Each week Pastor Sarah offers a devotional reflection to connect with the South Shore UMC Family. Use this entry as a way to prepare your heart and mind for worship. See you Sunday!
This week the South Shore Community begins our summer series entitled This We Believe. During this series we will study core concepts of United Methodist Belief. This knowledge will enrich our faith and draw us towards greater lived expressions of Christ-likeness in our daily lives. I hope you will join us safely in-person or online via our broadcast platform for this time of study!
Sunday's Scripture ~ Romans 14:13-18.
Devotional Scripture ~ Matthew 3:1-12.
John the Baptist prepared the way for the Lord. He emerged from the wilderness - clothed in camel's hair and likely with locust and honey breath! - and delivered a powerfully prophetic message,
Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight!
John the Baptist observes Pharisees and Sadducees responding to his message of repentance. They present themselves for baptism. And the text reveals that John the Baptist greets them with rebuke,
You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Do 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. Even 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.
It is not enough, John the Baptist says, to have or to say that Abraham is our ancestor. That alone does not properly prepare us before the Lord. Repentance is what properly prepares us before the Lord.
Repentance is the means by which we bear good fruit.
I am encouraged that the Pharisees and Sadducees presented themselves for baptism. They were the teachers and preservers of the Law...and yet there was something in John the Baptist's message that stirred anew - afresh - in them. Perhaps John the Baptist's words took a harsher turn towards the Pharisees and Sadducees because of their authority and influence in the community. Their hands and impressions were already upon the people, and not all of the marks that they left were of, from, or in love.
In order to start anew - to start afresh - we begin with repentance. Even folks seasoned in the faith have moments where we need to begin again with repentance. We become distracted. We veer off course. We temporarily replace, neglect, or obscure the main thing - which is love of God as evidenced through love of neighbor! That is what the Pharisees and Sadducees did. And they, too, presented themselves for baptism. They, too, came to the water to be cleansed and made new. John the Baptist shared with them a great - perhaps even grave - message of accountability. I, at times, also need (require) that great and grave message of accountability to shake me out of my current behavior patterns in order that I return to Christ-like behavior patterns.
Our Scripture text does not say that the Pharisees and Sadducees weren't baptized that day. My hope is they were. My hope is they experienced that renewal. My hope through God's grace is for my own renewal through repentance.
My hope is for your renewal, too.
Reflection: Recall a time that you temporarily replaced, neglected, or obscured loving God as evidenced through love of neighbor. How did God meet you in accountability? What sort of renewal through repentance did you experience? How did you or are you bearing the good fruit borne of repentance?
Prayer: "Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth, thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide; strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow, blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside! Great is thy faithfulness! Great is thy faithfulness! Morning by morning new mercies I see; all I have needed thy hand hath provided; great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!"* Amen.
*"Great Is Thy Faithfulness," The United Methodist Hymnal 140.
**Devotional Resource: The Weekly Prayer Project by Scarlet Hiltibidal