March 1, 2017

Repent, Rebirth, Reconcile, Rejoice, Redemption, Restore

Scripture References:

Joel 2:1-2, 12-17 (12-13)
Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; rend your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing.

Psalm 51:1-17 (9-12)
Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit.

2  Corinthians 5:20b-6:10 (5:20b, 6:8-10)
We entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God…We are treated as imposters, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see—we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.

Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21 (1-4)
Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven. So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Lenten season. Palm leaves from the previous year’s Palm Sunday service are burned and their ashes are drawn in the sign of the cross on the foreheads of those who would receive them. Genesis 3:19 is read during this exchange: “You are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Death and repentance are themes of Ash Wednesday, two themes that we are not comfortable thinking or talking about. Marcus Borg writes:

Ash Wednesday, Lent, Holy Week, and Christianity itself are about following Jesus on the path that leads through death to resurrection. They are about dying and rising with Christ. We are to follow him to Jerusalem, the place of death and resurrection.

…Repentance is not primarily about feeling guilty about our sins, or about doing penance. The biblical meanings of repenting are primarily twofold. On the one hand, it means to “return” to God, to “reconnect” with God. On the other hand, it means “to go beyond the mind that we have”—minds shaped by our socialization and enculturation.

The result: dying to an old way of seeing and being and living and identity, and begin born, raised, into a new way of seeing and being and living and identity.