The following is a post about lent from our Bishop Ken Ross. The original article can be found here: http://www.pearusa.org/
Lent is meant to take us on a journey which brings us to a greater awareness of our need for Jesus, and thus a greater celebration of Easter. This is why Lent is marked by repentance.
The parable of the Lost Sheep in Luke 15 gives us a good context to understand repentance. Jesus says in Luke 15:4, “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?”
Notice what doesn’t happen. The shepherd does not say, “I can’t believe it – dumb sheep wandered off. Now I have to go look for it. This might take all night! I will probably miss dinner, won’t get to sleep at a decent hour. What a pain.” The Shepherd doesn’t say, “I knew it – that sheep has been causing me trouble all along. I can tell you that I am better off without that kind of sheep – glad it went before it led other sheep astray. Good riddance, that sheep doesn’t deserve to be part of the flock.” The shepherd doesn’t say, “I told that sheep not to wander off – when it comes its senses, it can find its way back home – it knows the way.” The shepherd does not say, “Darn – well, there are a lot of wild animals out there: what if the sheep is already dead? It is not worth the risk.” He is not put out, he is not self-righteous or calculating the cost benefit ratio. He is more than willing to pay the cost to recover the sheep.
The Shepherd pursues – he goes after the sheep. He is not expecting the sheep to figure it out, come home on its own and find itself. We have a Father who pursues us. He is not expecting us to find ourselves when we are lost – we need to be rescued. He doesn’t sit back with His arms folded waiting for us to make it right. Living the Christian life is much more about God pursuing us than our pursuit of Him.
And when the shepherd finds the sheep, it says in Luke 15:5, “he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home.” There is joy in finding the sheep – the shepherd doesn’t scold the sheep – he doesn’t beat the sheep because of the time and energy that has been lost. There is joy – not frustration or anger or disappointment in the sheep getting lost. There is no sense that now the sheep it going to get it, pay for the trouble it caused and be the shepherd’s dinner that night.
He doesn’t even grab the sheep and pull it along after him, leading it back home. He puts the sheep on his shoulders – he carries the sheep home. This is not a lamb – this is a full grown sheep, which means that it was at the very least 100 pounds. Carrying a sheep on your shoulders is no light burden. The shepherd joyfully carries the sheep. There is something triumphant about putting the sheep on his shoulders, and he joyfully bears the burden of this rescue.
When the shepherd gets home does he scold the sheep – make an example of him? Does he put the sheep on display as a bad sheep, shaming the sheep? He throws a party. Luke 15:6, “Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’” This is a picture of the Father – His joy in our rescue. Your rescue is worth a joyful celebration.
Then Jesus says, in Luke 15:7, “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” What did the sheep do to repent? It was found – it did nothing. The Father pursues us before we repent. It is not that our repentance brings the Father to us – He pursues us before we repent. Repentance is not something we engage in to appease an angry God – it is a response to being found by Him, to being rescued by Him. Repentance is a gift He gives where we can step more into life and the freedom Jesus purchased for us on the cross. So while there can be great sorrow when we recognize where we have missed life, where we have worshiped at other altars, where we have brought disgrace to His Name, where we have not lived into who He has rescued us to be – there is not to be condemnation or self-loathing. Romans 8:1 says, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
This truth enables us to enter into Lent, enter into repentance with confidence, hope and expectation instead of despair and self-loathing. We are sobered by how far we have fallen and we are awed by His great rescue of us.
Bishop Ken Ross