Sunday, March 3, 2013

SERMON: REPENT OR PERISH...Luke 13:1-5..March 3, 2013

The word repentance has been greatly reduced from its more profound spiritual meaning. We envision a mean judge with his long finger in our faces saying something like, 'repent , repent you didn't pay the rent.' Some years ago I found a far more meaningful definition to be ' to perceive differently afterward.' Vine's Expository Dictionary Of New Testament Words. Repentance is that profound religious experience of actually coming to a new, fresh and broader meaning of something in ones life experience.

A frequent theme in the gospels for the experience of repentance was 'Jesus healing the blind, the blind coming to see.' There is very good reason to think that the gospel writers themselves were not intending to tell stories of physical blindness being instantly healed. But were using metaphor and religious story to describe the incomparable impact that the love and courage of Jesus had on their recent forbears. Apparently the very association with Jesus resulted in some people having a 'repentance' or receiving a very new and different perspective of life and love. The traditional supernatural interpretation of the actions of Jesus is not the only way in our day to come to believe in him as strongly as any Biblical literalist, but in a transformed way. Seeing 'miracle' in this new way is I think one of my personal experiences of repentance. I truly see it differently than I did even well after I became an adult. To take the gospel blind healings as instant physical cures tends to make light of the fact that all through history the vast majority of blind people have never been cured. Instead many of them have spiritually and courageously transcended their handicap to live tremendously filled and fulfilling lives. I think of America's woman of courage Helen Keller as an example. In such lives is where we can often see the miracle work of God taking place in our own time and in our ordinary real lives, not miraculous physical cures, but moments and times of human transcendence above all kinds of restraints and difficulty.

These stories are surely primarily about the great need that all of us humans have(not just the physically blind), of being healed from our spiritual kinds of blindness, of experiencing repentance. Thus the stories are universally applicable and potentially transforming. Jesus' ministry was about raising people's levels of perception or 'seeing', about increasing their moral consciousness and awareness and thus extending one's compassion in an ever growing outward circle. An increase of moral consciousness  can be a sudden flash of insight following thoughtful  wrestling with a moral problem or after a meditative state of prayer or just a sudden change of attitude for the better and richer meaning of live and love. Such was the case of John Newton, the slave ship captain, which resulted in his words of the hymn 'Amazing Grace.' He suddenly saw the slaves in his ship as full human beings deserving of the same respect and freedom that he enjoyed. He expressed his personal transformation, “ I once was blind but now I see.”

Realizing life is to be an on-going experience of repentance one becomes more enlightened and comes to more clearly 'see' and 'know' several typical areas of awareness: 1. That each and every human being is an object of God's love, a love that does not value any person less than another. 2. That each person has gifts from God to give to others and that each of us has a need to experience ourselves as contributors to the well being of others.

To become aware of such things(and God only knows what others) is an example of how our blindness is healed just as miraculously as if Jesus had healed a physically blind person. Repentance is a present day miracle experience. 3. That none of us ever reach such a level of consciousness that we do not still have serious blind spots. So we are wise to live humbly in our dealings with others...slow to judge or devalue another person. One N.T. Writer says we often 'entertain angels unaware'.

The good news is we can all receive continual renewals and needed increases in our ever growing consciousness. The people around Jesus ,including his disciples, are pictured as seriously blind to much of life and love and the significance of what is happening right in front of them. We also are still such people. This can be a Christian description of the human condition. By God's grace change, repentance, can happen with any of us. We can rightfully expect that higher levels of ethical human consciousness, so desperately needed in our day, are a possible occurrence for us as individuals, churches, communities, the nation and even the whole world.

Dear God. Let your Spirit breath your healing power on us according to our need. May your Spirit be continually healing us of our blind spots and increasing our moral consciousness. We do come asking that personally, collectively and for our nation, May we receive your gift of repentance.

No comments: