We talked about mission and repentance yesterday. Luther said in the first of his 95 Theses that the whole life of the faithful should be an act of repentance. Jesus first words in public ministry called for repentance. All the prophets called for repentance so it must be important and Sasse says the mission of the church is repentance.
In rejecting a ‘do penance’ understanding of repentance, the idea that we do things to appease God, Luther tried to fix two errors. On the one hand he opposed the notion of penance as a meritorious human work. On the other, by calling all of life ‘repentance’ he prevented its being stultified into a ritual or single aspect of Christian living. For him, repentance is the entirety of Christian experience.. Yet it is so, not as the pre-condition of this life but as its inevitable consequence. A recovery of the biblical meaning of repentance meant a twin emphasis on the rejection of human merit and the embrace of total, life-long transformation. For Luther and the reformers, the true grace of God is both free and effective in its generation of real repentance.
My concern is that as Lutherans repentance as life long transformation can be turned into a navel gazing constant analysis of motives and methods and thoughts and actions with the result that we never do anything. We can develop especially in the area of mercy and missions a paralysis by analysis. We are sitting on the greatest migration ( at least that is what some are saying) of Americans since the great depression in the western part of North Dakota and we can’t seem to figure out who should be doing what. We have friends and neighbors in congregations that know they have outreach opportunities in their towns and can’t figure out how to do it or who should be in charge of doing it. Sometimes that Pastor thinks it is his job and doesn’t know how and sometimes he thinks the congregation has the task and on and on it goes.
Maybe it’s time for some of the frenetic activity that is exhibited in in Mark 1. We used to have have that attitude in LCMS World Relief and Human Care. Mark 1:35 Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed. 36 And Simon and those who were with Him searched for Him. 37 When they found Him, they said to Him, “Everyone is looking for You.”38 But He said to them, “Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because for this purpose I have come forth.”