True Repentance: An Ash Wednesday Homily

A Lenten Homily: “True Repentance”
Joel 2:12-15
Covenant Baptist Church
Ash Wednesday, March 5, 2014
Kyndall Rae Rothaus

“Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” And remember that between being dust and becoming dust again, you are a sparkling gem of God’s own making, you are a shimmering creation meant to light up some small corner of earth. Between dust and dust, you were made to live, and this is the task set before you, not to waste a life but to fill a life. Between dusts is a short span, but it is a long enough span to find your purpose and follow it.

You see, repentance is the thing with wings that carries you into new life and new horizons. Repentance isn’t a dirty word or a sad one or punitive one or dismal one. Repentance is the happy thing that sets you alive, that reminds you to sparkle as long as you’ve still got breath in you. Somehow, amazingly somehow, God took the dust of you, stirred it with energy, breathed into it God’s own wind, pumped your veins with blood and your brain with ideas and your bones with strength and your flesh with muscle, and all of this is a miracle you do no want to throw away.

This is the objective of repentance: to return you back to life in God. To recall to your consciousness your aliveness. To remind you of your worth so that you will stop all those things you do are that are unworthy of your time and your energy, the things that are unworthy of a gem like you.

One year for Lent I tried to re-add the practice of confession into my life while simultaneously giving up negative thoughts about myself. These two practices seemed contradictory at first because when I was growing up, confession was always about the bad stuff, my yucky parts being exposed. To confess was to think poorly of one’s sinful self.

But genuine confession is ultimately a declaration of the good. Yes, we admit to the shadowy parts of our egos; we confess our addictions, our grasping, our whining, our obsessions. We confess all the ways we have been living less than we are meant to live, and we confess all the places in our lives where Fear still has its hold on us.

But more than that, we are confessing the Love that is bigger than all of it. We are confessing the Life we really want to live in Christ. We are confessing that small living need not confine us or constrain us anymore. We are confessing our belief in abundance. We are confessing our belief in mercy. We are confessing that we are being carried by a Beauty stronger than our puniest deficiencies. We are confessing that, oh yes, now I have remembered: the lap of God is better and safer and warmer than all the cold measly idols I have surrounded myself with for protection and comfort.

Scott Cairns says repentance is when we realize our sin is not so bad as it is a waste of time. When you are stuck repeating the same old patterns that get you nowhere, repentance is the lightbeam, the mercy, the joy that intersects your path and suddenly opens a new way forward. When you are wedged in a hard place, trying the same old methods to no avail, repentance is the creative insight that bursts through rock and concrete. Repentance is when suddenly there is a doorway where you thought there was only solid wall. Repentance is when the still, small voice whispers inside your heart, “Come this way,” while your fear is saying, “But everyone else is going that way,” but your heart presses on, “Trust me. Come this way.” Repentance is when you finally get brave enough to try something new. Repentance is when you finally find the gumption to move this way instead of that. Repentance is when God calls, and praise be to heaven, this time you heard him and recognized it as a Word meant for your very soul.

In Scripture, when a person repents, the heavens erupt in a party. That’s because repentance is joy and life and light and love and power and R.E.L.I.E.F. that finally God spoke, or finally you are listening, or finally you understand, or finally you have just enough hutzpah to take the first step in a new direction.

You don’t really have to work at repentance. Repentance finds you if you are listening for it. If you are willing to take the journey, it will meet you on the road.

I invite you in the stillness that follows this homily to write about what repentance might mean for you this season. If you don’t yet know what repentance looks like, then write about your stuck places. Where is it in your life that you are spinning your wheels? What is it that is draining life-blood from you? Where do you need the light of repentance to crack through the wall and show you a way forward?

This Lenten season, may we find the voice of God amidst the scurry of our lives. May repentance grip us with clarity and with wisdom. May we find the thing God is saying to our hearts. May we find the pathway the Spirit is opening up before us. May we find the love Christ is looking to plant within our hearts. May we quiet ourselves, hear the Wind blow its stirring, creative breaths, and then let it carry us to new places, like dust dancing with God-force.

May we, this day, renew the journey of repentance. Whatever parts of lives feel burnt up of their energy, may God stir the ashes and set us on course yet again.

Amen.

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