The Taser's Edge


Repentance is for Christians

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to preach at the noon Ash Wednesday service at our church.  The priest who would be heading things up with me and I quickly decided that we wanted to shape the service so that it really would be feasible for those who might come in the middle of the work day.  For me, this mean crafting a 600 word sermon (actually, 636 words below)  as part of a 30-minute service.

Read below, and then read another Lenten homily taking a different tack and using a similar word count here.:

“Repentance is for Christians” (Ash Wednesday 2011)

Lent is for Christians.

This service, this day, and this entire season are a call to repentance extended specifically to those who have already called Jesus “Lord.”  Does this surprise you?  It shouldn’t.  Think about it.  Did you come to receive ashes on your forehead today in order to attract the folks you see at Kroger into relationship with Christ?

Paul in 2 Corinthians, makes it plain that it is the Church not just the world which is always being called back to repentance: “We appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain.”  No, Paul does not use the word Lent, but Paul is saying that the grace of God in Christ has been offered to the believers at Corinth, has been received, salvation has been accomplished, and yet salvation is very much still in progress.

What Paul is saying is this: “As a believer in Jesus Christ, you need to be being saved.”  What Lent is saying is this: “As a believer in Jesus Christ, you need to be being saved.”  And this happens through confession and penitence in response to the Spirit’s work in our hearts.

In the Book of Common Prayer there is a liturgy for personal confession called Reconciliation of a Penitent.  (And I urge you to seek out one of All Saints’ priests to make confession, perhaps for the first time, this Lent.)  The liturgy draws heavily on the story of the Prodigal Son, makes clear the reality of how we actually live in Christ, makes clear what poor disciples we truly are.  I’ll read from it: “Through the water of baptism, you clothed me with the shining garment of Christ’s righteousness, and established me among your children in your kingdom.  But I have squandered the inheritance of your saints, and I have wandered far in a land that is waste.”

The Church does Lent because though we are the Bride of Christ, until we die, we will remain the faithless Prodigal Son as well.  Each of us is simultaneously saint and sinner, as Martin Luther famously put it.  We Christians have all gone down into the waters of baptism before, have all died to our sins, and then we have come up out of the water, raised from death to new life, and eventually…heartbreakingly, we have returned to those same sins.  We are addicts who relapse again and again, who continue to chase after our lusts and our sins long after they could and should have stopped ruling us.  We are hopeless in ourselves, yet a gracious God extends invitation after invitation.

In Lent, we are reminded that the call of Christ to pick up our crosses to follow Him to death is an everyday call.  We are called, in the words of 2 Corinthians, to make our way straight into the heart of “afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger” because the only way to life is through these things not around them.  In that painful journey we will find that Christ is not only on the other side of these things, but Christ is in the midst of them.  We cannot find Him apart from these things.  We cannot find Christ apart from death.

You came from the earth and you will go back into the earth, no matter how long you extend the in-between time.  You will suffer in this life and then you will die.  The questions Lent asks (and which the heart of the Gospel asks) are these:

Will your suffering and death be devoid of meaning?  Or will you head into Meaning Himself, choosing this day to be marked by his death—the cross, and to be stained by destruction—the ashes?

These are the questions which Lent (and the heart of the Gospel) are asking today.

In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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[…] there a difference between embracing death as a Christian (see previous post) and worshiping death?  Undoubtedly.  But where is the line between the two?  This week makes […]

Pingback by Embracing Death, Worshiping Death, Accepting Death « The Taser's Edge

This is powerful stuff. Thanks 🙂

Comment by Ben




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