A Fruitful Harvest
by Jennifer Jerrome
"His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat in the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire." (v. 12)
So, what is a winnowing fork? For the audience John the Baptist was addressing it was a powerful reference, but if you didn’t grow up harvesting the land, you may not understand. A winnowing fork is used to separate chaff from grain by fanning - to separate desirable and undesirable elements. A winnowing fork would throw into the air the wheat, and the desirable elements (grain) would separate from the undesirable elements (chaff). They burned the chaff while they stored the grain in the barn.
John was advising the people to be prepared. The Lord was coming, and he was going to be cleaning house. While John was “making straight paths for him” like the prophet Isaiah said, time would tell exactly what Jesus was after. One would think it was the desirable grain, but Jesus often went after the undesirable chaff. He sought those who would get brushed aside and left with the trash. He was the “unquenchable fire” that would burn off the bad parts leaving the good to flourish.
While today’s passage is about getting ready for the Lord and advises to “produce good fruit,” I don’t think it’s a deal-breaker for being accepted by God. Through Jesus, the undesirable become desirable.
There are many times in our lives that the “fruit” we produce is quite sour, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to be axed and left to rot. God in his own loving way will cut down what’s unproductive and set us on fire for what will then become a fruitful harvest. He will throw us up into the air with his winnowing fork and separate what’s working from what’s not. Even the parts that are tossed away for compost nourish the earth.
John baptized with water, but the Lord baptizes with the Holy Spirit making us usable members of his kingdom.
Thank you, Father, for loving us and using your winnowing fork to separate the parts we need to let go of and shoring up the ones that produce good grain. We desire to be the grain that feeds those hungry for you. May you light a fire that refines us and uses us for your good. Amen