Summary: Meatanoia - what it means to "change our mind"
“John the Baptiser appeared in the Wilderness, announcing a baptism for repentance of sins”
Do any of you have one of those relatives you get a bit embarrassed about inviting over for Christmas Dinner. You “love them dearly” because they are related to you, but well… they are just a little bit odd. So it was with John the Baptist. He’s not the sort of person you really want over for Christmas Dinner.
I mean it’s the smelly clothes for one thing - Camel Hair? And when it came to baths, standing in a probably pretty filthy River Jordan was as close as it got.
And then there is the fussy eating. I mean some people for very good reasons don’t eat certain things - perhaps they are vegetarians or gluten intolerant or whatever it might be. But you can always find something in the freefrom aisle. But John the Baptist? locusts and wild honey? that’s taking faddish eating to extremes isn’t it? Not Turkey. Not Nut Loaf. but locusts.
and then his message “announcing a baptism for Repentence of sins” - Does that sound very Christmassy? in the midst of mince pies and office parties some wild eyed preacher stating “oi you: Repent!”. Except that that is exactly what we need at Christmas. The beautiful prophecy from Isaiah 40 “prepare the way of the Lord , make straight his path”. The prophet probably imagined those words would be fulfilled by the literal building of a highway across the desert from Iraq to Israel so that the king Messiah could lead the Jews home from exile.
And yes, this prophecy did indeed turn out to be about our coming home from an exile. But it is about a different form of coming home from the exile of estrangement from God’s love, with a different sort of Messiah.
and so we are to prepare the way of the Lord, to make straight the highways.
Did you know that half the Gospels don’t include a Nativity scene? Matthew and Luke both have the baby Jesus, but in Mark and John, the beginning of the Gospel doesn’t include shepherds or wise men but it does include John the Baptist.
John the baptist, who’s uncomfortable Christmas Message is repent!
So what does repent mean?
[cue music - You change your mind like a girl changes clothes - sung by the Chippettes]
The Greek word for repentance is Metanoia. How do we explain what it means?
[fetch giant picture of brain from back]
You know what this is?
A brain -
Metanoia means God taking out our old slefish mean spirited spiteful grumpy brain, and giving us a fresh new one.
Metanoia means “changing our mind” not in a trivial way as in deciding at the last minute to have goose instead of turkey. Rather changing our mind so we think in a different way, so we live in a different way.
It means making a U Turn.
The preacher J John tells a story of when he became a Christian when he was about 18. His mum was furious. “You have been brain washed”. “Yes mum, I have been brain washed, and if you had seen what was in my brain before, you would be very glad it had been washed” (1)
John the baptist appears uncomfortable because he appears to be wagging a finger at us. Nobody likes other people lording it over them and pointing a finger at them. But actually, if we are honest with ourselves, all of us have plenty in our brains that needs a jolly good scrub. If someone invented a machine that when you were wired up, every thought that you had ever had was projected on a screen so that everyone in this church could see it - well how many of you would volunteer to have every thought you have ever had projected up there for everyone to see?
We all need our brains given a jolly good scrub - “Prepare the way of the Lord and make the path straight for him” (Mark 1:3)
In terms of taking the old brain out [mime it] and putting the new brain in [mime it] there are three parts to it. Lets call them the three “R’s” of repentance,
The first “R” is recognising our sin. Verse 5 tells us that this is what those first century Christians did: “The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins…” (Mark 1:5) Recognize our sin.
At first sight, we all like to say “oh, I’m not that bad.” but how far do you have to think back last week before you come to something you said or did or thought that you really don’t want everyone in this church to know about because you are ashamed about it? Perhaps you are far holier than me and can think back so long before you recognise something you wish you had not done or thought or said.