Pastor Marni Nancekivell led us in worship. In her sermon, which you can read below, she said:
“Repentance is not the same as remorse or regret. It is not listing all the ways things could have gone differently. It is not wishing you were a better person, wishing that some things had never happened, or that bad things wouldn’t keep happening to you. It’s not feeling guilty or ashamed. It’s not feeling afraid. It’s not something that leaves us stuck, or standing still, or spinning in circles, going nowhere.
Repentance is about movement, letting yourself be grasped by God, getting new bearings, and relying on God for directions.”
Advent 2C – Grace Lutheran
December 5, 2021
It was dark that July night when we left my cousins summer home after dinner. I was the lone adult, driving three teenagers somewhere between Haliburton and Bancroft. The thing of it was that my cousin’s summer home is about an hour away from any main highway. It is perched on a small lake, deep in the woods. After all of the family hugs, and the “thank you for dinner’s” we set off. We went up the hills and down the hills, around corners and through the pine forest. I am not sure quite when I realized it, but perhaps half an hour into our trip, I realized that we were lost. I suspected that I should have taken a right turn rather than forging ahead at one intersection. Now, this was truly the in the boonies. Even cell phones don’t work in their area. I had no way of contacting my cousins, the kids were beginning to panic – and I had gotten us into the mess that we were in. — So it was my responsibility to get us out. I “thought” that I knew the way back to Graham and Sharon’s – but it was so very dark, without streetlights, and certainly without other traffic – that I wasn’t sure of the way back. . I turned around, and began to retrace our trip, wishing that I had strewn “glow in the dark” breadcrumbs along the way, so I would have SOME way of knowing where we had been, some way of confirming that we’d come from that direction before. The kids were by now getting really panicky. Eventually, I saw a sign that confirmed that we were close to Graham and Sharon’s cottage. To their surprise, we pulled into their driveway, an hour after we had departed. My cousin gave me the proper directions… and we set off the right way, and went back to Wood Lake. No one was happier than I to see our cottage that night, I’ll tell you.
In my own mind, I think of that as my “repentance trip” because it embodied so well the definition of repentance.– an active turning around, going a new direction, a change of heart, a change of mind, rather than continuing down the same path, moving in the same direction that is leading nowhere or somewhere dangerous, fast.
Repentance is not the same as remorse or regret. It is not listing all the ways things could have gone differently. It is not wishing you were a better person , wishing that some things had never happened, or that bad things wouldn’t keep happening to you. It’s not feeling guilty or ashamed. It’s not feeling afraid. It’s not something that leaves us stuck, or standing still, or spinning in circles, going nowhere.
Repentance is about movement, letting yourself be grasped by God, getting new bearings, and relying on God for directions.
The new life that follows repentance, the new direction that comes with a fresh start is what John was proclaiming in the wilderness. John’s message is a call to action: repent, turn around, accept help. God is coming to meet you on a road in the wilderness.
This week marks the Thirty Second anniversary of a terrible occasion, the shooting of fourteen young women at L’ecole Polytechnique in Montreal, PQ. Their shooter, Marc Lepine is dead, as are those young women. They had little to no time for personal repentance. But as a nation, we have thought each December about the man who was so afraid of the strength of women, that he chose to kill competent young female students. Those of us who were not there, remember – and repent in our own way, from a society that is based in fear of others – and embrace a society that admires the strength of one another. We have, in our own way, repented.
Repentance can happen when you are confronted by something, maybe remorse, maybe disappointment or regret, maybe the sense that you are stuck or spinning your wheels. Maybe it comes from something as small as wishing you hadn’t said something, or wishing you could take back an action. Maybe it comes from something as large as the report from the doctor that indicates more tests are needed, and you decide that whether it turns out to be something or it turns out to be nothing, whether you have three more decades or three more weeks, you want that time to count for something, to be something you can offer back to God. Maybe it comes when you realize there are other people with you on your journey and that your decisions affect them too and the wilderness is not a good place to be forever.
Repentance comes in many ways. When God turns us around, offers us a way to get unstuck, move ahead with a new way of life, our response is to say thank you.
John’s message is a call to action: repent, turn around, accept help. God is coming to meet you, on a road, in the wilderness.