Preparation & Repentance

A few days back my Lenten wondering/wandering brought me to Luke 3. This passage tells of John the Baptist’s ministry, a ministry that called people towards preparation for the coming of Jesus and the kingdom of God. Integral to this ministry was John’s ministry of baptism, a baptism which he explicitly states as “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” – a baptism that echoed the prophetical witness to a time of preparation for the coming Messiah (Lk 3:3-6).

As I continue to reflect on Lent, a time to practice this preparation for the anticipated Messiah, I am struck by the notion of repentance in the context of preparation. For John’s followers, and all Jews, his ministry of baptism of repentance would have had major political significance – by political I mean that what he was asking, essentially, was allegiance to God’s kingdom. An allegiance, however, not dominated by militaristic strategies or pious moral reform. Rather, the allegiance John was calling for was about accepting a radical new identity, an identity placed in the turning away (repenting) from the political expectations of that culture – an identity placed firmly in the expectation of the coming Messiah – an identity that involved generosity, honesty, and contentment (vv. 10-14) as the practical form for preparing to “see the salvation of God” (v. 6).

In terms of Lent, then, repentance understood as the acceptance of a new identity, one that is formed by an expectation for the coming kingdom of God, insinuates that preparation not be taken lightly. To make the claim “Jesus is Lord” can be an utterance of mere sentiment without a consideration of what this identifying statement means for who we are. In a world of alternative visions of God’s kingdom, many watered down for appeal instead of faithfulness, the practice of repentance is a sobering reminder to continually prepare ourselves for accepting the implications of aligning with the kingdom Jesus has inaugurated.

May our Lenten preparation be more than outward practices or inward reflections, but a time of identity reorientation, of repentance, always having in mind the Messiah for whom we prepare.

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