Each of the four Gospels give John the Baptist the prominent role as the forerunner of Jesus. These stories or texts tend to emphasize John’s call to repent and be baptized.
Today I want to re-frame what I believe is the traditional Christian understanding of the word repent.
I believe most Christians understand repent as penance for sins. Contrition. Feeling sorry (and meaning it). Making amends. Going to confession.
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So, here’s a different take on it. In Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan’s book, The First Christmas, they tell us that “the biblical meaning emphasizes change. “They explain:
“To repent is to turn to God. In the Old Testament, its meaning is shaped by the Jewish experience of exile: it means to return from exile to the place of God’s presence… To repent, to return, is to follow the way that leads out of our exile, separation, alienation, and estrangement to reconnection.
The New Testament meaning of the word… adds an additional nuance. In the New Testament, the root of the Greek word translated as “repent” means “to beyond the mind that you have,” to enter into a new mind-set, a new way of seeing. To repent means to begin seeing differently.”
When we work on these two things pieces of John the Baptist’s message – moving from separation (exile) to reconnection and going beyond the mind we have – I believe we are truly committing ourselves to a path of transformation.
I invited you to take a moment for personal inventory. How is it with your soul right now? How much of the time do you feel connected to the Divine? 1%? 5%? 20%? Is your spiritual journey compartmentalized into Sunday mornings, or your walk through the woods? Do you actively engage your spiritual journey, or is church a box you check off each week and forget about after that?
I guarantee that we’ve all had times when we’ve felt more connected or less connected than others. It has to do with life situations, time, energy, desire, and conscious intention.
Lots of folks “self-exile” themselves from church because of things that happened or things that didn’t happen, or because none of it was making sense anymore, and then they decide to cut themselves off from God altogether. Or, sometimes folks just drift away from their spiritual journey and before they know it God and spirituality doesn’t have much place in their lives at all.
Wherever you are, I invite you to stay connected, connect more, or reconnect, and commit to you… commit to your spiritual path this year. Whatever that looks like for you.
GO BEYOND THE MIND WE HAVE
Next, we need to commit to going beyond the mind we have.
We can go through life on auto-pilot moving through the minutes, hours, weeks and months of our lives without really putting much thought into our spirituality or our inner journeys. We can work, play with the kids or grandkids, play golf, play cards, make dinner, go out with friends, go shopping, take care of our parents and partners, and take care of our homes without ever thinking about our personal and/or spiritual growth.
In the book A Woman’s Journey to God, by Joan Borysenko, she talks about the Tibetan Buddhists philosophy that speaks of three kinds of mind. “The dull mind with no spiritual interest. The average mind content with dogma and blind faith. The inquiring mind that is curious and filled with doubt. ”
I love this idea. And I believe it is the inquiring mind always pulls us beyond the mind we have.
What are the things we can move beyond?
- Preconceived notions
The inquiring mind calls us not to become too comfortable or complacent with how we think, what we do, how we react, or what experiences we open ourselves to.
Pema Chodron said, “The truth you believe and cling to makes you unavailable to hear anything new.”
We can’t repent – go beyond the mind we have – without opening our hearts and minds to new thoughts, ideas and experiences. We need to challenge ourselves, be curious, ask questions, and doubt until we find a truth that feels right in our hearts. And then we keep searching to grow even more.
What tools can we use to reconnect and start seeing the world differently?
- Hang out with people who are also interested in this, who will push you or challenge you
- Don’t take things personally… be curious about why people believe certain things
- Constant self-reflection
- Have one new experience each week… even if it is a new spiritual book, or driving down a road you’ve never been on, trying a food you’ve never had.
- Keep learning
Take the Path of Transformation… seek to reconnect to the Divine, and adopt a mind of inquiry… the journey will take us deeper into ourselves, into God and into life.
Love & Light!