December 3, 2009

a different spin on repentance

I think, by and large, American's are uncomfortable with the concept of sin. We like the thought of being relatively autonomous and are fairly content in the life choices we've made. And so weeks like Advent 2, especially in the (former) mainline, are really hard. If we aren't keen on sin, then we certainly don't want to hear about a call to repentance.

Sure, we've made it a little more palatable over the years. We've reclaimed the Hebrew idea of repentance as turning around and returning to the Lord, but that still assumes we will admit that we've turned the wrong way at some point.

But there seems to be a different spin on the theme of repentance in the lesson from Baruch, "take off the garment of your sorrow and affliction, O Jerusalem, and put on forever the beauty of the glory from God."

Funny thing about people - we may dislike sin conceptually, but most will agree that the world is an ugly place filled with sadness and affliction. Spun this way, I think the Church really has an opportunity to teach about repentance as the removal of our self-inflicted afflictions as we put on the restorative garment of God. I know that it isn't the job of the Church to make its teaching fit society; I get that, but we do need to use language that people can both hear and buy into. Maybe that language for our time comes from a book attributed to the secretary of the prophet Jeremiah; one who called the people of Judah and Jerusalem to repentance.

1 comment:

cj said...

I love your take on Baruch - the idea of taking off the garment of sorrow and affliction as a model of repentance. I've recently run into another fascinating take. Cynthia Bourgeault in "Wisdom Jesus" takes apart the Greek metanoia - the word we translate as repent. She says that meta can be either the preposition "beyond" or the adjective "large" and so can either be translated as "go beyond the mind" or "go into the large mind." (p. 37 & chapter 4) She sees repentance as Jesus' call for us to join him in q whole new operating system in order to get to the Kingdom of Heaven. Just thought I'd add one more level to the discussion.