It should come as no surprise that repentance was the theme of the day in worship yesterday. It is Lent after all. There’s never a wrong time to be invited to repent (John the Baptizer didn’t wait until Advent or Lent to do so – he didn’t know there would be such seasons), but repentance is certainly a part of this time of year.
Garrison Keillor had almost convinced me that we can’t do Lent rightly in our part of the world. With beautiful days like yesterday it’s hard to think of repenting. The end of a gray, icy Minnesota winter is a better environment for Lent. We’re set up for thanksgiving, celebrating the beauty of creation and the wonder of renewal. Can we even contemplate repentance down South? Well, yes.
What I tried to share with The Well crowd yesterday is that there are any number of reasons to repent. Repentance is not just feeling bad about doing badly and wanting to do better. It is that sometimes. It’s also feeling good about the beauty of a tree bursting into bloom, particularly if it leads you to praise God for the beauty we’ve been given. Repentance is, essentially, seeing with God’s eyes and being changed by what we see.
So, if you have been missing the ways you are acting contrary to God’s desires and it becomes clear that something needs to change, you’re repenting. Also, if you have been seeing yourself or others in ways that aren’t how God sees you or them, but are awakened out of that and begin to see as God sees, you are repenting. Sometimes the repentance is moving away from bad action, but often it comes in the form of receiving new sight and acting differently as a result. It’s why we can say, with all integrity, that the invitation is to “Repent and believe the good news!” The good news is that God sees us and others with love and mercy and a desire for justice and righteousness. Repentance isn’t about trying to appease an angry God. It’s about trying to see and think and act like one who serves a gracious and merciful God, the God who is revealed so clearly in our Lord Jesus Christ.