Thursday, December 3, 2009

Thursday in Advent 1

Amos 4:6-13
Refrain: Yet you did not return to me, says the Lord.

In these verses the prophet reminds the people of all the signs they have received that should have woken them up, given them a clue to what was going on, and caused them to turn back to God. As you read them you can sense the real sorrow in God's heart as the refrain is repeated again and again: yet you did not return to me.

We usually associate repentance with Lent, but it is also an Advent theme. What is the difference? I suggest it is this. The repentance of Lent is of a more personal nature, related to that question from Baptism, "Do you renounce all sinful desires that draw you from the love of God?" The repentance of Advent is more corporate in nature, related to the question from Baptism, "Do you renounce the evil powers of this world which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God?"

Our self-examination during Advent needs to be how we participate in social injustice, social evil. That may mean taking it upon ourselves to learn more about a particular issue. It may also mean taking on in prayer a social injustice with the kind of fervor we usually reserve to individuals, particularly those who are close to us.

We often think of repentance as the end of a process of change, when really it is about the beginning of that process. Only when I repent of my participation in a social injustice can I then begin to change how I participate in society. Not surprising for us Episcopalians, repentance is a process, not a magic moment.

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