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."
Where I live, near Saint Paul, MN, summer is filled with road construction. Traffic is rerouted while roads are fixed to be smooth and allow for efficient travel. When I think of the prophet Isaiah’s words of “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,” this image often comes to mind. I also wonder if there is something about our activity in building up one another, living in harmony, and being mindful about our words of hopefulness that makes the path straighter for the work of Christ in our midst. Maybe it makes it easier for the words of Jesus to land in another person’s ears, or prepares our own hearts to be changed. When we neglect our own spiritual well-being or our neighbors’ needs, it is like digging a pothole or putting a large boulder right in the middle of our common pathway of life. How might you engage in creating or clearing a path today?
Jesus, we confess that our actions sometimes break down communications and relationships rather than build them up. As we go through our day today, may we focus on words and actions that create a clear path to you and the beloved kingdom you have brought near to us. Amen.