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It's Serious Business

Repent, and believe the Good News
Genesis 9:8-15; Psalm 25:4-9; 1 Peter 3:18-22; Mark 1:12-15

Sermon Week First Sunday of Lent Cycle B

Scripture Summary Mark 1:15

Several years ago in a TV documentary on Apartheid, a very interesting custom of the Babemba tribe in South Africa was featured. Within that community, antisocial or criminal behavior is rare. However, when it does occur, the Babemba have an interesting and beautifully creative way of dealing with it.

If a member of the tribe acts irresponsibly, they are placed at the center of the village. Work stops, and every man, woman, and child in the town gathers around the accused in a large circle. Then, one at a time, everyone, including the children, call out all the good things the person in the center has done previously. All the positive attributes and the kind acts are recited carefully and at length. No one is permitted to exaggerate or be facetious. It's serious business!

The ceremony often lasts for several days and doesn't stop until all are drained of every positive comment they can muster about the transgressor. Not one word of criticism concerning the accused's irresponsible, antisocial deed is permitted. In the end, the tribal circle breaks up, a celebration begins, and he or she is welcomed back into the community. This overwhelming, positive bombardment strengthens the self-esteem of the accused and causes that person to resolve to live up to the expectations of the tribe. Proof of the success of this creative response to wrongdoing seems apparent because these ceremonies are quite rare. One wonders if, perhaps, borrowing from this technique might be a good idea, at least in certain family situations in which a member has gone astray.

We all know how difficult it is to make profound changes in our lives, though the need may be apparent. We recognize that there is a need for change, but we hesitate. The prospect of change in our lives makes us uneasy. We find it threatening when we realize that substantial change for the better means a repudiation of so much we have stood for all our lives. We find it intimidating to be called upon to renounce that which, like nothing else, is of our own creation -- namely, our [...]


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