A Reflection for the Second Sunday in Advent*.
The RCL readings are here.
Today is the second Sunday in Advent (it isn’t Christmas yet, y’all). And although this Season is about anticipating the coming of Jesus we spend today (and next Sunday) reading about the story of Jesus’ cousin, John. John is considered the last of the Old Testament prophets even though his story is told in the collection of writings we call the New Testament. John is referred to as John the Baptizer because, we are told, he proclaimed a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And with those two words (repentance and forgiveness) I’m sure several folks have logged out.
For those of you still with me, what if I told you that the word we translate into the English word ‘repent’ means to have a change of heart or mind or to think about one’s life differently? What if what John was proclaiming is that you don’t have to struggle to do it on your own any more. You don’t have to prove yourself perfect. You don’t have to wonder if you are good enough. What if repentance means that we realize that we gave up the abundance of God’s provision for us to take a limited diet for ourselves, and make the new choice to (re)turn to God as our source of life and love?
Our faith ancestors tell the story of people in God’s garden being tasked with tending what God had made, to participate with God in the care of the world. Yet that wasn’t enough for them; the abundance and variety of nourishment of the garden wasn’t enough. They had to take for themselves the one thing God said don’t take.
Later, the people God had asked to participate with him in the expansion and growth of the world’s population decided they would rather limit themselves by being like everyone one else with an earthly leader. God as their leader wasn’t enough for them. They thought they could do better.
So along comes this camel skin wearing, locust eating fellow named John to remind them that God wants nothing more than to be in relationship with them, to live with them as a beloved family, to help them learn again to rely on the abundance of God’s provision by letting God lead them in the Way of Love. And in their remembering they make the decision to once again see the world through God’s lens and to apologize to God for having ignored his compassion and love and return home to the life God intends for everyone.
How different would the world’s view of ‘church’ and ‘religion’ be if we had held on to this loving message of repentance and forgiveness. Instead of shame and guilt and punishment we hear John’s proclamation as a remembering and a re-membering of our true selves, the beloved children God created us to be.
Hear God’s voice calling all of us to return, to change our hearts and minds and follow Jesus in the Way of Love as we participate with God in the building up of the Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.
And with that message singing in your soul, I invite you to join me next week as I preach about the Good News of God using the continuation of this week’s reading when John calls the folks he’s baptizing a “brood of vipers.” I promise it will be a proclamation of love, Y’all!
*Now that I am back in parish ministry, I will be preaching every other Sunday. For the alternate Sundays I will still do a short(ish) reflection on the lectionary readings.