The word "repent" is so loaded. And in queer ears, it is distasteful. How many times has some street preacher screamed that word at me and my friends as if screaming would somehow force us to change?!
A couple years ago, my favorite Friday priest, Fr. Lee Graham, preached a homily in which he re-framed my understanding of the word. Repent, while having a commanding sound, can also simply mean, "rethink" or "consider this again." Those words are easier for me to hear, particularly when I think of John the Baptist whose feast day we celebrate today.
John, born of Elizabeth and Zechariah six months before Jesus, had gone out into the wilderness and embarked on the life similar to the Jewish prophets before him. He has shunned his own comforts and is calling on the people of Israel to get right in their relationship with God. And this time, it's different than with the other prophets. John also knows that he is the end of this era, and a new game is coming to town in Jesus. All the more reason for him to speak with urgency and really push for people to reconsider how they're living, moving and having their being. All the way to his death by beheading. That's what happens when he speaks truth to power in telling Herod Antipas, "You ain't right!" for marrying his brother's wife.
The directive to repent is one that I have often spoken of in regards to the church, particularly in this past year as the Anglican Covenant continues to be bandied about. I have found the obsession on trying to draw lines in the sand and declare "who's in" and "who's out" in the kingdom of God to be so stupid that the only word that seems fitting is "repent". To the Church I say, repent, or rethink, this absurd idea that God loves only this set of people enough to include them at the Lord's table, and anyone who isn't exactly like us is to sit in the corner with a dunce cap. Repent, or rethink, this need for control and order when all Scripture seems to indicate that once the Holy Spirit gets into the mix, all order and honor goes toward God only and not those in their fancy clothes who parade about in the temple. Repent, or rethink, what it means to be a disciple in the creation that God has given to us... and that our job is not to be tearing each other down but to be building each other up. Repent, or rethink, what it means to be a steward of that creation as we refuse to recycle glass and certain plastics because it might cost some money to do so. Repent, or rethink, documents that are likely to cause more distress and discomfort in the Anglican Communion and drive people further away from God due to their unfortunate belief that the church institution is God.
On this feast day of St. John the Baptist, I recommit myself to the mission of quiet and contemplative listening to God who gives me the strength and courage to be my queerly Christian self in this world as a witness to God's love for all.