Repentance, Part X   1 comment

Above:  Ash Wednesday Cross

Image in the Public Domain


According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)


Joel 2:12-19

Psalm 51:1-13

2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:2

Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21


Almighty and ever-living God, you hate nothing you have made,

and you forgive the sins of all who are penitent. 

Create in us new and honest hearts, so that,

truly repenting of our sins, we may obtain from you,

the God of all mercy, full pardon and forgiveness;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 17


Almighty and everlasting God,

because you hate nothing you have made

and forgive the sins of all who are penitent,

create in us new and contrite hearts that we,

worthily repenting of our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness,

may obtain from you, the God of all mercy,

perfect remission and forgiveness;

through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 32


The prophet Joel, in the 400s B.C.E. interpreted a plague of locusts as divine punishment on the people for disobeying the Law of Moses repeatedly and habitually.  He also understood that repentance remained an option.

I do not share Joel’s first assumption.  I do not interpret natural disasters as acts of divine judgment.  Those who live in Kansas may expect tornadoes.  Those who reside near the Gulf of Mexico may expect hurricanes and tropical storms.  Those who live near fault lines may expect earthquakes.  Those who live near active volcanoes may expect volcanic activity.  Those who live in a flood plain may expect floods.  Such is nature.

The Hebrew prophetic tradition could not make up its mind when repentance remained an option and when God had stopped listening.  (I know; I read the Hebrew prophetic books carefully recently.)  However, I have made up my mind on part of the issue:  So long as one has breath, repentance remains an option.  Whether one can repent after death is a question I cannot answer.  The answer to that question is for God to provide.  I do not presume to know the balance of divine judgment and mercy.

Remorse for sins prepares the way for repentance of those sins.  Talk is cheap.  Nevertheless, some words are necessary and helpful.  Martin Luther was correct; language–especially sacramental language–has power.  And actions are where, as a cliché says, the rubber meets the road.

Lent is a season in which the Church (that part of it with good liturgical sense, at least) focuses on repentance.  We mere mortals need to repent individually.  Societies, cultures, kingdoms, empires, nation-states, and institutions need to repent collectively.  Even the best of us, who have mastered the Lutheran theological category of civil righteousness, have fallen far short of God’s standard.  The rest of us have fallen far short of the same standard, too.  Everyone above a very young age struggles with habitual sins we know better than to commit.

Fortunately, God welcomes penitents and knows that we mere mortals are, poetically, like dust.  May we be penitent dust daily.  And may we observe Lent in such a way that we grow spiritually during this season.





Adapted from this post



One response to “Repentance, Part X

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  1. Pingback: Devotion for Ash Wednesday, Years A, B, and C (ILCW Lectionary) | LENTEN AND EASTER DEVOTIONS

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