The baptism of Jesus and the winnowing power of the Kingdom of God

This is the Sunday commemorating the baptism of Jesus. The reading for our church is from Luke 3:

The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah. John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 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.” And with many other words John exhorted the people and proclaimed the good news to them.
But when John rebuked Herod the tetrarch because of his marriage to Herodias, his brother’s wife, and all the other evil things he had done, Herod added this to them all: He locked John up in prison.

When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
(Luke 3:15-22)

When the Kingdom of God is introduced by John and then by Jesus, there is a process that began to happen and still goes on. It is the winnowing of the wheat from the chaff.

Winnowing is a process by which chaff is separated from grain. It can also be used to remove pests from stored grain. Winnowing usually follows threshing in grain preparation.

In its simplest form, it involves throwing the mixture into the air so that the wind blows away the lighter chaff, while the heavier grains fall back down for recovery.

John tells people this is what Jesus will do to people. There is a separating process that is constantly necessary in our lives. We need the junk separated out. We need what is necessary to remain. In this passage it is winnowing. In other passages there is reference to refining fire.

We need what is good to remain and the Holy Spirit want to burn out, or winnow out, what doesn’t belong. We “chafe” at winnowing and the refining fire. We like our comfort. The Lord wants to do a good work in us.

Let him.

Winnowing Wheat in Iran Photograph by David Murphy

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