In those days John the Baptist appeared in the desert of Judea announcing, ‘Change your hearts and lives! Here comes the kingdom of heaven!’ He was the one of whom Isaiah the prophet spoke when he said:
The voice of one shouting in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way of the Lord;
make his paths straight.’
Matthew 3:1-3 (Common English Bible –CEB)
The ashes are still crusty on my forehead. The message of mortality and the words of forgiveness still ringing in my ear. The taste of the bread of life still present in my mouth. The desire to be willing to continually change my heart and life is fresher than ever.
Yesterday I said that Malachi teased us by suggesting that other prophets were coming. Now we read of such a prophet, he looked like one, ate like one, and acted like one. This one quoted the prophets of old and called all who would hear to a new life. This one did not speak of exile, but still called people to a new home.
The kingdom of heaven was drawing near. The anointed one had already broken into history and now this seer was making the path straight, taking all possible hindrances away so that the one to come could have full impact in the world.
So change of heart and life (repentance; thanks CEB for this fresh translation of a powerful word) is possible because the way has been prepared. It was prepared for those who first heard and its prepared for us who hear it time and time again today.
Proclamation of this ancient story still prepares the way. Specially for those who are still living without knowing God’s love. Those who have yet to experience crusty ashes on their foreheads and the message of gracious forgiveness, and grace-full new beginnings.
For those who are still in the margins, those who are the victims, those who are living as slaves of sin and death, those that are hopeless, need preparers of the way. They need for those with crusty ashes on their forehead to tell them that “here comes the kingdom!”