As a fairly young Christian I thought of repentance for my sins in terms of being sorry for things I had done. I was really, sincerely sorry, yet kept doing the same things over and over again. You may have been there yourself. Then I heard a wise teacher say, “Repentance is not being sorry for the things you have done, but being sorry you are the kind of person that does such things.” – M. Robert Mulholland, Jr., The Deeper Journey: The Spirituality of Discovering Your True Self, p. 23
This morning, I listened to my friend and former Faculty Ministry colleague Kenny Benge preach a sermon on “Ancient-Future Worship” during Lent. (See Robert Webber’s book for more about the idea of “Ancient-Future Worship.”) It truly was an Ancient-Future experience, because I listened to him via podcast from his church’s website. During his sermon, Kenny drew a contrast between morality and moralism, which I think was taken from C. S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity. Morality is the law of right and wrong that is woven into the fabric of the universe. Meanwhile, moralism is our futile attempt to control our lives (and the lives of others) in order to become “so good” that we no longer need the cross of Christ.
Lent, Kenny went on, is the church’s primary time of year for confronting the moralism that we so easily drift into, by making us aware of our need for repentance and our need for Jesus. Kenny then described some of the steps that his Anglican church has taken to help people enter the Lenten season:
- A change in the pastor’s clothing (a black stole, in Kenny’s case)
- Recitation of the Ten Commandments each week
- A change in the church’s music during Lent, adding an organ to the instrumentation
Kenny admitted during the sermon that he may have “gone overboard” this year, but I have always appreciated churches that make use of multiple senses — sight, sound, space — to connect to theological themes. Even if your church doesn’t observe Lent or values a more simple physical space, I bet there are still certain songs, certain images, certain styles of clothing that denote special times of year. (Is there anything more glorious than seeing an “old-fashioned” church dressed to the nines in pastels and bright spring colors for Easter Sunday?)
How are you and your church observing Lent this year? How do you remind yourself of your need for repentance?