Gospel Reflections for Sun Dec 13th 2015

9 December 2015



Luke 3:7–18 

It is impossible to do justice to the many dimensions of this reading in just a few paragraphs, so I’ll just mention in passing, a few interesting observations before focusing on the question posed in the title.

• This needs to be seen as part 2 of last week’s Gospel reading, following through the general theme of preparing the way.

• What a charming welcome to the people presenting themselves for baptism … “you bunch of snakes!”

• “Just because you have some royal religious heritage, you think you are off the hook … but not the case!”

• Luke’s more inclusive wording when referring to the crowds, compared to the parallel passage in Matthew (an indication that Luke was writing for the Gentiles?)

• The whole subject of the Baptism preached by John versus the Baptism that Jesus later proclaims and promotes.

• The different groups of people asking John the question “What should we do?”

As we read this passage today, what should we do as teachers? What should we do as leaders in Lutheran Schools?

This is arguably a little off the beaten track in terms of the passage … but can I focus on the wording of verse 17? “His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

I don’t want to launch into a fire and brimstone analysis of this verse, but rather pick up the point of the relevance of our imagery as we spread the Word in our school communities.

I’m going to put this down more to my rural upbringing than my age (that’s my story anyway!), the fact that I do have an understanding of the winnowing concept. As I was growing up on a wheat farm, the machines that we called winnowers (along with the strippers*) were being towed away from under the old straw sheds to be left out in the scrub to go rusty, to be replaced by the technologically more advanced harvesters, and later headers. There were also times when we saw first hand the separating of the wheat from the chaff.

My point is this … the agricultural metaphor of the threshing floor, harvesting and separating the wheat from the chaff is no longer relevant today. In reflecting on the question “What should we do?”, I went off at a tangent to think about our need to search for images that are more in tune with today’s society. Coffee may be a good one. Separating the coffee grounds out from the brew itself and casting out the grounds into the rubbish bin. Maybe even a pack of Tim Tam’s – separating out and throwing out the packaging. Just maybe, God is speaking to us through this passage, to remind us not only to prepare the way, but to communicate our message to those in our community in a lingo that is going to make sense!

What should we do as we wrap up the 2015 school year? Enjoy a Tim Tam or three, rest up, recharge the batteries, take the opportunity to savour the good things in life in the context of all praise and thanks to God and above all, allow God to continually speak to us through His Word as we hear the fabulous Christmas story once again. May that story inspire and invigorate us more than ever before!


Footnote: (* Now I think the use of that word deserves a foot note! A stripper in the early to mid 1900’s was a machine that cut off and gathered all of the wheat heads, but it did not have the ability to also beat and sieve the grain into a separate compartment as the new machines now do. The winnower was the machine that separated the wheat from the chaff. The hand version of a winnower referred to in the passage, was to throw the mixed grain and chaff up into the air with a fork and allow the wind to blow the chaff away from the wheat.)