This past Sunday we studied and discussed the beginning of Luke 3.  Luke writes about John the Baptist who teaches a “baptism of repentance” and baptized in the Jordan River.  John, we read in Mark’s gospel, wore clothing of camel hair and ate locusts and wild honey.  He was not a run-of-the-mill teacher.

Luke compares John to “the voice of one crying in the wilderness.”  This is a prophecy, written hundreds of years earlier, by the prophet Isaiah.  Not only does John the Baptist fulfill this prophecy, he also is a prophet himself.  Prophets, in the Old Testament, were always spouting off at those in power.  They told people to turn from their evil ways.  They ran afoul of kings.  Often, they acted strangely.  Ezekiel laid on his side for 390 days to show Israel’s punishment in captivity.  Prophets saw strange visions and talked about them.  John wore camel hair and lived in the wilderness.  He ate locusts.

John told the people who saw him to repent.  He told the Pharisees, the religious insiders, to repent.  The Pharisees were the best of the best.  He told the crowds to repent.  Regular, everyday Jewish people who didn’t like the Romans.  He told the tax collectors to repent.  These people were Jewish, too, but cheated their countrymen.  They were disliked and looked down upon.  And he told the soldiers to repent.  Soldiers were Romans, not even Jewish. 

He told the best Jews to repent, the crowds, the worst Jews, and the non-Jews.  John told everyone to change his or her ways.

We talked about this at The Gathering.  So often, in my mind, it’s the people around me that need to repent.  The Pharisees — church leaders who abuse their authority.  The crowds — people who don’t care as much as I do, who don’t sacrifice as much or work as hard.  The tax collectors — people who cheat.  The soldiers — people who kill and aren’t in my circle.

But it’s I who needs to repent.  It’s us.  Our community. 

We talked about this.  We talked about how we don’t care enough when we see people hurting.  How we don’t pray enough for people in our community.  For people out of our community.  For our country, at a time when politics is on everyone’s tongue.  We don’t fellowship enough, sharing not only Sunday mornings but our eating and drinking and working lives together.  We fall short.

John the Baptist showed us this.  And this week, as we go about our lives, we try to remember.  We fall — we turn away from how God wants us to be.  But, as both individuals and as a community, we repent.  We reorient ourselves toward God.  We thank Him.  And we remember the prophets, who tell us hard words that aren’t easy to hear, and we listen.