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. -Luke 3:7-18
"You brood of vipers" - John says this to all present and yet to come, to me. I may claim in my own way that "I have Abraham as my ancestor" - that is, I could never do the worst imaginable crimes. I say - I am not kin to the violent murderers of this world. But John calls me out on that and I know in my heart that I do participate in the killing. Wherever people die before attaining the fullness of life - I am complicit. I would not go into a classroom and kill children but what do I do about war, greed, hunger, poverty, lack of health care? All kill every day. It is impossible not to be complicit.
Still I go out to the desert to ask where is the hope? John gives me a simple answer. Turn away from the path of violence by receiving a message of "enough" - I do not need to have more than enough. Be satisfied with having just enough. That is his message of hope.
The Holy One IS coming with burn away the chaff that overloads us. We will be tossed about by life and in the process winnowed down to what we hope is good grain. Join the One who suffers and dies and comes again with the eternal hope of God in humankind's ability to make this a world of life for all.
And some realism from Digby
And more from Anne Lamott