• Steven Marsh

Believe Then Repent: a Reflection on Psalm 25:1-10, Genesis 9:8-17, 1 Peter 3:18-22, and Mark 1:9-15

In the February Scientific American there is an article on chronobiology titled “The Clocks Within Us.” Summa and Turek go on to say, “Genes in the liver, pancreas and other tissues (not just the brain) keep the various parts of the body in sync. Timing miscues may lead to diabetes, depression and other illnesses.”

Observing the seasons of the liturgical year keeps the soul in sync.

The season of Lent that began this past Wednesday calls us to self-examination on things that matter most. Lent beckons me to address the chaos of life and get centered in the One who knows me best and loves me most.

The reading in Genesis references that humanity is hell bent on remaining in chaos as opposed to living in God’s prescribed Sabbath rhythm. In the flood and covenant made with Noah, God resyncs creation.

Conventional Religion articulates that a person repents and then believes in the saving love of God in Jesus Christ. Although the text in Mark references “repent and believe” the testimony of the Bible’s narrative reverses the order. People like Abraham, Isaac, David, Rahab, the prophets, Peter, James and John, Martha, Mary, the Samaritan Woman, Paul, you, and me see and experience it differently. We believed something about God and God’s goodness before we changed. Think about it. Belief that God is love and loves us gives us the confidence to repent.

Psalm 25 speaks directly to the “syncing” power of unconventional religion. God’s ways are not our ways. Following God in Christ must be more than a casual interest. Our faith is more than a list of doctrines; it is also a way; a direction. During Lent, we can fully experience unconventional religion by giving our very lives to God, in complete dependence, like Jesus in the wilderness.

When we view and experience Lent through the lenses of unconventional religion, we encounter the themes of 1 Peter 3: atonement, resurrection, salvation, baptism, the authority of the heavenly Christ, and the role of conscience in the life of faith. Jesus provided the way to “resync” the soul.

Conventional religion has made the order of repent and believe from the text in Mark normative. I argue to the contrary. The biblical narrative endorses unconventional religion: believe and repent. To believe and repent is the message that society needs to hear today. It is what Charlie Peace argued.

Yes, the text in Mark reads, “Repent and believe.” Pause for a minute. It really is the other way around. Believe and repent. You believe that God is faithful to God’s promises. You then have confidence to repent, that is, go in a different direction; God’s direction.

Is your confidence rooted in a political platform of a particular party? Do human leaders garner your ultimate allegiance? Is the alleviation of economic disparity, homelessness, and hunger although significant justice issues that must be addressed, your main focus for self-identity? Power, wealth, and control are misguided saviors.

Go ahead. Resync your soul during this season of Lent. Believe and repent. Bank your hope on God and God’s promises. Renounce sin, forsake it, and walk in obedience to Christ.

Scripture readings are taken from Year B in the Revised Common Lectionary which follows the liturgical calendar and begins on the First Sunday of Advent.

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