REPENT: verb — the senator claims to have repented: feel remorse, regret, be sorry, rue, reproach oneself, be ashamed, feel contrite; be penitent, be remorseful, be repentant. (New Oxford American Dictionary)
A year ago I had a sore shoulder that was only getting worse. With physical therapy I discovered that my posture needed to change. My head and shoulders were rolling forward. I needed to repent of my way of sitting, swimming, standing and walking.
In church we speak of repenting as turning around, going in a new direction. Another way to understand it is to pursue a new opportunity or to follow a different path. Today our nation needs to repent.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. recognized that a society that only provides justice to some of its members is not just. His voice challenged our nation and all of its citizens to look in the mirror and recognize that we all have beliefs, attitudes and habits that need to change. When we allow one group of people to believe they are generally exempt from being accountable for beliefs, attitudes and activities that demean, oppress and destroy another group of people, that is wrong. And evil. And Dr. King refused to back down. Even in death his voice rings true and clear, a dream for a just society.
In this last year another voice has come to the fore. We know this voice. It gave us life. It fed us from its own being, nurtured us as children, and guided us through the daily struggles of life. This voice is our mother’s voice. Our sister’s voice. Our daughter’s voice. We have become hardened to this voice whenever it challenges us, tells a story that frightens us (do we recognize ourselves in these stories?), calls out injustice and evil in our midst. I believe we discount their voices because they are so powerful that once allowed to fully speak, our mothers, sisters, and daughters will reveal truths that we are afraid to hear.
I believe these voices are intertwined, the civil rights movement and #metoo voices, weaving a new coat of justice and inclusivity. Justice is the warp of the fabric, the normally unseen foundation and structure. Inclusivity is the weft, the public face of this coat, where all God’s children, regardless of race, creed, color, class, gender, age, sexuality or nationality are seen and heard.
I believe we must not only allow these voices to speak, but we need to actively seek them out and give them time and space to be heard. I believe we must repent of our daily grind, the patterns of our lives that not only give us the structure we need, but that twist into walls and prisons that keep us from away from “others.”
You might notice me standing, head and shoulders rolled forward, and then I shift, standing straight and tall. It is taking time to learn how to stand straight. It isn’t comfortable yet, but neither is being stooped over, my shoulder aching. I have to give up this old way to be better and stronger. I have to pay attention to myself and listen to my body in ways I never have before.
Are we willing to take off the old familiar coat of fear and hatred, pain and evil? It fits so well, even though it is really heavy and ugly. We are called to pursue a new path, laying aside the past and taking on the new coat of justice and inclusivity. It will chafe and hang oddly at times, yet only in this coat will we dwell in peace.