Ponderings with Doug – December 29, 2017

DougFUMC
How did you do with your 2017 New Year’s Resolutions? My resolutions are shipwrecked by the time I ask the philosophical question. “Do resolutions begin on January 1 or January 2? Could I delay my resolutions until after football season?” I am like many of you; resolutions are made and not kept. My unofficial preacher survey reveals that only ¼ of us even think about resolutions. So this year, I’m introducing a new word into my spiritual vocabulary, repent. Repentance will replace resolutions.

The first time Jesus appears, in the first gospel, the first instruction He gives is “Repent.”

From then on, it’s His most consistent message. In all times and every situation, His advice is to repent. Not just the scribes and Pharisees, not just the powerful — he tells even the poor and oppressed that repentance is the key to eternal life. …

Talk of repentance makes modern-day Christians nervous. We are embarrassed by the stereotype of old-fashioned preachers hammering on sin and making people feel guilty. We rush to assert that Jesus isn’t really like that, He came out of love, He wants to help us. He knows us deep inside and feels our every pain, and His healing love sets us free.

This is one of those truths that run out of gas halfway home. The question is, what do we need to be healed of? Subjectively, we think we need sympathy and comfort, because our felt experience is of loneliness and unease. Objectively, our hearts are eaten through with rottenness. A hug and a smile aren’t enough. …

Repentance is the doorway to the spiritual life, the only way to begin. It is also the path itself, the only way to continue. Anything else is foolishness and self-delusion. Only repentance is both brute-honest enough, and joyous enough, to bring us all the way home.

This is what I’m pondering for 2018. And you?