Pastor Peter Strommen

Repentance

Why is it that the word “repent” shows up so often in the Bible? All the prophets refer to it and both John the Baptist and Jesus speak of it often. And why is repentance apparently so hard to come by? In the Gospel passages for this Sunday, Luke 13:1-9, 31-35, Jesus both pleads for it and later laments its absence.

Perhaps we can all relate to how hard it is to admit being wrong, how vulnerable one feels in asking another person for forgiveness, even those closest to us. And some of us may look back on periods of our life where we simply could not or would not recognize our need to change. And, of course, in such a state of mind, nothing did change, except the mounting consequences of our mind-set, or our soul.

As I prepare to preach the sermon this Sunday, I’ve been reflecting on what happens in repentance and why we so often instinctively resist it. And yet, if it were not important, why does it appear so prominently in the preaching of the prophets and the church? Why even is repentance a traditional emphasis in the season of Lent? I suspect that the answers lie in the “basement” of the human heart and psyche, a place where finally only the gospel can shine a redeeming light.

Pastor Peter Strommen

An Offer We Can't Refuse

Sometimes remarkable things come to light in the most unlikely of circumstances. Simon provides his fishing boat for Jesus to sit in as he teaches the crowd gathered at the shore. Afterward Jesus directs him to deeper water to fish. As a professional fisherman, Simon obeys only out of respect for Jesus, pointing out their complete futility the night before. But when Simon’s net begins to break from the sheer weight of the fish, and he must signal his partners to help with the haul before his boat sinks, he recognizes more than a miracle. Overwhelmed, it is not the enormous catch itself that brings Simon to his knees, but the One in whose Presence he suddenly recognizes. Fearful awe and the awareness of personal sin are human reactions to the Holy breaking through in glory. Often a call to obedience follows, this one – to fish for people – one of the most consequential invitations in human history. Everything will change for Simon in his leaving the boats to follow Jesus! Is the invitation of Jesus not an offer we can’t refuse?

Thoughts for Sunday

In Sunday’s Scripture narrative, the Israelites fear they are leaderless because Moses has been gone for 40 days.  So, they revert to worshiping a golden calf!  “What were they thinking!”  Not so fast.  They’re scared and want what is familiar.  And therein lies a critical difference - - between serving idols and trusting God.  We humans easily confuse the two, however, and it’s important to understand the difference.  One is about control, the other about love.   

Here are some huge differences between idol worship and worshiping God:

  1. God is the creator (and owner) of all that is - - life itself.
  2. Life therefore is not finally our own - - we are managers of that life and asked to live in a way that is pleasing to the Creator.
  3. The core of what pleases God has been revealed in Scripture, most richly through Jesus - - we best describe it in the word “love” or “compassion”. This, in its many forms and manifestations is what the worshiper of God is called to - - a very different “bottom line” from other gods.
  4. Yes, there is reward promised - - it comes imperfectly in this life through greater joy, blessing and meaning.  But it is promised completely in the life after.

It’s fascinating to follow the logic of this and compare it with where worship (or first loyalty) leads with idols such as riches, power, fame, nation, recreation - - all good in themselves - - or, evil itself.