This past Sunday I served our kids in the Grove. I was with the Sprouts class teaching about how Jesus fed the 5,000: the miracle of the loaves and the fishes. This means that I didn’t have the pleasure of hearing Matt preach firsthand. Normally, I would listen to the sermon on Monday and let it marinate in my heart for a few days and then write something for the blog on Wednesday - now you all know my process.
But that didn’t happen this week.
This past Saturday my husband’s grandfather died. He walked this earth for 99 years, 10 months, and 3 days. So Sunday after the gathering, my family and I headed back home to spend time, reflect, remember, honor, and celebrate a man that words often come short of describing. Possibly, because Grandpa was a man of few words - but also a man of a most sincere faith and faithful service.
I listened to the sermon Thursday morning in a bit of a “Hail Mary” to get something on the blog Thursday afternoon. Matt’s teaching centered on several passages in Acts (2:12-41) that describe the early church and how it came to be and function. Matt ended up zeroing in on ONE point: Repentance.
If you listened to the sermon, Matt explains a lot about repentance. What it is. What it means. What it looks like.
I find it incredibly difficult at times to write or even talk about repentance in such a way that actually captures the hearts of new believers, old believers, or folks who haven’t met Jesus. We’ve heard the word “repentance” thrown around in church for years (or at least I have) and in many ways we can’t help but file it away in the “hell fire and brimstone” category of church or just ignore it and isolate it from our everyday-walked-out faith.
Repentance and the humility that must accompany it goes against the grain of our culture. Our culture tells us: “Don’t apologize for your opinions. Don’t back down. Don’t show weakness or uncertainty. Don’t own your faults or failings. Exude an air of perfection.”
I don’t know how it entered our culture. But it’s there: an egotistical pride and entitlement which makes repentance unpalatable. The belief that if we admit one wrong or weakness, the the whole of our being will be marked as flawed - which would, of course, make us undeserving.
Well. As Christians, we should come to the table knowing and embracing the fact that we are indeed undeserving. Repentance shouldn’t be something that’s foreign to the Church, but it is something that so many churches and so many of us find foreign. And it is because we were raised in a culture that’s doesn’t like to admit it’s wrong.
The first time that I met my husband’s grandpa was Sunday lunch at his house; I was terrified. Matt (my husband, not the pastor) talked about his grandpa with such reverence and respect. I knew one word from Grandpa and I would be out the door - my future in the family hinged on his approval.
When we arrived for lunch, I walked into an old Southern home on a country road and was smacked with the smell of country fried venison. There may have been a fire in the fireplace, as Grandpa was known to have a fire on even a slightly chilly day. My memory on that is a bit unclear. I do remember that he gave me a surprisingly strong hug for an 88-year-old. He told me about some of his favorite trophies and hunts - like that time he traveled to British Columbia and had to pack out the moose whose head was now mounted above his television. The moose head takes up an entire wall in his house.
In his family and community, this man was a living legend. He enlisted in the Army Air Force shortly after Pearl Harbor and served in the South Pacific for the duration of the war. He returned home to his wife and they built a house across from the family home which had been standing since the Civil War. He started a business and was well-known in the community. He was a patriot, an outdoorsman, a good man, and a faithful attendee of the same church his ENTIRE life - all 99 years (excepting those during the war).
Lunch was always served promptly at Noon. Grandpa made his way into the kitchen at twelve o’clock on the dot without fail. The family would circle around and grace was said. Grandpa said grace….and it was in all honesty a grace that was by no means out of the ordinary. But his closing of the prayer was unforgettable to me.
“And Lord, forgive us our many sins.”
I had never heard anyone end a prayer in such a way. I was awed at the fact that the patriarch of a family would admit that HE had sin and that he would ask forgiveness on behalf of all those gathered around his table.
I would come to find that this phrase of repentance was how Grandpa chose to close all of his prayers.
I don’t consider my childhood or my being raised in the church as anything but normal. I think my parents and those around me did a good job of showing me Jesus. But I confess that repentance was not an emphasis or even a focus in my everyday life. My little mind thought, “Of course, Jesus died for me. My parents love me to pieces, why wouldn’t Jesus give His life for me?”
For real y’all. This was the thought in my head for YEARS.
So when Grandpa prayed, it was a defining moment. It was a moment when I realized that every prayer this man prayed ended with a true repentance of sin. He felt the weight of his sin personally. And it cut him to the heart.
This is a man that unquestionably in our culture would be seen as a shining example. And in our current culture he would have nothing to apologize for or repent of.
And yet, repentance was his daily posture.
Repentance should be our daily posture. Honesty should be our daily posture.
it keeps us authentic and approachable. Have you every walked into a room filled with people who have their stuff together? It’s unnerving being the only train wreck in the room. Beyond that, repentance keeps us accountable.
Last night, I read an article about a pastor and seminary professor who committed suicide as a result of the Ashley Madison hack. The weight of his sin crushed him and in his darkest moment, he doubted the love and forgiveness of his family, his church, his community, and maybe even his God. How tragic.
Matt summed it up in his sermon - “The dysfunction - in every relationship, in your family, in your personal life, in our collective life as a church - you can trace a line back (one-to-one correlation) with a failure to be honest, with a failure to be vulnerable about what I have done or how I feel about what you have done.”
Confession and repentance introduces LIGHT into the darkness.
Repentance is the beginning of healing.
Repentance is a safe place. It shouldn’t be a scary place. It should not be lonely. Namely, because we are all broken people - each and every one of us has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and should find ourselves in a place of repentance everyday.
We are all sinners. From the greatest to the least.
A few weeks ago I wrote about how the lost don’t need perfect people, they need honest people who will walk with them in the brokenness of life.
So, let's admit that we aren’t perfect. Let's talk about our struggles. Let' admit our brokenness. Let's REPENT of our sins against God and against others. And together let's ask God to forgive us our many sins….with every prayer.
Author: Lydia Wells