Matthew 3:1-12 (NRSV)
Chapter 3In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, Verse 2"Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near." Verse 3This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, "The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.'" Verse 4Now John wore clothing of camel's hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Verse 5Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, Verse 6and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.
Verse 7But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Verse 8Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Verse 9Do not presume 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. Verse 10Even 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. Verse 11"I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. Verse 12His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire."
Sometimes our lives become so cluttered that it is hard to focus on what is important. It can be a real gift to get rid of things we don't need so the clutter doesn't define our lives.
Today's Gospel reading suggests that part of the gift of Jesus is a new experience of the Holy Spirit to declutter our connection with God. John the Baptist tells the established religious leaders that their ancestry will not make them right with God. These religious leaders followed many religious rules and regulations that didn't bring connection to God but merely cluttered up people's lives.
There is a different way. By repenting of our sins and placing our faith in Jesus, we can experience the Holy Spirit clearing away those things that keep us from joining God's work each and every day. This keeps us focused on the things that matter most to God. What a gift!
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we too repent of our sins and ask for your forgiveness. Allow us to experience the presence of the Holy Spirit in a fresh way. Declutter our lives, and help us focus on what matters most to you. Amen.