Late to Lent
I had a very busy few weeks: much as I am a "slow and steady wins the race" kind of writer, I was really pressed for time before submitting my dissertation for my defense.*
*no that doesn't mean finished, just almost finished—the 100% finished line is in April.
So even though I kept singing to my son (and singing and singing and singing—Lord have mercy on his poor teething mouth), I didn't have any extra brain space to add new songs to our repertoire.
No surprise then that here we are a week into Lent, and I'm just starting to come to terms with it. (You want pancakes on Shrove Tuesday? Well I made pancakes on Tuesday...and Wednesday...and if memory serves, on Thursday too because carbs are an excellent way to celebrate [edit: recover from] meeting a deadline about 4 years in the making.)
Here's the moral of the story: even though I'm "late to Lent," repentance is not a one time thing, not something we "do" on Ash Wednesday to initiate the season (or however your church marks Lent), and then go on our merry way, leaving repentance at the door.
Repentance is a continual turn towards God.
Good thing it's a continual turn then because Lent is a long time, long enough to forget the feeling of repentance, the asking of forgiveness at the outset. And while Lent is a time that highlights our individual and collective need for repentance, we should always and continually turn towards God through out our lives.
If we are late to Lent—and I don't just mean a week late, but even if we forget the spirit of Lent until Easter Sunday, or ignore it throughout our lives—there is still time to repent.
In Eastern Orthodox churches, a sermon by the early church leader St. John Chrysostom is read during the Easter service. It opens with this reminder:
If anyone has labored from the first hour, let them today receive the just reward.
If anyone has come at the third hour, with thanksgiving let them feast.
If anyone has arrived at the sixth hour, let them have no misgivings; for they shall suffer no loss.
If anyone has delayed until the ninth hour, let them draw near without hesitation.
If anyone has arrived even at the eleventh hour, let them not fear on account of tardiness.
For the Master is gracious and receives the last even as the first; He gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour, just as to him who has labored from the first.
Even at the eleventh hour—even at the end of the day, at the end of Lent, at the end of our lives—we can and should still repent by continually turning towards God.
Come Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy
This week I am learning the hymn "Come Ye Sinners Poor and Needy"—a beautiful American folk hymn of repentance. Here's a link to sheet music and here's a church choir singing the hymn. (Why this kind of recording? Because it's easier to learn a hymn text if you're singing along with a straight-forward, congregational-singing-style recording rather than a more complex arrangement.)
Come ye sinners, poor and needy,
Weak and wounded, sick and sore;
Jesus ready stands to save you,
Full of pity, love, and pow'r.
I will arise and go to Jesus,
He will embrace me in His arms;
In the arms of my dear Savior,
O there are ten thousand charms.
Come, ye thirsty, come and welcome,
God's free bounty glorify;
True belief and true repentance,
Ev'ry grace that brings you nigh.
Come ye weary, heavy laden,
Lost and ruined by the fall;
If you tarry till you're better,
You will never come at all.
Let not conscience make you linger,
Nor of fitness fondly dream;
All the fitness He requireth
Is to feel your need of Him.