Penitential Life

Psalm 77: 1 – 12

I cried out to God for help;

    I cried out to God to hear me.

 When I was in distress, I sought the Lord;

    at night I stretched out untiring hands,

    and I would not be comforted.

 I remembered you, God, and I groaned;

    I meditated, and my spirit grew faint.

 You kept my eyes from closing;

    I was too troubled to speak.

 I thought about the former days,

    the years of long ago;

 I remembered my songs in the night.

    My heart meditated and my spirit asked:

 “Will the Lord reject forever?

    Will he never show his favor again?

 Has his unfailing love vanished forever?

    Has his promise failed for all time?

 Has God forgotten to be merciful?

    Has he in anger withheld his compassion?”

 Then I thought, “To this I will appeal:

    the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand.

 I will remember the deeds of the Lord;

    yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.

 I will consider all your works

    and meditate on all your mighty deeds.

Lent is a penitential season that prepares us to fully enter the feast of the resurrection.

But penitence is a tricky thing for some us.

True penitence is honest and authentic, a stripping away of the false self with its posturing and personas. True penitence births humility in the recognition of our inability to live fully into all that is meant and intended for us as God’s children. True penitence not only brings freedom but stirs up faith – a resilient faith.

If, however, we struggle with shame, the idea of penitence becomes just another hook for the trap of self-loathing. We may even believe that we have to somehow feel bad enough about our sin for God to turn towards us.

It has been said that the difference between Judas and Peter, both of whom betrayed Jesus, is that Peter believed he could be forgiven. Judas could not.

God’s forgiveness is sure – because of who God is.

That we are forgiven is sure – because we are God’s beloved.

The invitation of Lent, to enter into penitence has nothing to do with feeling bad about ourselves. It has everything to do with, slowing down, becoming still, reflecting on the barriers that have arisen within us, and welcoming the truth of God’s forgiveness into every part of our being.

Let it bring light.

Let it bring truth.

Let it bring freedom.

Let it stir up faith.

Reflection Question:

  1. In what ways have you experienced, or might you experience, penitence to be an empowering invitation to be more of who you truly are?

Prayer:

To the One who sees me and knows me, allow me to bring my whole self before you. In the power of this present moment help me to see the barriers within myself for what they are. Enable me to fully receive the fullness of your forgiveness. And give me grace to embrace completely that you call me Beloved.  Amen.

This Lenten reflection accompanies the Tell Your Pastor #imaffirming initiative. To learn more click here.

#imaffirming #lent

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