduate of Vassar College and Virginia Theological Seminary. She is author of four books, Organic God, Between Two Worlds, Get Over Yourself: God’s Here, and her latest book, Resurrecting Easter. Kate and her husband have three sons.
Soul Proclamations: Singing the Magnificat with Mary is a new collection of daily meditations for the Advent season. Authors include broadcast journalist Ray Suarez; Christopher Wells, editor of The Living Church; Kate Moorehead, dean of St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral; Thomas E. Breidenthal, bishop of the Diocese of Southern Ohio; and Christine McSpadden of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.
The book invites you to share Mary’s journey through the Advent and Christmas seasons. To walk with Mary each day this Advent, order a copy of the full volume of Soul Proclamations ($5).