Mark 1:1-8 The beginning of the good news of Jesus the Christ, the Son of God.
As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,
“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way;
the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,’”
John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
Reflection Isaiah is not sending us out with axes and saws, root loopers and clippers, hazel hoes and rock bars to blaze a trail through the wilderness, to “Prepare the way of the Lord.” Isaiah is inviting us to see and be a new way in the wilderness. For the most part our human way, our path through the wilderness of life, is fraught with obstacles. Whether they are fallen timber or emotional memories, mountains or inherited facts of our mental, physical or emotional condition, at every turn and junction we have a choice. Are we going to direct our time and attention to our struggle with the obstacle and consequently get lost in a sea of distractions? or, are we going to turn ourselves around and pay attention to life as it envelops us, smell the roses even when faced with seemingly insurmountable obstacles?
What if instead of seeing fallen trees or sordid family history or a series of bad breaks as getting in our way or keeping us from arriving at our joy, what if we saw our obstacles as that which prevents us from welcoming the Spirit of God that is already with us? When we return our attention to God, which is what John the Baptizer means when he “proclaims a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sin,” we are essentially making straight the path or the way between us and God.
When John the Baptizer says, “Repent,” he is not saying beat yourself up for your shameful deeds. John calls for a change of mind… “the change of mind of those who have begun to abhor their errors and misdeeds, and have determined to enter upon a better course of life, so that it embraces… a recognition of sin, sorrow for it and hearty amendment…” (Strong’s G3341) When we repent we admit we are focused on or entrapped by our obstacles and then choose to turn instead toward God, not only by changing our mind but also by changing our behavior.
And when John speaks of sin he is talking about the ways we allow ourselves to live without a share in God, missing the mark, being mistaken. (Strong’s G266) This is cheating ourselves out of the experience of God with us. The remedy for sin is not shame or self loathing. It is changing our minds and deciding to live with our share of God. This is the good news that we hear when Second Isaiah speaks on behalf of God to our Israelite ancestors who have been suffering in the wilderness and believe God has abandoned them. “Comfort, O comfort my people.” Our comfort comes when we change our minds, when we lean against our obstacles and decide that life is better when we pay attention to what is good and true and always with us. Life is better when we turn toward God.
If you found this post to be meaningful please share by clicking on the icons below. Thank you.