Summary: I ask this question because I see something in the text that suggests to me that there is a lot more to repentance than is often taught in the Christian church today.
Repentance: A Prelude
Cascades Fellowship CRC, JX MI
February 27, 2005
3rd Sunday of Lent
Last year, I learned a little something about weeds. Rach and I have a modest vegetable garden by the house. Every year we grow some green beans and tomatoes with an odd assortment of other experiments. We have tried everything from corn to okra – but it seems that only beans and tomatoes end up doing anything. Well, and spinach. We usually get a good crop of spinach.
Last year, we had a weed infiltrate our garden that caused me to just quit trying to weed out the weeds altogether. This weed was a real aggressive sort – popping up overnight. I would pluck out the pesky thing on one side of the garden and the next day it would reappear on the other side. I kept wondering how plentiful the spores must have been to scatter so far a field. Okay, my garden isn’t big enough to use the term “far a field,” but the point is the same. To have so many plants push out of the ground in so many different locations surely meant that the parent plant must have heaved gobs of seed into the summer breeze.
At least that was my theory at first. As the summer came to a close, I made a startling discovery. I wasn’t fighting weeds, I was fighting a weed; one weed, not two or three; not even close to the aforementioned “gobs.” But this weed was especially devious. So devious, it didn’t actually live in my yard at all, but in my neighbors yard – part of a “wild flower” patch.
You see, what this weed did was it buried a knot of roots deep in the soil on the other side of the fence and then from that knot it sent out tentacles pushing through the soil beneath the surface, every tendril having the potential of forming a new weed.. The only way to eliminate the weed was to dig up our entire garden. It was an all or nothing effort – either learn to live with the weed or go radical, purge the soil of its presence and start again next year.
I chose to live with it.
In some ways this choice disturbs me a little. I mean speaking economically, it was the right choice. All the labor, water and fertilizer that had gone into the garden would have been wasted if I had ripped up everything in an effort to destroy this one ubiquitous weed – this “everywhere” weed. But, was it the best choice? I am likely to have to deal with this weed again this year – so have I really saved myself anything?
I guess the real rub is that making the choice that I did means I am willing to settle. Rather than do the hard work and having soil that is properly prepared and cleared of all weeds, I chose to live with it. Ignore it where I could and work around it where I had to. Meanwhile, the weed robbed what we planted of nutrients – it grew fat on the water and fertilizer meant to fatten our tomatoes. I traded what was best for what was serviceable.
I sometimes wonder if we don’t do the same thing with our lives of faith. Settle, I mean; settle for what is serviceable instead of striving for what is best. The Scriptures often force me to ask this question.
Take our passage this morning, for instance. When I first read over this passage, I have to admit that I read it as a theologian instead of as a child of God – instead of listening for my God to speak to me, I found myself doing a job, not developing a relationship.
Rather than just hearing it for what it says, I hear it within a framework – my mind recalling details of the history behind the passage. I remembered that 2nd Corinthians was actually the fourth letter Paul had written to the church and that the letter writing campaign began because false teachers had come into the church charging Paul with being a huckster – a scam artist. I remembered that he had actually made a trip to Corinth after his second letter – what we know as 1st Corinthians – and that he was not treated well by the church there. They laughed him out of town and refused to recognize his apostolic authority. I also recalled that the third letter – the one this passage references was a hard letter, a tough-worded, no nonsense letter – what Paul refers to as a “painful letter.” He sent that letter with Titus, a tough-minded, no nonsense sort of guy – an enforcer, if you will. In love, he brought the hammer down on the Corinthians and when they finally saw the error of their ways, returned to Paul to share the good news.