Reflection on Second Sunday of Advent:
Repent and Prepare for the Promise
by the Rev.
Margaret W. Thomas
ďPrepare the Way of the LordĒ. Johnís (perhaps Jesusí cousin)
ministry beckons people out to the shores of the Jordan in flocks.
He preaches a baptism of repentance. He offers a flowing forgiveness
for sins. The odd, demanding prophet quotes Isaiah as his foundation.
Lukeís gospel places John in the center of regional political
power struggles. The Jewish historian, Josephus, also identifies
John as the truth teller, who challenges king Herodís rule. John
jumps directly into the rocky, murky Jordan, to announce the future
Lord. He stands on the ancient rocks and offers fresh cleansing
waters to prepare for the promised one. He converts the
cleaning ritual into a public bath, available for all, in full
view of Herodís corrupt system of governance.
The Jordan seems a mild meandering little stream, compared to
the great rivers of the world. For Americaís African slaves who
escaped across the Ohio River to freedom, the size and power of
the Jordan river was massive as a metaphor of promise. For all
who remember their baptismal covenant, the promises may be recalled.
promises of actual freedom.
Freedom may take many aspects. There may be literal freedom from
harm, from slavery, or slave wages, addictions, harmful relationships,
freedom from the anxiety of fear, disease, or bondage in prison
or to systems, all of which are offered release, or easing within
the promises of Johnís call.
Much in music and drama picks up the themes of these words. The
film, Oh Brother Where Art Thou? and the older play/film,
Godspell are examples. Many African American Spirituals
offer alternatives to the familiar hymnal selections; People
Look East, 724 and Wade in the Water, 740 in Wonder
Love and Praise, are a couple.
The German mystic Hildegard of Bingen recalls the need for baptismal
moistness in her instructions to remain green and growing in the
The time is right to examine and decide to cast out, off, wash
away, or commit expectantly to some newness. Does John know that
Jesus awaits his baptism too? We do not know; but we do know that
he did arrive in the river, for just that same ritual. Changed
himself, Jesus could enter new ministry. Where is our new ministry
Rev. Margaret W. Thomas was the Rector of St. Edward
the Confessor Episcopal Church, Duluth, MN, when she wrote
this reflection in 2003. Margaret and we welcome
your comments. Please address your comments or additional
reflections to Margaret
W. Thomas or any MEESC
member, or mail them to:
c/o C. Morello
4451 Lakeside Drive
Eveleth, MN 55743-4400 USA
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