Lent provides an opportunity to talk about ashes, death, guilt, forgiveness, sin, baptism, and Christ. Log onto any social media site now and there is an abundance of blogs and posts discussing the purpose of this season in the Church Year. Lent brings to remembrance the reason the Word became incarnate. It also provides a special time to focus on repentance.
Lent is the season where we dwell especially on our own sin and repent our hearts out. God gives us that gift. It’s free. We get to repent. We wouldn’t be able to do it without the Spirit in our breast. We repent because we are preparing for the Gospel to be shouted from the rooftops-declared from every pulpit and at every altar on Easter. We don’t rejoice yet. We repent. Repent, repent, repent. Hang our head, tear our clothes, don the ashes, even on our very foreheads. We mourn our own deaths in the sickness that is sin, while being reminded of the other death we’ve been baptized into: Christ’s.
Lent is a gift. Every single sin has been completely wiped away. They are paid for. We can repent with full confidence during Lent. We can repent with full confidence anytime, but Lent provides that special opportunity to dwell on our own wickedness and repent of it.
But we’ve heard that before. The pastor preached that back on Ash Wednesday. If we listened closely, we would know he preaches that every Sunday. It’s pretty simple. So then, why don’t we repent? Why don’t we confess those deep, dark sins that eat away at our hearts in the midnight hours? They make us sick. They cause self-hatred and every manner of defiance in our lives. We swing between justifying those nasty secrets and mercilessly attacking ourselves for them. We all sin. We all have these hidden tumors. We don’t repent. Indeed, we pray God will hide the tumors so Christ, our Doctor, and His earthly shepherds won’t find them. After all, our cancer has been cured. Please, Christ, don’t go looking for more.
But why? What are we afraid of? The neighbor in the pew who will recoil from shock? But doesn’t he have his own sickness? Are we afraid God won’t forgive that one extra-vile sin? Or maybe we’re afraid of the temporal consequences. Perhaps we’re afraid that if we repent, we’ll have to give up doing the sin. And as much as we hate that sin, our Old Adam loves it. If we repent, we have to stop sinning, and we can’t stop sinning so isn’t repentance meaningless? How could Christ cover all of that? Sure, He forgives us. He died for us. He even rose again for us. But that can’t save us from everything that follows the repentance, right? No, it’s too tough. Keep it hidden. Keep it safe.
What do we think Lent is for? What do we think repentance is for? It’s for THAT sin. It’s for THAT tumor! And we don’t have any reason to hide it from the Good Doctor. It doesn’t mean the terminal cancer is back. It’s what’s left over from the cancer that was annihilated when God “delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14). Tell Christ confidently! We don’t tell Christ so He can pay for it. We tell Christ so He can remind us it’s already been paid for. We tell Christ so He can say, “Yes, and what of it? It cannot kill you. It’s already gone.”
The darkest, nastiest, most disgusting place in your soul has Christ in it, which means it can’t truly be dark. Be honest. Look at that sin, knowing full well that Christ already knows it. He knew it when His flesh tore on the nails. Repent confidently. It is already finished. And He has already begun the good work in you.
Kate Olson is a member of Mount Hope Lutheran Church in Casper, Wyoming, and teaches 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade at Mount Hope Lutheran School.