Grace and Peace from the Mystery in whom we live and move and have our being. Proclaim repentance.
…repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed…”Luke 24:44-53
There are very few scripture passages that make me do a double take. This isn’t my first rodeo around these readings, but I must confess this one caught me a little off guard.
“…repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed.”
The word proclaim means to announce, or to declare – to make happen. For example, the Emancipation Proclamation was the announcement, the declaration that the slaves were emancipated, made free. The proclamation made it so.
So how does one proclaim repentance?
And there is this line from the Book of Acts I saw when researching the word repentance:
“God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior that he might give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.”Acts 5:31
Say what??? Repentance is a GIFT or something to be PROCLAIMED???
And somehow, it is intimately connected to forgiveness. A connection, I’m beginning to believe, we have totally backwards – if these passages are true.
So like I said, “I’m confused.”
Because as I think back to all those people yelling at me on a street corner – OK, maybe not all of them (some were yelling at me because of how I drive) – but when I think back to all those people on the street corner yelling at me to “Repent!” I don’t recall hearing it as being offered as a gift or a proclamation.
A command… a demand… an imperative… Yes! But a gift? NO!!!
Definition of Repentance
And it was a command, a demand, an imperative that I had to do. Let’s get back to that old subject, verb, object thing. When it came to repentance, I always thought I was the subject, my activity was the verb, and God or my sorrowful feelings or actions were the object.
But if repentance is a gift or something to be proclaimed over me, then God is the subject, God’s activity is the verb, and I am the object.
And now I think I have to repent for how I have always understood repentance… or do I?
The word repentance literally means to change one’s mind, to be turned around in one’s way of thinking, or to take on a new way of thinking. To put it into contemporary language: to receive “a wake-up call” or to undergo a “paradigm shift.”
And Jesus says this is what has happened in his life, death, and resurrection. Which is kind of interesting if you think about it. Because I thought the whole point of this thing was to get me to some future ‘afterlife.’ You know, get me ‘saved.’
What’s the point?
But according to Jesus, the point of all this is that you and I might ‘wake up’ to a new way of living… be given a new ‘paradigm,’ a new ‘lens’ through which to see the world, and LIVE IN THE WORLD.
The resurrection isn’t just a gift to those who have died, but to those who are still living.
Apparently, Jesus died on the cross to change our view of God and life, not to change God’s stance towards us and our afterlife…
…and that old substitutionary theory of atonement keeps taking on more water…
We think the connection between repentance and forgiveness is that repentance leads to forgiveness. If you repent, God will forgive you.
But that is not the case.
Why do we hide, what do we fear?
Luther has this great comment on why Adam and Eve hide in the garden of Eden after sinning against God. He says they hide because they don’t know what kind of God they have. They don’t know if God is a forgiving God or a vengeful S-O-B. And so they hide, living in fear because they don’t know.
I dare say, that is how many Christians live – in fear and dread of God. And if they don’t live in fear and dread, they certainly tell others they should be living in fear and dread of God.
Apparently fear sells, both in politics and religion.
Hence, the street corner preachers crying out for others to “Repent, or else!”
But here’s the thing. We don’t need to run and hide like Adam and Eve. We don’t need to live in fear and dread. We know what kind of God we have. We know whether God, at God’s core, is forgiving or vengeful.
We’ve heard it proclaimed from the cross. We’ve heard it proclaimed over us. We’ve heard it proclaimed to us.
Shepherd me beyond my fears
And it is this proclamation that can shepherd us beyond our fears, from death into life.
It is this proclamation that can repent us from death into life.
Forgiveness is the bottom-line reality of the Mystery’s kingdom.
And restoration or repentance (they are the same thing) is the goal, not retribution.
It is the proclamation of forgiveness that leads to repentance, not repenting that leads to forgiveness.
This is the new reality under which we live. A new reality, not just in the future or afterlife, but in the here and now.
This is the new paradigm; this is the new mindset; this is what we are given a ‘wake-up call’ to: a mind awakened by, changed by, turned around by… FORGIVENESS.
The bottom line
Forgiveness is the bottom-line reality – the bottom-line proclamation – in the Mystery’s kingdom. And restoration or repentance is the goal, not retribution.
But this is so different from the ways of the world. The world lives by ‘If…, then….’ The world lives by reward and punishment. It is threats of punishment that lead to a changed life, not forgiveness.
The world believes that the best response to sin and brokenness is to yell, “STOP IT OR ELSE!”
But if yelling ‘stop it or else’ worked, Jesus could have just as well stayed up in heaven, because there are more than enough religious leaders and people on street corners doing that kind of yelling – and there always have been.
God raised this one
But for some reason God didn’t work that way. God raised the one who suffered and died.
The one who was anything but a religious leader screaming, “STOP IT!”
This one who not only finds grace for those who break the law, but says, “I was in prison and you visited me.”
This one who touches lepers and not only speaks to women, but appears to them first on Easter.
This one whose final proclamation over us is, “Father, forgive them.”
Perhaps it has to be the one whom we crucified – the one whose life didn’t matter to us – whom we decided needed to be punished and not rewarded.
Perhaps it can only be this one who can ‘wake us up,’ ‘change our reality,’ ‘shift our paradigm.’
Only the one who has forgiven us can move us to live in forgiveness.
Only this one can turn us around to a new paradigm of life – a repentant life.
If ‘Stop it’ worked, Jesus coulda stayed home
I want to share with you a quote from a guy named Steven Daugherty about this proclamation or gift of repentance and this kingdom of forgiveness:
“There is, according to Jesus, a Kingdom in our midst that’s over and under and permeating whatever temporal empire or nation or kingdom we may be standing in. Right here, at hand. It’s not confined to geography or a yet-to-be-experienced afterlife. It’s the state of things as they are supposed to be…It’s the difference between a nun wielding a ruler and the Christ handing me coffee at my bedside, asking if I’m ready, after all these years, to get out of my bed and live. When we realize demands aren’t held over us, then we have a better chance of resisting the urge to hold it over others. As it comes from peace to make peace, repentance is the lifelong process of learning to see goodness, not cease badness. The gift of sight by a Father who doesn’t slap hands, but washes sleepy eyes.”
And so, this ‘repentance,’ this ‘changed mind’ thing must be a gift, proclaimed to one like me whose sleepy eyes and mind are so often closed – shut tight.
I suppose it’s why I so often return to this meal, where the closed-minded betrayer and the closed-minded denier were given the gift of a new way of thinking and seeing, and a new way of living, where forgiveness was proclaimed over them.
Forgiveness is the gift, repentance is the goal
They were given the Mystery’s kingdom, where forgiveness is the bottom-line reality. And restoration or repentance is the goal, not retribution.
Yeah, I suppose that’s why I so often return to this meal, in the hopes that I too will be given the gift of repentance (a new mind) and a bottom line of forgiveness.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go give a gift to a guy yelling on a street corner.
Wednesday Respite is a 30-min contemplative service of scripture, prayer, music and a Spirited Touchpoint by Spirit in the Desert faith mentor, Rev. “Bro. Jim” Hanson.
Touchpoint is a reflection on where God’s story touches our life story. It is a short homily based on a biblical story of people in the Old and New Testaments and their relationship with God. Our spiritual ancestors’ experience of God’s grace connects with our lives in the present and our relationship with the Divine. Previous Touchpoints are available as PDFs or on SoundCloud.