As I am preparing for next week and the second Sunday in Advent, I am reading the Gospel passage and related commentaries and preaching helps on the message of John the Baptist. I understand that in the Christian calendar Advent to be a time of waiting and looking forward. In the second verse of the text we will be using in my churches, John demands that we repent. In the very same verse he tells us why, because the Kingdom of Heaven is near. To my understanding, John is making a pretty difficult demand; he wants us to look backward, but st the same time, move forward.
I am not sure how I will use this observation on Sunday morning, or if I will use it at all, but this idea has caused me to reflect (which is never a bad thing!) Much of this reflection comes out of the article written by David L. Bartlett in the preaching book Feasting on the Word Year A Volume 1 for this week. I will read other commentaries and listen to other podcasts as I continue to prepare for Sunday, but right now I am struck by the idea of looking in one direction and moving in another.
Repentance involves something that has happened in the past. To repent we must look at what has already occurred. In churches that I have served, looking back often turns to nostalgia. By that I mean, when we look to the past we only see things that we remember fondly and we do not always see the whole picture. We often do that in our personal lives too, hindsight is not only 20-20, it also often times uses rose-colored glasses.
When I am moving, I have found it best to watch where I am going. I also realize that knowing what is behind me is important too. I have used the metaphor of the rear view mirror in comparison to the front windshield of a car to describe this idea. If you are looking in a different direction than you are traveling, difficulties can appear.
As I sit here trying to decide what to do with this idea, I am struck by how this looking to the past while moving to the future moving to the future capture a part of our human condition. Sunday I will explore this more, but today where do you see this playing out in our common lives? Is there value in this, or can we redeem what we see as of little value?