This is the season of Lent. Some of our churches emphasize penance, or giving something up for Lent, that you really enjoy. Let me give a little example: Say you really enjoy chocolate, so you give it up for Lent. And then on Easter Sunday you eat a pound of chocolate. Or you have given up your favorite TV program only to tape it and wait until Easter Sunday to start watching it again.
Now, penance comes from the Greek to Latin to English. We get the word penance, but when we translate from Greek to English, we get the word repentance. So some of our churches emphasize repenting of our sins. Let's explore this a minute.
Instead of giving something up, why not ask God for the grace to be compassionate, forgiving and merciful to those who we think don't deserve it. Would this not be what Jesus would have done? Our church members are a compassionate group, a merciful and forgiving group. However, there is always room to let God's grace shine through us so that we can be even more so and God, who sees in secret, will reward us for attempting to be more like His Son.
It all starts with repentance, asking God to forgive our sins. It may not end there, though. I found in my life through my trials and tribulations that there is a true freedom in forgiving someone who wronged us. Remember that St. Peter asked our Lord in the garden of Gethsemane: "Lord, how many times must I forgive my brother when he wrongs me - seven times?" and our Lord replied, "I don't say seven times, I say seventy times seven times," which is another way of saying that we must all be ready to forgive. It is astonishing to me that we ask God for forgiveness and to show us mercy when we are sometimes unwilling to do so.
Let's make this Lenten season one in which we gain through God's grace, the stature that every Christian should hope for.
Now, I think Easter Sunday is arguably the holiest day of our year. When we were growing up everything was closed on Easter Sunday; but in our society today Halloween gets more attention than Easter Sunday does. Almost nothing is closed now. Every Sunday is resurrection Sunday, but Easter stands out as preeminent in the church year.
Growing up Roman Catholic, I learned that penance was the order of the day through Lent. And then when we celebrate Easter Sunday, all the efforts during Lent come to nothing if the whole rest of the year we keep doing things we have always done without realizing the effects it has on our lives and the lives of those around us.
May the grace and peace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you and remain in you both now and forever.
I wish all of you a healthy Lenten season culminating in the great Resurrection Sunday to improve our lives and the lives around us.
Pastor Mike Sperry leads the West Spring Creek Congregational Church.
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