Repentance & Lent

Greg Gardner is a native of Sharon, Tennessee, and a graduate of Lambuth University and Vanderbilt Divinity School. During his time at Vanderbilt, he focused his studies on pastoral care and served Trinity Presbyterian Church (Nashville) as Minister of Young Adults.

Before pursuing a theological education, he worked many years in Nashville as a banker. Greg currently works in land scape design and installation, is a member and installed elder at Woodland, and chairs our congregation’s Worship & Education committee. 

Dear friends,

We are approaching the end of the ancient, liturgical Christian season of Lent and will soon begin the celebratory season of Easter. During Lent, Christians all over the world have been practicing, while even seeking to discover, the purpose of these forty-plus days. Over the last two millennia, there have been varying and competing claims to the purpose and value of this time- some more nuanced, and some with stark differences. Imagine that. Christians disagreeing. Ultimately, these differences are rooted in the varying claims about the personhood of Jesus- that is, who was Jesus, his purpose, and what exactly was accomplished by his life, work, teachings, suffering, death and resurrection.

Repent: A shamed-filled and prickly word.

Most common among these understandings of Lent has been the idea and practice of “repentance.” But even the practice of repentance during Lent has differed among Christians and Christian traditions. For some, repentance has meant giving up a substance or behavior, or taking on a practice or discipline, both as means of self-denial and moving one more closely to identify with the chosen suffering and self-denial of Jesus. For others, the practice has been a time of atonement and penance for shortcomings, commonly called sin, in order to “get right with God” and prepare one for death.

Yes, it’s Good News.

At Woodland, Lent is also a time of repentance and preparation, but is largely understood as a time of communal and individual self-reflection and examination, as we consider what it means to follow more closely the way of Jesus. This, we think, is the purpose and value of this sometimes prickly word. We open ourselves to renewal and change, and we practice repentance, from the biblical Greek, metanoia, meaning, “to turn from, away, and towards” or to “experience a transformative change of mind or heart.” It is then we can more fully understand and become the persons, community and world God intends us to be. And we can see ourselves and others as God truly sees us: people worthy of love, grace and acceptance, rather than toxic guilt, shame and punishment. We become more capable of giving and receiving unconditional love.