“He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire…[He will] clear his threshing floor and…gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” – Luke 3:15-17,21-22
It’s easy to imagine a text like this becoming the pretext for a certain kinda sermon – the kind that makes your average Episcopalian distinctly uncomfortable: Fire and Brimstone”… “Hellfire and Damnation” … “Longer than 12 minutes”… That kinda sermon.Well, that’s not how I preach. But you know what? I don’t think it matters. I think we’re gonna feel uncomfortable anyway. It’s the text itself that makes us uneasy, not the sermon: the way we read the text and the way the text reads us.
When we read texts like this one, our mind’s eye sees God sorting out not wheat and chaff, but people: good guys and bad guys, winners and losers, us and them. It’s not entirely unappealing to read it this way. Either/or is always easier than shades of grey: just choose the right side, just join the right team…just put on our “I’m with Jesus” tee-shirts and “Team Jesus” wristbands and all will be well.
Yet if we are the least bit introspective, we know it’s not like that, because we know we are not like that. Each of us has parts we don’t wanna see, that we wanna hide from others, especially God, yet that we know God must see even clearest of all. No. If God is sorting us out into wheat and chaff based on what we deserve, we know which pile we are headed for…and it ain’t the one destined to become bread. Continue reading