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A Season of Repentance and Renewal


Written by Erika Castiglione


Tomorrow the Lenten season begins and Christians all over the world will hear the words, “remember you are dust, and to dust you will return,” as a mark of the cross is made on their foreheads. At first glance, this does not sound like good news, and without Jesus in our place, it would certainly be both depressing and terrifying news to say the least. So, why go through this ritual if Christ dwells within us? Why ponder our mortality? Why think of death if we have the hope of resurrection? There are probably countless reasons, but I would like to offer three for you to consider.

 

Repentance sets our relationships right.

 

Human beings throughout all of time and history seem to be relatively good at finding specks in the eyes of others, but notoriously bad at seeing the logs in their own. Without prayerful introspection, most of us remain completely blind to our blind spots. That doesn’t mean, however, that those habits of sin aren’t wreaking havoc on our souls and relationships. When we take intentional time away from some of the things we are most likely to turn to for comfort (food, social media, shopping, etc.) and invite the Lord to search our souls (Psalm 139:23-24) we are often able to see ourselves and our sin more clearly, and appreciate God’s grace more fully. Esau McCaulley, in his book Lent, says, “a season dedicated to repentance and renewal should not lead us to despair; it should cause us to praise God for his grace…we do not receive God’s grace only when we turn to him at the beginning of our spiritual journey, God’s grace meets us again and again.”

 

Reflection reminds us of what is important in this life.

 

Psalm 103 paints a vivid picture of God’s tender love for his children and our helplessness apart from him. He doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve, but instead has compassion on us, “for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.” Without God our lives are like grass or flowers in a field, “the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.” Yet because of God’s covenant fulfilled in Christ, we can have hope for ourselves and those who will come after us. Although we can probably all agree that a morbid curiosity about death is unhealthy, it is good to take stock of our lives, remembering they are short, reorienting ourselves so that we are focused on the things that will last into eternity. When we do this, we see we need both the Holy Spirit and Christian community to help us live a meaningful life.

 

Fasting prepares us for feasting.

 

The writer of Hebrews reminds us that Jesus took on flesh and blood so that “by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death-that is, the devil-and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” (Hebrews 2:14-15). Likewise, Paul tells us that death will not have the final word and one day, “death will be swallowed up in victory.” (1 Corinthians 13:54) This is what we celebrate at Easter! Just like a meal tastes better when we are hungry, we can better understand the joy of the hope we have in Jesus’ resurrection after we have contemplated his death and our need. When we have invited the Spirit in to clean out some of the debris that has gathered in our hearts, we have more room to receive the glorious grace and mercy that leads us to rejoice in our savior.

 

There are a few resources and services that might help you as you consider how you might observe this season. Tomorrow is the Ash Wednesday service, and at the end of Lent we will also have an opportunity to participate in a Maundy Thursday meal, a Good Friday service, a Holy Saturday prayer vigil, and, of course, an Easter celebration. There is a prayer and fasting guide with themes and verses to reflect on each week. You can listen to the most recent podcast on observing Lent. You might also want to join us as we read through Luke and John. Please reach out to any of the staff or leaders if you have more questions about the Lenten season. We are looking forward to experiencing this time of repentance and renewal together!

 

 

 

 

 

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