Being Thrown By the Winnowing Fork

Sermon text:  Luke 3:15-22

“He will baptize you with Holy Spirit and fire.” In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.


Have you ever seen a kid tell a story with parts of it that he just really doesn’t want to report?

“Sweetie how was your day?”

“Well…first there was class.  We painted.  Then there was recess, and I played with other kids.  …Then Billy called me a doo-doo head, and I punched him, and I got suspended.  What did you do today, Mom?”


That’s how I imagine Luke in this Gospel telling:

“And John was all like, ‘I baptize you with water, but then you’re gonna get baptized with FIRE!’ and then there was a winnowing fork and some chaff and then Herod was like, ‘Uh uh you go to PRISON!’…AndthenJesusgotbaptizedwideverybodyelse…But Jesus had these really cool ancestors!”

But why was Luke uncomfortable with this?  I like to imagine some enterprising member of Luke’s audience speaking up, “Hold up now, Luke.  I thought you said people got baptized to repent of their sins?”

“Yes, this is so…”
“But you also said that Jesus had no sin.”
“That is also so…”
“Why is Jesus getting baptized then?”

“Don’t worry about why Jesus got baptized!  MOVING ON WITH THE STORY!”


The stories around Jesus’s baptism tell us why Jesus got baptized.  John’s message about the winnowing fork and baptism by fire combined with Jesus’s genealogy tell us about the sin-riddled nature of humanity.

Sin is in every human being.  It is a part of the human condition.  Jesus is both the Son of God and the Son of Man.  Jesus’s baptism is a powerful message about the Incarnation and Christ identifying with humanity, for he was baptized with everyone else.

Christ Breadlines


Imagine it.  Christ, the sinless, standing in the midst of these sin-riddled beings.  It’s a powerful image.


But as full of sin as we are, we should take hope in John the Baptist’s message.


I have to be honest, I hated stuff like this when I was a child.  I would just think to myself, “I sin all the time!  I lied yesterday!  I’m gonna burn up as chaff!”


But that just isn’t the way we should hear this passage.  We all have sin.  It’s foolish to try and label people as being a sinner or not, for every individual grain has chaff.


Do you know what a winnowing fork is?  It looks a bit like a pitch fork, and the way it is used is the person takes the fork, throws the wheat into the air, and the wind comes in and rips the chaff off the wheat grains.

In other words, “one is coming,” read Jesus, who will take a winnowing fork to his harvest, us, throw the wheat into the air, and then the wind, πνευμα same word used for Holy Spirit, will come and rip the chaff, the sin, away from us to be burned in the baptism by fire.


But let’s get real.  Rippin’ ain’t easy.  In fact, it often hurts like hell.  But it’s a necessary process.  We can all remember those difficult or low times in which the Holy Spirit was shaping and teaching us.  Those times that we look back and say, “I do not want to do that again, but I won’t say that I wish it hadn’t happened.”

So, the next time that you’re having one of those low times and painful times and you feel the Holy Spirit shaping and teaching you.  One of those times when you just grit your teeth and want the procedure over with already.  When you’re having one of those times and someone has the absolute gall to ask you, “Hey, how are you?”


Winnowing forkJust look at them and say, “I’m being thrown by the winnowing fork.  You?”


In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.


One comment on “Being Thrown By the Winnowing Fork

  1. James Maury says:

    A gr8 message and terrific delivery!

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