The funny thing is that I seem to have always heard the word “repent”. And, as I said in an earlier blog, I don’t get why this is a strange or shocking notion even for folks back then. Don’t we all have something to repent about? Don’t we all want to change, improve, renew? What might be shocking or strange about John the Baptist’s call to repent is the “why”. Not so we can earn more money, be safe, find true love, lose weight, be better parents, be great citizens, and so on and so forth. (Although nothing is wrong with those goals!) John isn’t giving us 7 steps to a better life. He is calling us to repent because the Kingdom of Heaven is near.
At least in Matt 3: 1-2 he is: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
Now I understand that the phrase “kingdom of heaven” is hugely complex theologically and I should go no where near it. But that doesn’t stop me! I think it is safe to say a few things, especially since Jesus picks up that phrase and goes with it too. It is safe to say that this year is the first time I “heard” that phrase, that “why”. That phrase suddenly “sparkles” at me, sort of hums with meaning. Suddenly when my pastors preach I’m “hearing” that phrase (a lot!) and realizing that: if the “kingdom of heaven” is near then instead of the day-by-day goals of losing weight or working hard or saving more money perhaps something else is near. Joy? Love? Wouldn’t the “kingdom of heaven” be full of Love? Peace? Shalom? If it is near, when John calls for turning around, it’s to change my focus, to change what I see or perhaps how I see. Not just making more bricks now, another day another dollar. Not just endlessly and hopelessly trying to improve myself, my family, my community, the world. Now perhaps, maybe, repent means hope. Understanding. Love. Joy. All the priceless things that we really long for, yes?
“Our father, who are in heaven, hallowed by thy name. Thy Kingdom come, they will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven.”
I’ve never really heard this before: Let’s make heaven on earth.