The Table of REPENTANCE By Pastor Tracey Leslie Read: Luke 16:19-31
When I was in college, I had a friend named Sharon.Sharon was very overweight.But, partway through college, one summer, Sharon went on a diet.Well, that’s really not quite accurate.Sharon repented.Not only did she change how much she ate; she changed what she ate, how she ate, and why she ate.She became more physically active.She even established new habits and relationships in her life that would support her newly-acquired physical health.Sharon had experienced an entire reorientation of her life; a complete change in her thinking and perspective.
In the gospel of Luke (chapter 16, verses 19-31), Jesus tells a parable about a rich man and a poor man, named Lazarus, who begged outside his door.Lazarus was hungry and his physical health was compromised.His death came as no surprise.Meanwhile, as Lazarus had laid starving to death, the rich man had been gorging himself on sumptuous food.In time, he also succumbed to death (who knows; perhaps his excess feasting caught up to him?) and was taken to a place of eternal torment and hellish fire.When he looked up, he could see at a distance Lazarus enjoying the company of that great patriarch, Abraham.Near the parable’s conclusion, the rich man pleads with Abraham to send Lazarus back from the dead so that Lazarus might appear to the rich man’s relatives and give them a warning of what is to come while there is still time for them to mend their ways.But, the comic irony is that the rich man remains clueless of the error of his ways.Not only does he want Lazarus to go warn his brothers of their potential damnation; he also wants Lazarus to bring him water to cool his tongue.Even with this horrible twist of fate, the rich man still fails to see Lazarus any differently.He seems to consider Lazarus his personal lackey; the “water boy.”
In the gospel of Mark, Jesus’ very first words are these:“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the gospel (good news).”[i]The Greek word for repentance means “a reorientation of one’s whole being to God… repentance involves far more than intellectual change or remorse; it entails a new or renewed relationship with God that transforms all the dimensions of one’s life…”[ii]Because of Jesus’ coming, we live our lives in a completely different way.And, we can see others in a whole new way.We view others not through the world’s lenses – “Are they wealthy? Are they smart? Would it make me more important if I was their friend?”We view others as God sees them; knowing that those who are weakest, most vulnerable, most in need are, in fact, of particular value to God.Repentance changes our hearts and our minds.It changes how we perceive ourselves and how we perceive others.
[i] Mark 1:14-15.The word gospel simply means “good news.” [ii]The New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, vol. 4.Abingdon Press.Pp. 762-763.
Questions to reflect upon this week: -Are there people you find hard to love? Are there people you try to avoid? -Do you have a bad or judgmental attitude toward someone in your life? Are you ready to ask God to change the way you perceive them so that you might see them as God sees them? -What area/s of your life need "reoriented" so that your words and actions more clearly reflect God's values and not the world's values?
Prayer:God, how I struggle to cast aside the world’s values, judgments and priorities.And so, this Lent, I invite you to come into my heart, my mind, my life and rearrange the way I feel and think and live.Throughout this Lent, when I pray “thy kingdom come, thy will be done,” keep me mindful that your kingdom can come through my words and actions when I am willing to repent and to believe the good news.I pray in Jesus’ name.Amen.