Advent 2 - Matthew 3:1-12
Expect the Unexpected
I wonder - what made people follow John the Baptist to the river to be baptized?
What makes a person listen to a person like John? What makes a person stop what they are doing and say “This is what I need. He’s right. I need to be cleansed. I need to be baptized. I need to be ready because the Kingdom of God is near.”
I suspect that there was a second thought… “The Kingdom of God is near… and I really, really need the Kingdom of God to be near.”
Not unlike me. And maybe you.
I find myself longing for the Kingdom of God to be nearer to me in both time and space.
Although, if I’m honest, I’m not sure what the Kingdom of God will look like. It’s been a long time since the Fall of 1999 when I sat in Catherine Keller’s classroom at Drew and worked through eschatological theologies. But it has not been a long time since I cried, “Come, Lord Jesus.” It was mere hours ago, and it was in response to some stressor at my job. I’m not sure exactly what I’m asking for, but I have hope. I have hope that it will be different.
I have hope that whatever the Kingdom of God is, it will be different than this world we have now. I have big hopes and little hopes - no more migraine headaches, no more poverty and disease. No more people fleeing their homes because of war or fire. No more children having no safe place to sleep, no more women afraid to leave their partners because of an inevitable violent consequence. I have so many hopes.
I wonder if I might have a kinship with the people who followed John the Baptist to the river. What were their hopes, what future did they believe in so fervently that they believed they had a role to play and the first step was to go to the river to repent and be cleansed?
Then, of course, I must ask myself - what voice am I hearing in this time when I long for the Kin-dom of God? (I don’t know what it will look like, but I embrace Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz’s assertion that “when the fullness of God becomes a day-to-day reality in the world at large, we will all be sisters and brothers--kin to each other.”¹
I hear the voices of modern mystics and prophets, to be sure, calling me to service. Of practical and public and constructive theologians who are creating the frameworks for asking crucial questions about how our theologies create (for better and worse) the systems by which our institutions frame their work.
I also hear the voice of John the Baptist, telling me “Repent.”
Telling. Me. Repent.
This is unexpected.
And I do not like it.
I need to hear it. I know I do, because when I hear it, I think, “Not me. I don’t need to repent. OTHER people need to repent. I’m good. I’m progressive. Liberal. Queer. Other people need to repent.”
And I’m wrong. (Repent of non-repenting attitude. How meta.)
I need to repent, and not just of systemic -isms, of which I am surely I participant and of what I must repent.
But I also must repent of this idea that has taken hold in my brain that I do not have a role to play in the making of the kin-dom. I rely too often on OTHER people to do the work of preparing the way and making paths straight because I, too often, do not believe enough in myself and what I can do. There are people who can physically do more than I can, limited at times by physical illness that strikes unexpectedly. They can show up to protests, rallies and marches. I cannot. But I can speak. I can have conversations. I can be the pastor my friends and family count on me to be. I can participate more fully in my faith communities - both local and online. I can encourage those others who are doing more physical work. I can be both gracious and grateful.
I will repent of this idea that I am less than a beautiful, amazing creation of the Divine that has the stuff of stars in her. I will listen to John the Baptist, I will repent, I will remember the vows of my baptism, declare what I believe, resist evil, seek and serve God, strive for justice.
With God’s help,² I will repent and prepare the way, actively anticipating and participating in the Kin-dom of God.
¹Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz’, "Solidarity: Love of Neighbor in the 1980s," in Lift Every Voice: Constructing Christian Theologies from the Underside, eds. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite and Mary Potter Engel (San Francisco: Harper, 1990), 304.
² Baptismal Covenant | The Episcopal Church
Regina Heater (@reckshow) is a self-avowed and practicing ecumenist who loves hearing and sharing stories of how we live into the Questions of life. Find her on Twitter @reckshow and on Facebook at facebook.com/LivingMysteria.