As I was looking up information on the season of Lent in the Christian calendar, I found some notes on Shrove Tuesday. The word “shrove” is the past tense for the word “shrive” which means 1) to bear the confession of and give absolution, 2) to obtain absolution for (oneself) by confessing and doing penance and 3) to make or go to confession. It is during this time one is to reflect on one’s behaviour in keeping with God’s words, and in making changes with a penitent heart.
This particular season of Lent is in some ways a unique situation for us as church, when we have been forced—or have chosen—to be isolated from one another during this time of reflection to prepare for Lent. As players in God’s team, sometimes a talk from the coach, partner, or group leader makes a difference. It really makes us wonder what to do or what not to do. We can find insight and comfort in the Bible itself—this situation has happened before, and God’s people came through it.
The first example is when Jesus himself leads us (The Temptation Mark 4, Luke 4). He goes into the wilderness. I would say by Himself, but His Father and the Spirit are with Him. Also, he is visited, not so kindly, by Satan. Like Moses on Mount Sinai, he endures, and even more, triumphs over evil. This act of Jesus is the model for us as Christians. Lent , like Jesus’s time of temptation, is a period of forty days. At the other end of the New Testament, there is a passage in the epistle of Peter 1. This passage refers to Christians being accused falsely of misdeeds and conflicts with the government of the day, with the Emperor Nero in charge. Does this not sound like the conflicts of today? You may discern as we read this beautiful Spirit-filled passage from the humble fisherman, “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority; whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to the governors who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is by God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.”
You can almost feel the isolation and persecution of God’s people in this passage. Yet, Peter’s words are not harsh. They show incredible strength in their simplicity: show respect, love God’s family, fear God, honor the emperor. Good words then and good words now!
Indeed, there are many things during this pandemic that most of needed, wanted, or liked that we had to give up. In confession, some of us took a real beating. For those of us that have taken a beating, these words from Peter also comfort us: “But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.” (1 Peter 2:20-21)
As we shrive together in preparation, it may be time to reflect on those deep and holy footprints and place our foot forward boldly.
~ Mark Gibson