Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the season of Lent: a time of penitence, fasting and prayer, in preparation for the great Feast of the Resurrection. And as we begin the journey of these forty days, we do so by hearing and answering our Savior’s call to repent.
The call to repentance is an aspect of Christianity which is very familiar to most Christians. The very first recorded words of Jesus in his public ministry after the announcement of the arrival of the Kingdom of God were to, ‘Repent and believe the good news’. Jesus continued to call people to repentance. He warned those listening to Him in Luke chapter 13, ‘Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish’. He said (Luke 15) there will be more joy in heaven over ‘one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance’. Repentance is a reoccurring theme in the teaching of Jesus. The Apostles of Jesus, particularly Peter and Paul, were faithful in echoing their Master's teaching. In the first Christian sermon ever preached on the day of Pentecost by the Apostle Peter, he concluded by saying, 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 2:38). Paul, standing before the Areopagus in the great and ancient city of Athens, told his listeners at the end of his sermon that God commands all ‘people everywhere to repent’ (Acts 17:30).
Even though Jesus and his Apostles often spoke of repentance, many Christians, perhaps many of us, associate repentance with the beginning of the Christian life. Repent, believe, and be saved. We do not always remember that repentance is a continuous and even a progressive rhythm in the Christian life. In fact, we are called to daily repentance.
Jesus says this, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.’ [Luke 9:23].
There is a threefold exhortation. let him deny himself and take up his cross daily [and then and only then is someone in a position to] follow me.
As we journey through Lent, may the discipline of confession, repentance and taking up our cross daily, be lived every day, not by fits and starts, not just Sunday by Sunday, but each morning, settling affairs with God and each night before we go to bed, settling affairs with God.
May Christ enable you to keep a holy Lent.
God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us
both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended
from all adversities that may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts
that may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives
and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
[Collect for The Second Sunday in Lent, ACNA].