Friday, December 06, 2013

The Call to Repentance

The Call to Repentance
Advent is full of themes, and full of people

Today it is Repentance...turning back to God....
And John the Baptist who in the prophetic tradition calls God’s people to come back.
God wants me, and you, to be close!

I am convinced that God wants more for us than we want for ourselves.
That is why Jesus calls people to repent and to know forgiveness.
He does not want us to live in the pig-sty (no disrespect to the noble pig!
that so often we prefer to stay in.
That is why Jesus wants us to be free from sin
and why the call to repent (to turn back to God) 
is so prominent in Christian teaching.
God, loves us so much
that he will not settle for less than enough!
We will but God won’t.

We sometimes get a distorted view about sin.
A corrupt church (both Protestant and Catholic) has convinced us that God just wants to punish us:
Punish us ---for greedfor hurting othersfor adulteryfor selfishnessfor liesfor .....well for what ever we can dream up
The truth is that God loves us so much (John 3:16) 
that he wants nothing of the sort
He wants us to be free
St Augustine says that sin is its own punishment......this means those awful things we feel...or that we try to hide....that make our lives intolerable
Well all that is the effect of sin
our own sin punishes us!!!

Big news
God does not want to punish us
God wants us to be free.
St Paul tells the Christians in Galatia
“You have been set free for freedom!!”
God does not want us to feel guilty.
The call to saying I am not finished with you yet
If you still feel guilty...for lies, for theft, for betrayal......
Come now...and ask God to let you know: you are forgiven!

I remember the great Methodist preacher Jo Blinco reminding us about those crippled prots who couldn’t come to Communion because they were ‘too sinful’.
"This Sacrament is for the sinner!"
Jesus is for the sinner...the strumpet.
For you, for me.

Bonhoeffer reminds us that sin thrives through lies
And to be wary 
that when we are alone 
we deceive ourselves about what God does and doesn’t want

I am sure that what God doesn’t want
is for me to be either/or an emotional and/or spiritual cripple
It is for FREEDOM that we have been set free
(Galatians 5:1)
Do we actually want to be free!
Free from the sin that has become so comfortable
from which we have excused ourselves

Bonhoeffer, who is a rigorous task master,  doesn’t let us off quite so easily
He says this loneliness is confronted by telling your sins to another (confession) we want to live in the light or the darkness.
Bonhoeffer, the martyr, was quite clear
the surest way of defeating the evil
of secret sin
is to confess your sins one to another (James 5:16)
He is talking both about the practice of Confession (interesting for a Confessing Evanglical)
...and Christians supporting each other 
(perhaps) in less formal ways. 
We are slippery, but less so if we hold each other to account.
God wants more for us than we want for ourselves!

Each day........Where am I choosing to be less than God thinks I can be?
My life...Christmas is a very important time, and can be confronting. Can I ask for forgiveness 
for hurts from the past, by me, and to me
Do I really want the sort of radical freedom that God wants for me?

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