Rumors or Repentance

Scripture Focus: Matthew 11.14-19
15 Whoever has ears, let them hear. 
16 “To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others: 
17 “ ‘We played the pipe for you, 
and you did not dance; 
we sang a dirge, 
and you did not mourn.’ 
18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ 19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.” 

Reflection: Rumors or Repentance
By John Tillman

In normal circumstances, John the Baptizer might have grown up to work in Jerusalem’s Temple like his father, Zechariah. He could have been one of the religious elite. Instead, he frustrated them.

Like Moses, living in the desert after rejecting a life of ease in Pharaoh’s house, (Hebrews 11.24-26) John’s life of aestheticism stands in contrast to the luxury many religious leaders enjoyed. (Mark 12.40; Luke 20.47

He could have taught in the gold-covered Temple built by Herod’s criminal hands. Instead, he taught in the mud-covered hillsides of the Judean wilderness. He could have worn priestly garments. Instead, he dressed strangely. He could have dined on fine sacrifices in the Temple. Instead, he ate strange foods in the desert. He could have chanted ancient prayers and psalms. Instead, he was a passionate prophet, raging against sin and hypocrisy. Instead of joining the religious leaders, he condemned them. John called religious people and everyone else to repent, including soldiers, tax collectors, and the poor.

So what do powerful figures do when a prophet is making them look bad? They lie about him. 

Rather than deal with the truth that John brought to light, the religious leaders accused him of being demon-possessed. Make no mistake, they knew what demonic possession was like. They had exorcists of their own. (Matthew 12.26-28) They weren’t making this accusation in error. They were spreading a false rumor intended to mislead. They created a conspiracy to slander him.

Jesus addresses this directly. He mocks the conspiracy and replaces it with the truth saying that John is the greatest man to have ever lived. But those who enter the Kingdom of God through repentance will be even greater.

The Jordan, where John baptized, is a river of decision. Will you cross over or not?  Will you repent? Will you enter the Kingdom of Heaven or not? 

How should you repent? Many asked John, “What should we do?” In his Q&A session (Luke 3.10-14) all of John’s examples have to do with money. He must have felt that the crowd that day had problems with greed. A few verses later, he condemns sexual sins by Herod.

When someone critiques you and calls you to repent, what will you do? Will you dismiss them with a rumor like the Pharisees, with violence like Herod, or will you listen to the Holy Spirit and repent.

May we open our ears and reject rumors and conspiracies. 

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
It was at this time that Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized in the Jordan by John. And at once, as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit, like a dove, descending on him, and a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; my favor rests on you.” — Mark 1.9-11

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Genesis 11-12 (Listen – 6:38)
Matthew 11 (Listen – 4:06)

Read more about Jesus with Axe and Fire
John the Baptist describes a Christ who stands ready with both axe and fire. May we ask him regularly to cut down our idols.

Read more about The Sword Versus The Cross
Jesus Saves. But there will be those who refuse to be saved by Jesus. They…want to be saved by other, less demanding things.

Cultivation Leads to Harvest

Matthew 12.1
At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them.

Reflection: Cultivation Leads to Harvest
By John Tillman

Cultivation leads to harvest. Harvests, when shared, lead to celebration.

In the rural south, I often experienced touches of the generosity harvest brings. In northern Mississippi, you knew when someone’s harvest was in because the produce would show up unannounced at your door. Or sometimes in your kitchen.

I remember coming in from some errand with my Granny to find a bag of fruit on her table that hadn’t been there when we left. A neighbor, coming by while we were out had walked into the unlocked home and left a bag of fruit. My Granny recognized the giver by the gift and set to work baking the fruit in a cobbler to take back to his house. Of course we ate some as well.

The generosity of sharing in the harvest is not a southern or a northern phenomenon. It is a phenomenon that happens within communities where gains and pains are shared.

The fruit of harvest may be literal fruit—the fruit of the vine, the fruit of the grain, the fruit of trees. It may also be the fruit of beauty and peace—of fresh cut flowers from a garden, of sitting in cooling shade, of walking beneath vines whispering with wind, or of crossing a brook whose current waves the cattails at us in greeting.

Scripture has specific guidance for dividing the harvest. Some was to be left in the fields for the poor. A tithe was to be brought to the temple so that those who served the spiritual nourishment of the community could be physically nourished in return. Some was to be given in other sacrifices. Sacrifices for sins. Sacrifices for special requests to the Lord. Sacrifices on behalf of the community and for others. (Anyone teaching that all God wants from us financially is a tithe hasn’t read the Old Testament in depth.)

We are responsible for the care of our communities, spiritually and physically. This requires a financial and a spiritual harvest. We understand, if we don’t always follow, the principle of sharing our financial benefits with others. But often we are left with no harvest of wisdom, love, and mercy to share with our community, because we do not cultivate our spiritual growth.

How are you dividing up your spiritual harvest? To whom are you passing on biblical knowledge? With whom are you exploring the treasures uncovered in God’s Word? How are you supporting those who support your spiritual development?

Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Our sins are stronger than we are, but you will blot them out.. — Psalm 65:3

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Genesis 12 (Listen – 2:51)
Matthew 11 (Listen – 4:06)

This Weekend’s Readings
Genesis 13 (Listen – 2:16), Matthew 12 (Listen – 6:41)
Genesis 14 (Listen – 4:04), Matthew 13 (Listen – 7:23)

Additional Reading
Read More about Redemption at Work in Generosity
Landowners, the CEOs of Israel’s agrarian society, had a holy responsibility to not wring every grain of profit from their fields—to not harvest the edges and corners of the field, and to not pick up dropped grain or return for forgotten sheaves.

Read More about Good News to the Poor :: Epiphany
When Mary sang about filling the hungry with good things, poverty and many other personal tragedies were considered markers of spiritual failure. Today we also see poverty as a result of sin.

How far will you travel in God’s Word this year?
On January 1st we restarted our two year Bible reading plan in Genesis and the Gospel of Matthew. Join us on the journey. We read the Old Testament over two years and the New Testament and Psalms each year.

Read with us at a sustainable pace. Subscribe and invite friends to join you using this link.

Where will a journey through the Bible take your faith in the coming year? Jesus calls each of us, saying, “Follow me.”