Pastor’s Study 03/2012
Jesus’ disciples went to the upper room after the ascension – 40 days after Easter (Matthew 28, Luke 24 & Acts 1). They went because Jesus had sent them there to wait, for the coming of the promised gift of power from on high – the gift of the Spirit from the Father. Jesus did not tell them how long they would have to wait, or what to do in the meantime. He just said, “Go, and wait.”
So what are we doing? We are waiting for the revealing of God’s good gift, the revealing of God’s dream for us as God promises in Jeremiah 29. And while we wait for the leading of the Holy Spirit, we are praying. We also enter now with Jesus into this Wilderness Season. Israel spent 40 years in the wilderness between slavery in Egypt and their new life in the Promised Land. Similarly Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness between his baptism and affirmation (which marked his exodus from secular life) and his entry into the promised blessing of ministry.
This season of 40 is a time of preparation, strengthening, and repentance. The word repent literally means to turn around. It refers not only to repentance from sin, but any turning from one direction to another – one focus or way of living to another. Whether or not we sense some great sin in our lives, we all have room for a turning toward LIGHT and away from darkness.
I wonder if, as we wait for God’s revealing, there is not some repentance need in our common life? From what do we as individuals, households, and congregation need to turn? How have we been focused away from God toward self or other things? How have we failed in the past without returning to properly repent, confess, and seek to be reconciled and to make amends? Remember, it may not be a grave sin, such as that for which David is repenting in Psalm 51 (the murder of Uriah and taking of Bathsheba). Instead, it may simply have been a short sightedness, a small selfishness or pettiness that prevented us from loving others as Christ loves us – that’s probably a pretty long list, if we are to be honest with ourselves.
You might ask, “Do we really have to dredge all of that up?” Great question. Do we need to drag it all out in public? No, I suspect that wouldn’t be healthy or helpful. Do we each need to go back over the past years and see where we have wronged others, either intentionally or not, by what we have done or failed to do? Yes, absolutely. Should we always go to that person to address the failing? No – not if doing so would cause further injury (for instance, if we have reason to believe that they have moved on with their lives and relationships in healthy ways that would be disrupted by our intrusion). This may not be something you can figure out on your own – you may want a spiritual conversation partner or confessor in that process – your elders are here to minister to you in that way, and others you trust may also serve that function.
Either way, I believe that one obstacle to our experiencing the full Holy Spirit revealed power of God’s dream for us is the presence of these past failures. The point of all this is not guilt, shame and self-loathing. Rather, it is freedom. We are invited to receive God’s mercy, forgiveness and grace in love as we draw near to Jesus and live as his disciples. I urge you to take this Lenten season to repent (turn around) from selfish, small minded and unhealthy ways of thinking, speaking and acting. Instead, through prayer, study, conversation and worship, turn toward God’s will for you as revealed in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, whom we follow as Lord and Savior.
May the love of Christ inspire us all – In Him – Ken