Do not be afraid!
Be welcomed home!
Shout to the whole world!
Call on God’s name!
Do not worry!
Flee from wrath!
Do not hoard!
Be cleared of chaff!
The exhortations of John the Baptist in this Sunday’s Revised Common Lectionary readings may sound dissonant compared to the other RCL texts for the day, but Luke 3:18 assures us that this, too, is good news — good news of great joy, even, to borrow from the angel’s message to the shepherds.
Good news of great joy: that God’s rage for the cause of justice can be perceived on earth, that our spirits can recognize it and repent.
Good news of great joy: that the ax at the tree root and the winnowing fork on the threshing floor have not yet begun their work, that there is still time to bear fruit.
Good news of great joy: that soldiers and tax collectors and politicians and payday lenders and police officers might not extort money from those under duress, that they might cease violence against the livelihood of the poor.
Good news of great joy: that neighbors might share their coats and add a few chairs around their tables, that those who are out in the cold or stranded at the border might be sheltered.
Good news of great joy: that water has marked us, that fire one day will claim us.
How will the good news of great joy be proclaimed in your sermon this coming Sunday, preachers? Is your sermonizing off to a strong start? Do you need to write a sermon that will miraculously weave a thread through the RCL texts, a parade of live nativity animals through the sanctuary, the choir’s annual cantata, and the youth group’s plan to have a surprise Santa Claus during the children’s sermon?
Share your sermonizing notes, blog links, questions, and encouragement with your colleagues in the comments!
Rachel G. Hackenberg‘s book with co-author Martha Spong, Denial Is My Spiritual Practice (and Other Failures of Faith), strives to make sense of faith through the trials & failures of life. Rachel has also written Writing to God and Sacred Pause.
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