Happy Monday. We pray your week will go well, that you are ready and eager to walk this week in the light of the Lord. Today begins the second full week of Lent. It is a time of preparation before Easter, the highest holy day in the Christian calendar. Lent offers us an opportunity to clean our spiritual house and strengthen our faith in the Lord and His promises.
PRAYER: (from the Lectionary) [Go ahead and pray these words, even if it is in a whisper]
O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy: Be gracious to all who have gone astray from your ways, and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of your Word, Jesus Christ your Son; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
SCRIPTURES: (from the Lectionary)
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing!” —Jesus of Nazareth
PRAYER FOCUS: Repentance—Praying Through Tears.
Have you ever been caught with your hand in the cookie jar? You know the feeling. You’re 100% caught. You’re holding the evidence. It doesn’t matter that you didn’t know the jar made noise. There’s no one else to blame it on, no lie good enough to get you out of it. You’re busted. And you own whatever punishment is coming.
You probably felt bad about yourself.
What about a more serious situation—let’s say you’ve done something that you know is very wrong, something with consequences. Maybe you hurt someone very badly, perhaps someone you love, and the consequences were permanent. Once again, you’ve been caught with no escaping accountability. You face certain consequences; feeling sorry isn’t enough.
You stand in need of mercy.
This week’s Lectionary Gospel passage portrays our Lord crying out over the city He loves and longs for. Like the prophets murdered within its walls, Jesus expresses great sorrow for their sins, and for their unwillingness to turn away from them. The scriptures do not record whether He wept, but it’s easy to imagine (Matt 23:37, Luke 13:34). He was cut to the heart. Our sin does that to Him.
There’s actually a word for this kind of heart-cutting sorrow. The ancient Greeks called it Penthos. The church has traditionally used the word compunction. The dictionary defines it as
1. A feeling of guilt or moral scruple that follows the doing of something bad.
2. A pricking of the conscience.
Synonyms are: remorse, regret, repentance, penitence, contrition. The word comes from the Latin compungere, meaning to prick hard, or sting.
Compunction is not a popular concept in church today. Neither is feeling bad about ourselves. But then Jesus never set out to teach us how to be popular.
What if Jesus cried out to you, “O _____, ______, the one who ignores and punishes the messengers I have sent to you! How often I have wanted to gather you to Me like a hen gathers her chicks under her wings…but you were not willing”.
Compunction means being cut to the heart over our distance from, and offense to, the goodness of our Father-God. It is being stung in our soul for what we’ve done, and for what we’ve left undone. It is shedding tears of sorrow over our sins, and over the sins of the world. Here, in the cleansing flow of our own tears, our prayers of true repentance are born. Like the tax collector in Jesus’ parable, we pray, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner” (Luke 18:13).
Repentance makes us real again. Repentance makes us whole again. We open up to the God who made us, the God who knows what we’ve done and still loves us. In an intensely personal and emotional act we connect with a Holy Love more pure, more powerful, more perfect than anything in the universe. It goes like this:
1. We give God permission to show us our sin. We pause long enough to see the pain it has caused Him.
2. We confess. The whole thing. This is for our benefit, not God’s. God knows where our hands have been. Lay the burden down.
3. We receive God’s mercy and His forgiveness. Again, we linger long enough to experience His Love and His delight in us.
4. We pray for strength to obey. It is one thing to be sorry, even to the point of tears. It is another to be sorry enough to not do it again. Habitual sins are usually the hardest to overcome. That’s why God reminds us His mercies are new every morning (Lam. 3:22-23). We need His help to turn away from and overcome these old habits.
It was not by accident the Psalmist wrote, “May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy” (Ps. 126:5).
In our present day, Lenten fasting is likely to be a time when we aim to lighten our load of calories and body weight. This isn’t a bad desire, but it is an incidental benefit to what should be primarily a spiritual exercise. Let’s not confuse our priorities. Lighten the spiritual load first. Repair the spiritual habits first. Remember Lent is a season of both fasting and prayer.
It’s Monday morning. Are you feeling burdened by something you’ve done (or not done)? Take a moment and let the Lord gather you under His wing. Lay it down. Let it go. Be willing. Be free. Hold fast to God’s unchangeable Word, Jesus Christ. And have a great week.