11 March, 2016 40 days of change-Lent, 2016
Repentant – The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news! Mark 1:15
I’m a little worried that this week’s reflections have been a little heavy with accusation. I hope today’s reflection turns the corner; repentance is all about turning the corner. I remember a man preaching to be as a boy about repentance. He would describe it quite dramatically. He would face one direction and announce with a grave voice that we are headed along sin’s path. With an emphatic 90 degrees turn, sometimes stomping his foot to create an audible exclamation mark, he’d say that the first step toward repentance was to stop going the wrong way. Then he would look at us with firm conviction and tell us that was not true repentance, for repentance was turning completely away from sin, and with that he would turn and stomp another half turn so he was then headed into the opposite direction from where he started. Repentance is about going in the right direction.
I can’t think of any example where Jesus needed to stop going in the wrong direction, but there are lots of examples of him heading in the right direction. When Jesus was baptised by John’s the Baptist, a baptism that was all about repentance he intentionally left Nazareth and headed in the direction of the Jordan River to be baptised by John. The Gospel of Mark is clear that others came to John to confess and be baptised; Jesus was there to just be baptised for he had nothing to confess. His baptism was a declaration of his intent to go in the right direction. His whole life was headed in the right direction. Nearing the end of his time, he went to Jerusalem, which to his disciples seemed completely the wrong direction, but history has proven it was very much the right direction for humankind.
I wonder if by emphasizing that repentance is about turning from wrong, that we have missed the beauty of repentance. When Jesus asked people to repent, he didn’t do that to just stop them from wickedness, but because he knew it would usher them into the wonderful kingdom of God. It is too bad that the synonyms for repentance, like grief, guilt, sorrow and remorse, sound so sad and heavy. Repentance should not be all about feeling bad about wrong, but should include the good news of hope found in what is right. That doesn’t mean we don’t need to turn away from evil, we should and we should feel bad about our sin. But, that first step that we find so hard becomes much easier when we know that there is something positive and inviting in the right direction. Often the Bible says to run from evil and pursue good, inviting not only the act of abstention, but also the beauty of fulfillment. Give thought to an area of your life from which you need to repent. This time rather than garnering enough guilt that you feel repulsed by your evil, foster the feeling of hope that could draw you toward the God of hope. Maybe this new approach could bring a positive change to you.