+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti + Amen.
Text: Mark 1:15
Theme: Repent! Again?
Dear friends in Christ Jesus,
Coincidences only are so in appearance. What’s hidden from our eyes is seen with clarity by God with. Chance is the currency of skeptics. Purpose is the motivation of God. It was not by coincidence that after His baptism Christ was led immediately by the Spirit into the wilderness. There was no time for sentimental celebration of His anointing; the work of redemption had to be begun in earnest. Lent reminds us that Christ is not a casual companion of those seeking to medicate their miseries or change their worldly fortunes. He is the resolute Redeemer who sacrifices life and limb to ransom unworthy sinners.
Satan always has a very busy Lenten season. He has no authority to challenge God’s truth but that doesn’t stop him from trying. He despises all contact believers have with God’s word. He especially hates a renewed focus on forgiveness and a commitment to truth; particularly Christ as the way and the truth and the life1. Falsehood loves uncertainty. Error thrives on ambiguities. The less clarity on a certain teaching or specific belief the more opportunity Satan has to create doubt and confusion. In today’s culture he is aided by the pervasive influence of political correctness. Any claim of absolute truth is met with targeted derision. Even the most credible evidence is often dismissed out of hand. Though its core nature remains unchanged the appearance of falsehood is always in flux. It has no stability.
But Christ is our unshakable foundation. Today Jesus leaves the wilderness and begins the most significant span of three years in the history of the human race. His objective is nothing less than the conquest of Satan, the downfall of hell, and the defeat of death. Part and parcel is the establishment of righteousness and truth in the kingdom of God. Lent is a microcosm of Christ’s public ministry.
The first words to roll off His lips in the public ministry are familiar ones, “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!”2 Does it ever end? Do we ever get past the need for repentance? Or are we meant to go on, and on, laboring, agonizing; struggling with the complications and consequences of our transgressions? Where does it all stop? Repentance is not something we can initiate or accomplish on our own. The Holy Spirit must soften our hardened hearts and transform our self-focused wills.
Often we get the whole equation backwards. We approach things as if God needed us; as if He was dependent on us to keep His church going. Oh what a favour we’re doing for God when we show up in house! How could God ever manage without us! Dear friends, does the infant ever say to the parents, “How could you ever manage without me? How would you look after yourselves? God is not wandering around looking for meaning and purpose in life; people are the ones desperate for identity and fulfillment. God is not lost or lonely; people are. God doesn’t abandon people or fail people; people fail and abandon God. God is not in need; we are. But this same God is zealous for you with an unparalleled love.
Perhaps we’re weary of hearing the Good News? Are we so over-indulged in cheap grace that we have no appetite for forgiveness? Do we believe our indiscretions to be minor and therefore in need of no redress? Once you can verify with absolute certainty that you are no longer a sinner, that your every interaction with others is above reproach, that every thought in your mind and word that comes off your lips is holy and true, that your very nature is so pure that the Almighty God has made you the poster child of righteousness, then repentance has become obsolete for you. You have to tick all the boxes. But self-acknowledged sinners always hunger and thirst for righteousness.
It has been verified, however, with absolute certainty that punishment for the sins of those who are repentant are no longer held against them. The Bible says, “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.”3 Decisive action was taken at a place called Calvary. The sentence was decreed. The crown was fitted. The nails were driven. The cross was raised. The insults were hurled. The libation was offered. The Spirit was released. The task was finished. The power to be made new was unleased. “For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him [Christ], and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things…by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross.”4
He died and rose for you. You are saved by His grace.
And you are saved for a purpose here and now. Christianity allows the freedom to serve others without self-interest. It flows from the confidence of knowing that our needs will be met in Christ. The things we cannot grasp or concur with here in time, the things we grapple with and cause us angst, will be resolved in eternity. Knowledge will be perfect as will unanimity in truth. Meanwhile, we struggle on together giving witness to God’s love for the world in word and deed.
Lent is a time for renewal. The word Lent relates to the new life that comes with spring. For Christians it became associated with the 40 days leading up to Easter. The world desperately needs such renewal. There were forty days of rain and the earth was cleansed. The children of Noah had hope. “I will establish My covenant with you: Never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.”5 Humanity began anew. God had made a covenant. The rainbow was a sign of the promise. Through a small amount of baptismal water the Christian is cleansed. The soul begins anew. God makes a covenant. Perhaps a rainbow should be depicted over every baptismal font? In baptism the storm of death passes by and a new day dawns.
Lent is a time to remember that God’s involvement in our lives is not haphazard. Human frailty often capitulates to coincidence. Too much effort is required to reconcile the deeper issues, to consider how God is working through it all. But we can rest in Christ’s purposes. The Scripture says, “The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me”6 Faith reposes in God’s promises. Christ is your Anointed. He is your Champion. He is your Lent. That is not happenstance. Amen.
+ In nomine Jesu +
First Sunday In Lent
22 February, 2015
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt