Monday, December 11, 2017

Do Not Be Afraid (of Yourself) - Advent 2

Mark 1:1-8
December 10, 2017
Advent 2

So there was a man who seemed a little weird,
He  dressed funny and ate bugs
he yelled at people and told them they needed
to admit their sins and change their ways,
and after they did that,
St. John the Baptist
Jen Norton
he would dunk their heads in the river.

And it says that people came from
all over the Judean countryside
went out to the river to participate in it.
Like it was Walmart on Black Friday or something.
What was the attraction?

Now ritual washing was something that every
culture had, but it was more
kind of a task that Jews and Pagans
had to do before going to worship.
So that in itself was not too exciting.

And John’s ritual washing was unique
washing was combined
with a confessing your sins and changing your ways.
Which doesn’t sound like it would be popular either.

But I think all combined, what John the Baptist
was doing was something very exciting.
He was saying that something earth shattering
was on its way and this was the way to get ready for it.

Jesus was going to be doing amazing things in the world,
shaking things up and making things new,
and the first step they had to take was
ready their lives to receive it.

And the message is the same for us today.
Get yourself ready to receive the good news.
Examine yourself, be honest with God, Repent!

Now, humans in general are all very
excited about other people changing their ways,
but not at all eager to take account
our own wrongdoings and to change our ways.

Even those of us who are seasoned Christians and
well versed in the concept of repentance
would rather forget the whole thing most days,
because we know that the outside world is pretty scary,
but the world inside us can be absolutely horrifying.

We scare ourselves because we know our selves all too well.
Who knows us better than we know ourselves?
Who knows better the people we’ve hurt,
the things we’ve let go, the laziness and apathy we  feel?
The anger and hostility, the violence in our heads,
the terrible things we’ve thought about other people
the horrible things we’ve said without thinking?
Who knows more about the temptations we have?

But as scary as we can be to ourselves,
as Christians we look inside, we are honest.
Because any work of Jesus includes
a good amount of introspection and truth telling
to ourselves and to God.

Now I wanted to avoid saying that the work
of a Christian “starts with” looking at ourselves,
because self-examination never ends,
and we could easily get stuck in self-examination
and self-absorption and become nothing but a self-help religion
who’s only work is to be nice and pure,
and never move onto the equally hard work of the Gospel.
Like spreading good news, helping the poor,
doing justice and serving others.
Plenty of Christians have fallen into that trap.

And  plenty of Christians have also fallen into the
trap of pointing a finger at everyone else
of thinking that all the problems  in the world
are someone else’s and that it’s always
the rest of the world that needs to change
for God’s will to be done.

But John the Baptist called on people to repent
For their own actions and faults
 To understand their own sins and problems.
To recognize the ways that they were not aligned
with God’s way and wills and  to smooth
those paths and take down those mountains
and get ready for Jesus’s transformation.

And now, while we are waiting for Jesus second Advent,
the call is the same: Repent.
You can’t repent for anyone else,
and no one else can repent for you.
John the Baptist still wants us to learn
how to change, to be flexible, pliable,
and to know that we’re forgiven
so that we can be ready for the transforming
Gospel that Jesus brings.

This is part of the work
that we do while we wait for Jesus to come again.
We cannot talk about sin until we realize our own sin.
We cannot think that peace will come
until we realize the violence in us.
We cannot confront racism until we
understand the racism in our own hearts.
We cannot hope to help the hungry
until we realize our own greed.
We cannot hope for justice until we know
 that we benefit from what is unjust.
We cannot hope to help the outcast,
until we recognize our own privilege.
No one wants to do this. This is difficult and scary.
no one is excited about repenting.
But we might be excited about what the future will bring.
We might just be looking forward to what Jesus
will be bringing  to us:
baptism by the Holy Spirit for new life,
and the anointing for ministry
to join Jesus in his mission.

So we listen to the crazy baptizer in the wilderness,
we look at ourselves, humble ourselves,
accept the forgiveness of baptism, and repent.

Do not be afraid.
Jesus is with us.

Prepare the way of the Lord.

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