Summary: The season of Lent is a season of repentance. Instead of focusing on the sin, or what we are turning from, we are going to focus on what we are turning towards.
Turning Towards: Series Introduction (Lent #1)
March 5, 2006
All of life has a rhythm. There is birth, growth, and strength, and then weakness, decline, and death. There is work, and then there is rest. There is waking, then sleeping, then waking again. Day, and night. There is activity and energy and noise during the day, and then silence at night. There is planting, nurturing, harvesting, and then dying back. Spring, summer, fall, winter, and then spring again.
But in 2006, in North America, we have largely obliterated that rhythm. We only want new life and growth and strength, and abhor weakness and decline. We greatly value work but not rest. We attempt to function on as little sleep as possible, we extend the activity and energy and noise of the day as far into the night as possible. We import fresh vegetables all year round and so have at best a vague recollection of the annual cycle of planting and harvesting. We see the rhythm of the seasons and respond with an eagerness to escape our winter by traveling to somewhere else’s summer.
Now, I am not complaining about fresh vegetables year round, or about electric lights, or about the idea of a mid-winter escape to a tropical climate… I value those things and see many positive consequences. But I do contend that we have lost the rhythm of life. The natural, God-ordained rhythm, which grounds us in God’s goodness and provision, which accepts night and day, noise and silence, growing and dying back, summer’s warmth and winter’s cold.
Instead, we expect constant growth. Consistent progress. Ever increasing productivity. If last month we sold 100 units, this month we should sell 110. If last year we earned $40 000, this year we should earn $45 000. If we harvested 25 pounds of tomatoes yesterday, we should harvest 30 tomorrow. We view the world through a linear lens, expecting life to be a straight line up and to the right. Anything else is cause for alarm – there must be a huge problem.
The amount of stress from that expectation of constant growth is immense, and incredibly destructive.
Observing the seasons of the church year is one attempt to ground us in the rhythm of God and of salvation. We spend four weeks walking towards Christmas, preparing and then reaching the climax of Jesus’ birth as God and man into our world. And that is good – it brings us back every year to the incredible humility and kindness of God to us.
And we spend 6 weeks walking towards Easter, preparing and then reaching the climax of Jesus’ resurrection and victory over sin, death, and the devil. That too is good – it brings us back every year to the cross and the empty tomb – to the power and freedom and forgiveness and new life that God offers to us in Christ.
That six week journey is a season called “Lent”, and this is the first Sunday. In many ways, it is not as “fun” as season as Advent, because it is harder and it calls us to deeper discipleship. It calls us to prepare again to stand underneath the cross of Jesus, aware of His love that overpowers our sin, we count the cost, and then we choose again to love God and love one another with that same love.
But it also calls us to stand again at the empty tomb. To live in the victory, to rejoice and celebrate like we have never done before because we see that life conquers death, hope conquers despair, forgiveness conquers guilt, freedom conquers slavery. And then choose to live in life.
A Season of Repentance:
The season of Lent is a season of repentance. And repentance is one of the major themes of the Bible, in fact it was the message that everyone in the NT preached: let me show you:
• John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." (Matt 3:1-2).
• From that time on Jesus began to preach, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." (Matt 4:17).
• (the disciples) went out and preached that people should repent. (Mark 6:12).
• When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?" Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:37-38).
• (Paul said) I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus. (Acts 20:21).
What Actually IS Repentance?