Lent begins with the recognition that we live in a broken world and that we are broken with it. We are in need of grace. We are in need of healing. We cannot experience God’s shalom and wholeness until we deal with the brokenness in us and between us. This is the nature of repentance–an awakening to our true condition; an admission of our true need that moves us to renounce that which leads to and maintains brokenness and to embrace God’s invitation to experience and be part of God’s new creation in Christ.
On this Ash Wednesday, we are again confronted with the brokenness of our world–the old creation–as evidenced in the ways we have categorized and classified people by race, national origin, ethnicity, gender, religion, etc. and the ways that we have placed value and worth on those classifications. Our nation built a social order on the foundation of superior white, male, straight, Western European identity. And in so doing, we have identified the inferior “other”–all those who do not fit what is “normative.” And to our shame, we have codified the social order through our politics and justified it through our religion. And in the process, we have stripped others of their personhood. Nowhere is this more evident than in our treatment of indigenous peoples, people of color and immigrants throughout our nation’s history to the present day. 1
And on this Ash Wednesday, we are again confronted with God’s vision–the new creation–of a place where the old categories and classifications are destroyed (Colossians 3:11) ; where the dividing walls of hostility are broken, never to be rebuilt (Ephesians 2:14); where the power structures are dismantled and the arrogant are humbled (Luke 1:51-53); where the most valued members of the social order are the most vulnerable and the last shall be first (Matthew 25:34-36).
And our only response must be humble repentance that moves us to renounce the signs and sins of the old creation: xenophobia, superiority, exclusion; and moves us to embrace the new heavens and earth where justice is at home.
Questions for Reflection: In what ways have you lived the signs and sins of the old creation such as xenophobia, superiority, exclusion? What does repentance from xenophobia look like for you?
1 Last night, Donald Trump regularly identified immigrants with criminality. Today, he is expected to sign a new Executive Order related to travel restrictions.