Tuesday, December 8, 2015
Language can be a tricky thing. We often use it in a way to twist the meaning. We talk about fasting to lose weight. In our culture fasting is dieting. The truth is fasting does not equal dieting. Fasting is a spiritual discipline, not a weight loss program. And then, we talk about making love and having sex as if the two are always the same. Again, here are two terms which are not synonymous. One speaks of a physical act while the other speaks of a sharing at a far deeper level. Finally, in these early days of Advent we hear the Word of God talking about repentance. Our culture speaks of repentance as being sorry. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Being sorry gives us an excuse to do the same unacceptable thing the next time we want to do it. Repentance provides no such luxury.
When we repent, we turn away from something. As the scripture uses the term, it is in reference to turning away from some sin in our life. In some places the figurative language of "taking off" and "putting on" is used which also enables us to think about the kind of change inherent within the Biblical message of repentance. When John the Baptist used the word, he was talking about a radical change of the heart. The people of his day were those who figured keeping religious law was going to make them right with God. His preaching out there at the Jordan River was a call to put that idea aside and embrace something new which God was doing even as they were being baptized.
What God was doing in those moments when John was preaching was bringing His Son, Jesus, on stage into human history. While He had been walking the paths of the earth for some thirty years, He had done so in a kind of obscurity. When He walked into the waters of the river, He was no longer living under the radar. He was in those moments putting Himself in a position to be seen, and more importantly, believed by a people who were embracing a different belief system. Some things have not changed. The message of repentance is still one we need to embrace in this day.