Advent II, Mark 1:1-8; St. Nicholas Day, December 6th, 2020
This may seem like a dumb question, but have you asked yourselves why you are here or watching online this morning? The obvious response would be: “To hear the Word, pray and receive Holy Communion.
Let’s explore this question a little more. What are we seeking? What are our minds and hearts seeking? Could it be that we have something in common with those seeking out John the Baptist? Are they looking for healing for their wounds, for God to fill their emptiness, to commune with the Holy One?
People seeking John were desperate. Israel had been without a prophet for 400 years. What would it be like for a church to be without a priest for 400 years?
People flocked openly to John confessing their sins to John at the Jordan—to a person they didn’t even know. I wonder: If John came down to the San Marcos River, would people flock to him? Would John gain traction in the Episcopal Church in our day with the message: Repent, followed by confessing our sins openly in public?
What was their motivation? To drop what they were doing: weekend plans, a shopping trip, the football game-to confess their sins in public? Think of the restlessness and agitation carried by them for 400 years. There’s a saying: “The fathers have eaten sour grapes and the children’s teeth are set on edge.” Sin has a weight to it—when carried long enough becomes burdensome and becomes heavier over time. Sin that we do not release carries on through us, affecting others and is passed on from generation to generation. Perhaps they were sick and tired of being sick and tired.
John had something they wanted: relief from their burdens in exchange for God and his gifts of Liberty, peace and joy. Confessing sins openly released them, opening a place for God within them to dwell. Repentance is the way of release and recovery of our birth right in God.
Does John offer something we want?
What is John asking the people to turn away from? Sin, anger, judging others, self-condemnation, resentment, false teachings, misplaced priorities, false gods…. Changing one’s heart and mind for the Hebrew is to change one’s action—which requires the conversion that repentance initiates.
John’s message was revolutionary—in how we seek repentance. Previous to John, for two thousand years, the only way sins were remitted was through the shedding of blood—from animal sacrifices. Now, John was baptizing with water, which required an inward repentance to reunion with God. Baptism was a sign of this reunion with God.
Forgiveness manifests itself through the Spirit working good works in us. Repentance empties the heart so God can fill it. John was baptizing with water, which required an inward repentance to reunion with God.
The animal is no longer a way of accomplishing spiritual reunion. The human heart is involved.
Those who sought John, were hungry to release the death they carried within themselves.
From what do we want God to deliver us?
What is the suffering that our minds are cluttered with and our hearts are burdened with that we seek to release?
The time is now.