Aloha Friday Message – June 22, 2012 – Sincerely yours …

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Read it online here.

Luke 3:2-6During the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert. He went throughout (the) whole region of the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one crying out in the desert: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low. The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'”

E pili mau na pomaika‘i ia ‘oe a me ke akua ho’omaika’i ‘oe! (May blessing always be with you and may God bless you!)

Today I am thinking about John the Baptizer and Repentance. Jesus’ relative – cousin perhaps – John the son of Zechariah and Elizabeth is one of the most unique personages in the Bible. He is often referred to as The Precursor in Biblical studies. I’d like to look a little at his background, and then go into the meaning of repentance. So, what about John?

We know he was about six month’s older than Jesus, and that Mary, at least, knew John’s parents, and that John’s parents knew Mary, her parents, and her husband and child. In the imaginative photo above the persons in the foreground are Jesus with his mother, Mary. He has injured his hand on a nail n the door being built by his father Joseph (on the right) and a hired-worker (on the left). The woman in the center is Mary’s mother Anne. She is trying to use something like pliers to remove the nail as Jesus kisses his mom to show he’s OK. To the right, and just walking past Joseph is John. He’s wearing what appears to be a loincloth made from an animal hide. Joseph is examining Jesus’ hand and John brings a bowl of water to wash it. The story reinforces the idea that perhaps the two families had some intermittent contact with each other. As the boys grew older, Jesus went on to learn from his foster-father Joseph, and John eventually moved out into the desert from which he reappeared around age 30 – not long before Jesus began his ministry.

John’s birth was miraculous in the fact that he was born to parents who had long before given up the idea of having children and resigned to living with the stigma of being childless. Zechariah was taking one of his twice-yearly turns at presenting incense behind the Second Veil in the Temple. While there he was surprised by an angel who foretold John’s birth. Zechariah expressed disbelief at the possibility of such an event and was therefore condemned to be speechless until the naming of his son Yoḥanan, a name which many scholars identify as meaning to quicken or to make alive. This applies both to the miracle of his birth to his aged parents as well as to his role in the earliest moments of Jesus’ ministry.

Did you know that John, Mary, Zechariah, and other persons in this episode of Jesus life (including Jesus) are all mentioned in the Qu’ran? John and his father are viewed as Islamic prophets. In the church of Christ of Latter Day Saints, John is credited with appearing along the Susquehanna River near Harmony River Township in Pennsylvania. Festivals celebrating John’s birth go back centuries and appear in many rites in the Abrahamic religions. In the Eastern Orthodox churches, there are half-a-dozen separate Feast Days celebrating events in John’s life from his conception to his beheading. His is referred to as The Forerunner in that Rite.

John is credited by some mystics as a soul who never lied, and perhaps was in a constant state of grace. This derives from the passage where Mary and Elizabeth meet (the Visitation), and the child in Elizabeth’s womb lept for Joy as Elizabeth (and the child) were filled with the Holy Spirit.

There are many other fascinating facts, legends, and conjectures about John the Baptizer. Please spend some time looking into his life and is role in history. He taught the Baptism of Repentance, and Jesus also preached repentance. We’ve talked about Repentance several times before. There’s a link you can use to go back and check out other posts dealing with repentance.

The word used by John and Jesus for repentance is μετάνοια, – metanoia. It is a change of heart, a change of mind,  or a change of direction as in a one-eighty turn. A closely-related word is μετανοέω – metanoéō. Both come from the same root meanings meta – above, beyond, higher; and noein to think from nuos – mind. So, metanoia is to move beyond where are hearts and minds are to a new paradigm, a new way of thinking and feeling and seeing everything in life.

Repentance is something we all need. We know we need it when we feel guilty. The Bible tells us to confess our faults to one another as part of offering our prayers – and our worship – in faith. Guilt and Repentance are inextricably linked. There is no need to repent if there is no sense of guilt; but that presumes we have a sense of guilt. These days it often seems that the only thing we feel guilty about is feeling guilty. We feel badly when we are guilty and frequently deny having done anything wrong so we will not have a sense of guilt or look guilty to others. When we do something that is clearly wrong, we explain it, we excuse it, but we do not seek expiation. We expect that we can keep our misdeeds secret from others – including God – but at the same time we know that God knows what we did and certainly we know what we have done, so if two people already know about it, we surely don’t want others to know. So, we lie about it, we cover it up, we pretend it’s only human nature, only the growing-up process, only experimentation, only a bad habit we sort-of-eventually-hopefully will replace with a good habit. HA! And all the while we just keep sinning away as if whistling in the graveyard really worked.

So when we are talking about repentance and guilt, we can’t really get there without talking about sin. What is sin? “Well, I don’t know what it is per se, you know; but I know it when I see it.” “And you know it when you do it you hypocrite!” We self-righteously condemn sinners, including ourselves, when we say we don’t know if such-and-such is a sin. Of course we know it’s a sin! How? We feel guilty! What, then, does SIN mean? What Biblical words can we use to identify it? In the Old Testament is  חטאה chatta’ah {khat-taw-aw’}. In the New Testament it is ἁμαρτία hamartia {ham-ar-tee’-ah}. In both cases the word means to get off the path, to lose the way, to wander off the right path. Another word used is ἔνοχος enochos {en’-okh-os}, under penalty, worthy of punishment, guilty.
SIN is what we do wrong that we cannot completely deny or excuse because it offends the most basic instincts of goodness in us. John and Jesus said we must repent, turn around, have a metanoia. How in the WORLD do we do that?  They, and God, and all the prophets, and both the Old Law and the New Law, the Old Covenant and the New Covenant have only one word to answer that question:

LOVE

And so, once again, we are brought back to our Identity Formula seen previously:

LIGHT ≡ GOD ≡ LOVE ≡ TRUTH ≡ WAY ≡ LIFE

We may believe we can lie to our hearts and minds about our sins, but we also know we cannot lie to God about them. And HE will know that we repent, how we repent, why we repent, what we repent, and he will also know when our repentance fails. Even THEN, he is still ready – in fact delighted – to forgive us. Repentance has no usage limit unless it is insincere. Insincere repentance has a ZERO usage limit; it’s not good for anything or any one. Sincere repentance is not all that difficult – especially when you do it frequently – like every time you realize that your last repentance didn’t take hold.

Whatever, whenever, wherever, whoever, however, if ever, forever — at your service, Beloved.

chick

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About Chick Todd

American Roman Catholic reared as a "Baptiterian" in Denver Colorado.

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