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I will bless the Lord, Who has given me counsel; yes, my heart instructs me in the night seasons. I have set the Lord continually before me; because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. (Psalm 16:7-8, AMP)

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Season of Repentance
Published on 04-15-2014 , 11:58 AM

“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’  So he got up and went to his father.” (Luke 15: 17-20, NIV)

This is the week between Palm Sunday and Easter. On Palm Sunday, we celebrate the triumphal entry of Jesus and his followers into Jerusalem. On Easter Sunday, we celebrate our Lord’s victory over death – His own and ours. But in between these two celebrations is the cross.

Some churches call this Holy Week and have services that focus on the sorrowful and horrific, but oh so necessary, events of the Passion. Others are less limited to a calendar and may emphasize the events leading up to the cross and the crucifixion itself at any number of times during the course of a given year. Despite what our respective church affiliations may be, the week between Palm Sunday and Easter is a good time to prayerfully consider something we human beings are not wired to do naturally: repent.

In Luke 15, Jesus tells three stories of the lost. A single sheep is separated from the flock and the shepherd scours the countryside until he finds it. His concern evaporating, the shepherd heads home with the sheep on his shoulders, happy once more. A woman loses a valuable coin and, even though owning others, she stops all her activities and turns the house upside down until that missing coin is located. When it is found the woman is so happy she calls over her neighbors to join in the celebration.

And then then is the tale of the lost son. Unlike the lost sheep and coin, this younger of two sons planned to get lost; he intended to get as far away from home as he could. Eventually he accomplished this goal and relocated with a goodly sum to enjoy an exotic new locale to the fullest. But there was nothing left for the prodigal son to live on once he ran through his inheritance. With his funds gone, the younger son had no way to earn a decent living and slipped into poverty. He was no longer prodigal, just lost – like the coin and the sheep.   Finally, the young man came to his senses. The delusion that it was not only okay but actually good for him to indulge his senses and ignore all else was exploded like a pin-pricked balloon. It took vastly reduced circumstances for him to realize being a servant in his father’s house was preferable. At that low point in his life, the young man finally comprehended that his prior actions had been sinful; not just generally sinful, but sins against his father and against God. But this was not just a passing thought. The young man owned those sins; he owned up to them and was willing to make a public declaration acknowledging those sins as his.

This is called repentance: when we see clearly what we did not before. It is then that we recognize our past actions, thoughts, or declarations were wrong – dead wrong. We confess this new understanding and we commit to a new path. The lost son’s new path took him back to his father with a humble and contrite heart. But before the young man got to his destination he was met by his father. Rather than scold him, the father listened kindly to his son’s declaration, hugged him close, and hurried him home to a celebration feast – far, far more than the young man expected or deserved.

We are the lost coins, the lost sheep, and the lost son. Unlike coins and sheep, people are found and brought into the celebration when God draws them to repent and turn away to a new path. We who have done that initially when choosing to serve the Father by following Jesus have definitely been found by a God who will not let us go. But we can still wander away from the path the Lord has for us from time to time, or even on a regular basis.

And so it is fitting for us to contemplate the idea of repentance in the six days between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday. This is an appropriate time to ask the Lord in prayer to show us what may have lead us astray from His safe path into prodigal thoughts or behavior. When we do, like the lost sheep, we find the Good Shepherd is already headed our way to bring us home; like the lost son, we find the Father is waiting to wrap His arms around us and celebrate that our hearts have turned back to Him.