Conversion Lent 5
March 22, 2018
Pastor Tim Keyl
To turn, turn, will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning, we come ‘round right.
Lent is a time for the conversion, in the true sense of the word. We make a turn, a U-turn, a 180 degree pivot from the comfortable to the truth, from the easy to the complicated, from the self-promoting to self-giving.
For someone so steeped in Lutheran spirituality, it would be only too tempting to state something like “the righteous shall live by faith.”
Which is true, and yet faith is not a statement, it is way of life.
The Shakers, from which the song Simple Gifts originated, made a radical shift from their previous lives to be in community and to actively pursue what they thought would participate in the world’s redemption. So fervent were they that marriage was no longer practiced. So enamored were they of the Spirit in their lives that their singing and worship infused their bodies so as to make them reel and dance, and the name ”Shaker” was pegged to them for their whirling frenzy. And their habit of working and praying did indeed set them apart from the wiles of the world, even if their rejection of the world’s allures also contributed to their demise.
More and more, I am drawn to how behavior emerges from faith. Luther called this “faith active in love,” which seems quite like a Lenten posture. I am glad for conversations around Dinner Church at Bethesda, where people get to respond to scripture and devotional writing in words that speak of the intersection of what they hear with how they live. And in this way they are the preachers, and witnesses, and with me, on the road to conversion.
It is not some religious act which makes a Christian what he or she is, but participation in the suffering God in the life of the world. This is metanoia. This being caught up into messianic suffering of God in Jesus Christ take a variety of forms in the New Testament. It appears in the call to discipleship, in Jesus’ table fellowship with sinners, in conversions in the narrower sense of the word, in the act of the woman who was a sinner, an act which she performed without any specific confession of sin, in the healing of the sick, in Jesus’ acceptance of children. The centurion of Capernaum (who does not make any confession of sin) is held up by Jesus as a model of faith. There is nothing of religious asceticism here. The religious act is always something partial; faith is always something whole, an act involving the whole life. Jesus does not call us to a new religion but to a new life.
–Dietrich BonhoefferTags: conversion, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Lent, Shakers, Simple Gifts, spiritual practices