Pride of place...
Things are not too good today in our readings. We are on the brink of great changes for the communities of faith gathered around God, and sadly it looks like yet again humanity is failing to distinguish itself. There is controversy and conflict in the camps and Moses and Aaron have to confront a hostile takeover attempt by a faction of the Levites who are angry and disappointed that God has denied them access to the Promised Land. As well, John the Baptist is in full voice in Luke, condemning the sins of the present generation and calling upon them to "human up" and bear fruit worthy of repentance.
For the Israelites in the camp around the tent of meeting, there is an intense back and forth with God, Moses and Aaron that culls the resistance by disposing of the malcontents with plagues, sinkholes and consuming fires. Just a reminder, says God, that deliverance is one thing and inheritance is another. One is a free gift, while the other requires adherence to Covenant. If that Covenant is not held and kept, then there will be deep and costly results.
John reminds us that Covenant is not a privilege, nor is it a birthright. It is a profound gift and with it comes the responsibility to live our lives in a fashion that makes a witness to God both of our faithfulness and offers a sign to the world of God's love for it. There is nothing in us that makes us special. What makes us a holy people is God's love and steadfast care for us.
How we respond to that love is what defines us as the people of God. We can take on that call and walk humbly before God, or we can presume that our election in grace is something that sets us up over and against the world.
Better that we heed John's call, even when he starts off by calling us a brood of vipers. May we today remember to surrender pride of place, and embrace that repentance that humbles us before God.