Vol 1:41 Rhythms of Repentance and Bearing Fruit

Continuing Advent reflections – As the people of God in the world, we are called to demonstrate a different way of being human as we participate with God in God’s mission of redeeming humanity and creation. Throughout Advent, I will be exploring what it means for us to demonstrate a different rhythm of being the people of God in relation to rhythms of our culture.

I can hear John the Baptist crying out to the religious leaders who were coming to see what was happening out in the desert – “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:7-8). Are we able to hear John crying out to those of us who are North American Christians – “You say you are Christian, you say you believe in God, you say you’re all about peace and justice, you say you are different, more privileged than those who do not have faith such as you – You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with your repentance?”

It is hard to hear those words from John – do we hear these words, when they are expressed by Jesus (in Matthew 4:17) as easier to hear because we think we have an “in” with Jesus – and repentance is for those who have not yet confessed Jesus as Savior and Lord in their lives? Perhaps, we still need to hear the call to repent with a fresh set of ears today as God’s missional people.

Too often, I find myself thinking I am getting God’s mission down, to the point where I think I have a corner on understanding what God’s mission is all about – even thinking that I have become somewhat of an expert in expressing what it means to be a missional community participating with God in God’s redemptive mission in the world. When I begin to think like that – I need to hear once again John’s word, Jesus’ word: “Repent, for the reign of God has come near.”

I need to be reminded everyday of what it means to live a missional life, a life that is continually being turned around from my agenda to participating with God in God’s missional agenda, a life that is growing in discovering more and more what it means for me to live missionally – where it has less to do with me and more to do with what the Spirit of Jesus is doing in the world. It has less to do with me and more to do with my being crucified with Christ – Christ living in me, rather than merely my living confessing Christ (cf. Galatians 2:20); more to do with Christ being exalted and me becoming less significant (cf. John 3:30); more to do with my life pointing to Jesus as Lord and less to do with Jesus pointing to me as a follower and disciple of his.

“Produce fruit in keeping with your repentance,” – produce fruit in keeping with your confessing Jesus Christ as Lord, produce fruit in keeping with your striving for peace and justice – may they not just be words in my life, may I indeed live out what I say I believe.

The call to daily repentance is a practice that reminds me that if I am to participate in what God is doing in the world, that reminds me if I am to help lead a community of people to live missionally, I’ve got to make straight a path for Jesus to enter into my life day after day; I’ve got to root my life in my baptism – that I have died with Christ and only what is resurrected in my life is that which is identified with his life; I’ve got to not think of myself as privileged, but one who has received the grace of God’s mercy; I’ve got to be open to being immersed in the Spirit, to breathe in the Spirit, to be corrected and shaped and molded by the Spirit so that my life and my desires, my ambitions are yielded to how God wants me to participate in what God is doing to make all things new.
Yet, I realize that I am incapable of doing all these things that I’ve got to do – and so repentance becomes an offering of myself in which I confess my inability to live missionally for God – I need God to do in me and with me what I am incapable of doing – and I discover that God does.

I find that the Spirit of God is renewing my mind, transforming my life, that I am receiving the gift of being able to live my life, mostly in small ways, by a different rhythm – a rhythm that is demonstrating a new kind of reality of being human in the world – fruit of a new kind of life – a life that is growing in Christ-centering harmony with God, in reconciling harmony with other human beings, and in restorative harmony with creation.

Indeed, I need to be reminded to repent each and every day because God’s reign has come near!

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