Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Our worship theme for this season is Repent. Repair.
Repentance is a perennial feature of Lent. Like any word that’s been tossed around for centuries, it’s helpful to return to its root meaning to remember what we’re talking about.
The Old Testament Hebrew word for repent means to turn or return. The imagery is of someone, or an entire people, walking in a certain direction, then doing a 180 and walking in the other direction. In light of Sunday’s wonderful children-centered worship service, this notion of repentance could also include adults’ openness to return to a more child-like state of playfulness.
The New Testament Greek word for repent means to change one’s mind. More loosely, and perhaps more inspiring, it could be translated to enter the higher mind. As in, moving beyond a mindset and related actions that center the personal ego, toward that which centers the common good and the Divine presence in all things.
When it comes to racial injustice and our abusive relationship with the natural world, repentance may be one of the best words we have going for us.
In this light, Repair is part of the same movement of God’s Spirit through us. Our newly formed reparations committee – charged with researching and recommending to the congregation how to implement and where to direct funds set aside for reparation – has been discussing the generational nature of this work. To be more precise, what responsibility do we hold for past harms that we ourselves did not do, but from which we have benefited? How, as agents of repair, are we also opening ourselves up to repairing damage to our spirits we didn’t even know was there?
For this Lent, how might God be beckoning us into a posture of repentance and repair that – rather than weighing us down with crushing guilt – frees us in body, mind, and spirit as individuals, family systems, and wider communities?