I read the Daily Office readings for the day this afternoon. One might ask as a stern rebuke, “Why didn’t you read the word early in the morning?” First of all, I didn’t have time before leaving for work. Second, “Chill out.” I recognize perfectionism rearing its ugly head at head at me to shame and condemn. I read the word when I did, and I enjoyed it.
In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’” – Matthew 3: 1-3
Matthew’s introduction to John the Baptist’s ministry is familiar to many. While the four gospel writers don’t document all the same events, people and words of Jesus, they do record about the life and ministry of John. He was obviously that important.
What struck me today was his call to the nation to repent because of what has come near or is at hand.
What I take from it is an insistence of his hearers to repent to prepare their hearts, spirits and bodies for what God is already stirring in the environment, culture and world at large.
Repentance is to stop going in the direction one is going. Stop! Give your attention and passion to what God is doing or about to do! You may stop going in the direction of self-destruction or narcissistic activity because God is about to act definitively. Again, stop!
Repentance can also mean to change the way you think. You could be thinking of how anything and everything effects you personally. You could think of your pain as your only focus. You could think of your own history as the only history that mattered. Think again. Think about the God who acts to set the prisoner free, to raise the dead, to exalt the poor and meek, to give sight to the blind and health to the sick. Again, think differently!
John told his community, his world, God was about to do something he’d promised centuries before. God was about to erupt into the community and establish his kingdom. Stop and think differently. The Messiah is about to turn your world upside down.
What is God about to do in your world, your community, your life? Prepare yourself. Stop! Think differently! Your God’s love and power is about to be unleased and turn your world upside down. Alleluia.