Meanderings of a Minister

Shriving Service, Ash Wednesday…What Does It All Mean?
March 2, 2011, 9:10 pm
Filed under: Articles

This past week, we observed two significant events in the liturgical church year.  As a member of a non-liturgical church, I had to look up information on each of these events in an attempt to understand them.  What I discovered was that Shrove Tuesday was supposed to be a time when people went to church, confessed any known sin, did penance and received absolution so that they could start the Lenten Season with a clean heart and conscience.  Ash Wednesday would begin this season as they indicated their brokenness over having sinned and strayed away from closeness with God.  The Lenten Season was a time of setting oneself aside from some activity or attraction in order to focus more clearly on God.

As I prepared to preach for the Shriving Service this week, God brought 2 Corinthians 7:10-13a to mind as it shows the right relationship of confession, repentance, heart, action and obedience.   While there are certainly many ways to respond to correction, attacking the messenger (like Jeremiah), ignoring the messenger (like Isaiah), trying to fix things yourself (like the Israelites in Numbers 14), and being broken to the point of hopelessness (like Judas Iscariot), there is only one right response to correction that brings a right relationship with God.  What is that way?  Repentance is the only way.

In this passage, we are shown that true repentance is not just an activity we engage in during a service, but I changing of who we are that goes to the foundation of who we are.  The word we translate as repentance is metanoion.  This is a Greek word that means to change the mind, disposition, insight, inventiveness, understanding, thinking, ability, will, thoughts, opinions, judgment, resolve, purpose, plan, meaning and even in what we find significant.  That change of mind must come without causing a change of emotion that wants us to return.

In addition to the change of mind that changes the emotional stability of a person, it must also lead to a change of actions.  This passage lists characteristics of a person that has truly repented of their sin and surrendered his or her life to Christ.  They are to be marked with a haste to do right that is equal to or greater than their haste to do wrong was before.  They are to be eager to prove that they have changed.  They are to show genuine remorse for where they have been as they press on towards living for Christ.  They are to have a healthy fear and reverence for God.  They are to yearn for God, God’s people, God’s service and God’s pleasure.  They are to have a genuine concern for God’s name and a desire for justice.

As you look over this list, what things jump out at you?  Keep in mind that this is not a matter of just trying hard enough.  You must be willing to turn your life over to the only One that can change you.  His Name is Jesus.  He died on a cross for your sins.  He rose again, conquering death, hell, sin and Satan.  He is Lord of the Universe and deserves to be Lord of your life.  Instead of waiting for a service to change, why not repent today and ask Him to come in.  He will and it will be forever!


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