A time for……..Repentance
Sermon date: March 17th
Reading: Luke 3 v.2-16
What do you feel about repentance, is it something that you are familiar with?
Can you with the person next to you, or in the larger group, when you last felt you repented? If and once you have repented, discuss how it may you feel?
Like many words in the Christian vocabulary ‘repentance’ comes steeped in theological meaning and significance. The story of John the Baptist study gives us a graphic entry point for our bible study. We read (verse 15) “The people were waiting expectantly.” As we commit our time today to God let us pray with expectancy that the Holy Spirit will speak to each of us with power.
Please read together Luke 3 v.2-16
John the Baptist says: “Prepare the way of the Lord”
For the Olympic cycle race around Surrey our roads were repaired and put into tip top condition. By the time the race went past the crowds were out lining the route and cheering loudly. This is similar to what leaders in Roman times expected – the noisy welcome if not the tarmac! John had a vocation to “open up the way” (Luke 3 v4-6) for whom is he getting ready? Remarkably, he is getting the crowds ready for the coming of “the Lord” for the promised “Messiah” you might like to compare Luke 3 v 4-6 with Isaiah 40 v 3-5
Baptism is an initiatory rite
Initiation is a rite of passage marking entrance or acceptance into a group or society. It could also be a formal admission to adulthood in a community or one of its formal components. In an extended sense it can also signify a transformation in which the initiate is 'reborn' into a new role
Q.1 who has been baptised and what form did it take?
Q.2 if you were baptised by immersion, what did the washing mean to you?
If you were baptised as a baby have you participated since in an adult service of symbolic cleansing?
The picture of washing by immersing in water is a powerful illustration of cleansing from sin, and one which has been used in various ways down the centuries. In Roman and Old Testament times Jews had a birth right to membership of the Jewish community (confirmed by circumcision}. Gentiles could be admitted but only if they went through immersion in water. In John’s day therefore baptism was a rite for Gentiles who wanted to become cleansed and to become Jews. But all that was to change.
Jesus brings God’s mercy for all
Over the centuries the Jews had experienced the privilege of living in the promised-land but at times they suffered captivity and persecution and longed for a return to the ‘promised land’. They were now again under Roman rule and longed for the Messiah to liberate them and re-establish the Jewish nation in its promised land. There were also some Jews who recognised their personal need to return to God. In fact there was quite a mixture of hopes and expectations, and into this scene, came John to prepare the way for the Messiah
Both John and Jesus realised our need for forgiveness. Take a look at Paul’s writing in Romans 3 v 23. Notice the all-inclusive nature of our predicament, ALL have sinned. But the joy is that in Christ, the way back is equally open to all, Jew and Gentile.
Jesus the Messiah offers salvation to all who will receive Him (John 3 v 16) this is where John comes in, he is opening the way up for the preaching of Christ’s forgiveness. If we want forgiveness we all can receive it through Christ. But John also emphasises the need for our repentance to substantiate our sincerity.
Q. 3 Can you think of a time where you truly felt forgiven?
Q.4 In what ways on your own faith journey has Jesus brought you forgiveness?
John preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
Q. 5 discuss together the relationship between repentance and forgiveness.
There are several translations of “repentance”:
“to change one’s mind” or ”to be sorry” often used of God (Jeremiah 18 v.8)
“to return” or “turn back” often used of the people turning back from sin and back to God (Hosea 14 v 1-2)
“sorrow” for waywardness (Luke15 v 17-18)
Probably the most helpful explanation is given in the ancient children’s hymn quoted by Charles Spurgeon which will provide a good end for a final discussion.
Tis not enough to say
I’m sorry, and repent,
And then go on from day to day
Just as I always went.
Repentance is to leave
The sins we loved before,
And show that we in earnest grieve
By doing then no more.
Q. 6 how do you respond to those words?
Let’s spend a few moments in silence so that those who wish can repent in private prayer.
Let’s now share our concerns and pray together for one another.
Let’s conclude by praying for one another in the words of the grace.
Howard Gracey, 04/03/2019