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Summary: John the Baptism was anointed to prepare the way for Jesus, but how did he do that? It certainly was not obvious, and not how most people thought. This sermon will get a reaction.

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This sermon was delivered to St Oswald’s in Maybole, Ayrshire, Scotland on the 13th December 2015; St Oswalds is a Scottish Episcopal Church in the Dioceses of Glasgow and Dumfries.

Zephaniah 3:14-20 Canticle 9 Philippians 4:4-7 Luke 3:7-18

“Please be seated, and join me in a short prayer.” Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, O Lord. Amen. (Psalms. 19:14).

The Three R's.

As a secondary school teacher, I have to listen to everybody's viewpoint of what they think we Teachers should be teaching our pupils at school, ... and one of the most popular views is the over-simplified expression, the 3 R's, ... Reading, Writing and Arithmetic".

Let me tell you, I absolutely hate this expression with a passions; because ... Arithmetic starts with and A not an R; ... and secondly because reading and writing are only two of the main sub topics of English, there are other forms of communication? ... And Arithmetic, well Arithmetic is only one of many subtopics of Mathematics, ... there is algebra, geometric and trigonometry all the other the other ometries, ... ... but we all know that there is so much more to an education than the reading, writing and and doing sums.

However, ... I do agree with what is being implied, that the 3R's are the minimal requirements of a child's education, and that all pupils should have a firm foundation in them. ... This morning I want to talk about similar R's that every believer should be grounded in such as ... Repentance, Remorse and Retribution, ... there is also ... Revival and Renewal, ... and Reformation, and also Restoration and Rejoicing, and these all start with an R.

Repentance or Remorse.

The first of these is remorse and repentance, and we read this morning that John the Baptist is encouraging his followers, (and maybe us), ... to repent in preparing for the coming of our Lord, ... and every Christmas we try and re-enact this, which all very good.

But back in John's day, John's followers had no idea what this new prophesied messiah would be like and what he wanted, (because Jesus was still not on the scene), ... but John was specially anointed to prepare for his coming. ... And here we see John trying to communicate to these followers the true meaning of repentance, ... by trying to demonstrate the consequences of their sins, ... and to try and get them display some kind remorse, which we can conclude was not being done. ... Back then, the people were content to sacrifice a Lamb at the alter to cover there sins, ... but show remorse, well ... that seams to be missing otherwise why would John be trying to get them to show it.

And their peace and contentment was missing too, because this covering of sins by an animal sacrifice was not true forgiveness of sin, it was only a covering, ... so these people must have been concerned that their alter sacrifice were not enough, ... and that this new Messiah was coming to sort them out, ... possibly to judge and condemn them. So John the Baptist cries out in verse 7, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath"?

Yes, John calls them ... "you brood of vipers!”, implying that they were evil, ... just like the greatest viper of all in the Garden of Eden, ... Satan himself, a being who certainly showed no repentance or remorse.

And remorse if you are not sure is about changing our minds from our sin and wrong doings, ... it is about being disgusted by our failings and shortcoming, ... and then trying to do something about them. It is certainly not about another R which I didn't mention, ... and that is Regret, ... because regret is where we are sad because we have been caught doing something wrong, ... no, remorse is a true apology for what we have done wrong; and a genuine effort to correct that wrong.

And remorse also means that we see sin for what it truly is, ... something that damages our relationship with God, ... because God hates sin so much that he once destroyed everyone in the world except for Noah and his family in the flood, ... and it is foretold in revelations that God will do so again, ... but the next time it will not be with water, but with fire.

Revival and Renewal

And so this brings us to the Revival and the Renewal so that we do not fall back into way of sin, because this passage suggests that we do something about our sin, and produce something good. ... So John said this in verses 8 and 9, "Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. ... The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire".

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