Friday, February 15, 2013

Radical Metanoia

The needs of the world are too great for us to begin to change unless WE are changed

What a unique and powerful image of baptism, don't you think? It is by
Christina Ramos Instead of
depicting the glorious emergence to new life, this portrays the scary,
deathly submergence of all that cannot sustain authentic life. Perhaps
the moment--seconds, really--of being submerged are more critical to
renewed life and faith for transformed and transformational living than
any other aspect of baptism. Willimon highlights this in these quotes. 
Writing of John the Baptist's call to baptism, Wil Willimon notes that the invitation is not to be clean but to be drowned. The terms are just that stark because the condition of the heart and the needs of the world are just that critical.

Willimon points out that Jesus gets this and demonstrates it as he is also baptized by John:
"As he submits to John's bath of repentance, Jesus shows the radical way he will confront the sin that enslaves humanity. Jesus' 'baptism,' begun in the Jordan and completed on Golgotha, is repentance, self-denial, metanoia to the fullest. John presents his baptism as a washing from sin, a turning from self to God. Jesus seeks an even more radical metanoia."
We want to do better, to be better, to make the world a better place. Our typical way and the ways implemented most commonly in our world are to do so and become so by our own efforts. John prescribes something different and Jesus embodies it: something deeper than good words, better instruction, fuller discipline, careful planning, financial prudence, smarter work--as helpful as all these are--is needed. Bottom line, says Willimon:
"We must submit to change if we would be formed in this cruciform faith. We may come singing 'Just as I Am,' but we will not stay by being our same old selves. The needs of the world are too great, the suffering and pain too extensive, the lures of the world too seductive for us to begin to change the world unless we are changed, unless conversion of life and morals becomes our pattern... The only to be to be cut loose from our old certainties, to be thrust under the flood and then pulled forth fresh and newborn. Baptism takes us there."
Radical metanoia is the invitation and pattern for those of us who have decided to follow Jesus. Once submerged and newborn, we keep on turning--letting go of the old, facing the new; prying loose the grip mammon has on us, responding to the embrace of grace and embracing neighbors in love; ending our irresponsible self indulgences, focusing outward to act responsibly in light of all people and creation care; laying aside so many self survival justifications, leaning into the promise of the beloved community in which there is more than enough for all.

We sing the Shaker hymn throughout our lifelong journey:
"To turn, turn
will be our delight
til by turning, turning,
we come 'round right."

John Franklin Hay
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

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