Return, Repent, Rejoice, Rest

It has been awhile.  Life, as usual, has gotten in the way.  The daily grind.  The tireless pursuit of … what? career? money? love? rest? Exhausting.  Today, I returned to the Bible.  And here is where it opened:

In the second year of Darius, in the eighth month, the word of the LORD came to the prophet Zechariah, son of Berechiah, son of Iddo:  The LORD was very angry with your ancestors.  Say to them: Thus says the LORD of hosts, Return to me—oracle of the LORD of hosts—and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts.  Do not be like your ancestors to whom the earlier prophets proclaimed: Thus says the LORD of hosts: Turn from your evil ways and from your wicked deeds.  But they did not listen or pay attention to me—oracle of the LORD.— Your ancestors, where are they? And the prophets, can they live forever?  But my words and my statutes, with which I charged my servants the prophets, did these not overtake your ancestors?  Then they repented and admitted: “Just as the LORD of hosts intended to treat us according to our ways and deeds, so the LORD has done.”

Zechariah 1:1-6

How many times in the Bible does God remind us that all we need to do is return to Him?  Here are just a few examples:

  • Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the LORD, your God, For he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love, and relenting in punishment.  Joel 2:13
  • Return, Israel, to the LORD, your God; you have stumbled because of your iniquity.  Hosea 14:2
  • If you return to the Almighty, you will be restored; if you put iniquity far from your tent.  Job 22:23
  • I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the LORD. They shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart.  Jeremiah 24:7
  • Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you of two minds.  James 4:8
  • In just the same way, I tell you, there will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents.  Luke 15:10

Throughout the Bible, the message is consistent: return to God.  No matter where we have been, no matter what we have done… return…  repent… rejoice and rest in God’s love.  Jesus makes it clear with three parables: the lost sheep, the lost coin and finally the prodigal son.  Luke 15:1-32  And then he tells us: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

Lord,

Your mercy and love is far too gracious for us to comprehend.  I do not know how or why I let life get in the way, chasing things that do not bring me the peace and joy and rest that only you can provide.  Thank you for always being there when I return.  You have made this beautiful world full of so many wonderful things.  I want to see and experience it all, but I want to do that with you.

Repent

Lent will be here in just a couple of weeks.  Today, the Bible opened to a short and simple statement from Jesus:

From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Matthew 4:17

Repent.  I have heard that word since I was a child.  Particularly during Lent.  Repent.  For the first time, I looked up its definition.  Here is what my quick internet search revealed:

  • to feel or express sincere regret or remorse about one’s wrongdoing or sin.
  • to turn from sin and dedicate oneself to the amendment of one’s life
  • to feel regret or contrition
  • to change one’s mind
  • to feel sorry, self-reproachful, or contrite for past conduct; regret or be conscience-stricken about a past action, attitude, etc.
  • to feel such sorrow for sin or fault as to be disposed to change one’s life for the better; be penitent.

To feel or express sincere regret or remorse.  So first, I need to feel and express regret and remorse.  The regret part comes pretty easy for me.  I have lots of regrets.  The part I can probably work on is the sincere remorse, which I think is a little more than just regret.  To be sincerely sorry for my sin.  To be sincere, I have to really think about it.  I generally don’t like to think back on the things I do wrong and instead I just lump them into general categories and try to move on.  I don’t want to think about the things I do wrong.  I don’t want to think about sin, and particularly not about my sin!  As a result when I do think about my sins (often just briefly) or prepare for confession, the same sins come back to mind.  Perhaps because I have not truly repented — have not thought about them enough to have true, sincere remorse — and as a result have not allowed myself to be freed from them.

The other definitions are even harder.  Repent: To turn from sin and dedicate oneself to the amendment of one’s life.  To feel such sorrow for sin or fault as to be disposed to change one’s life for the better.  Its not enough to feel sorry  or to feel regret.  To repent, we really need to think about our sin — we cannot hide from it.  We need to think about what we have done wrong, so that we can have sincere remorse.  Without sincere remorse, how can I truly dedicate myself to amend my life, to change my life for the better.

The kingdom of heaven is at hand.  It is time to repent.  Time to change our lives for the better.

Lord,

I am sincerely sorry for my sins.  Help me to dedicate myself to do better.