A Joyful Awakening

By Dr. Linda Lee Ritzer

Part 22 of a weekly series

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It’s time for a revolution.

Really, that’s the bottom-line goal in our diocesan-wide On Mission for The Church Alive! It’s a call to a spiritual revolution in each of us.

“I have redeemed you; I have called you by name: you are mine” (Isaiah 43:1). The revolution means that we take that understanding and center our lives in it — that we are redeemed, that Jesus has called us individually and that we belong to him.

It’s summed up by the Greek word metanoia that’s all over Scripture. Roughly translated as “repentance,” it means so much more. “Repentance” too often suggests sack cloth and ashes, a grim beating of the breast, a sorrowful acknowledgement of all we have done wrong.

Although real contrition and sorrow for sin is vital, the repentance to which Jesus calls us is a joyful awakening. It’s a call to a change of heart and a change of mind toward God. It’s a call to see the moment differently and the future hopefully.

Real repentance demands that we first of all have an openness to radical change in ourselves. We have to turn away from what we have been doing and to see things — see everything — from an entirely new perspective. To see with new eyes, to listen with new ears. And to live a new way.

This is what we see in the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. Peter speaks to the crowds at Pentecost, he calls them to metanoia — to repent, to have a change of heart and mind. And 3,000 answered that call.

They had a change of mind and heart. They saw everything from a new perspective. They experienced Jesus in a new way and were transformed. They were baptized.

Acts describes the result of this in Scripture and its influence on the life of the early church. It fills us with joy and wonder 2,000 years later:

“They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each one’s need. Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple area and to breaking bread in their homes. They ate their meals with exultation and sincerity of heart, praising God and enjoying favor with all the people. And every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved” (Acts 2:42-47).

This is the revolution — the metanoia — we are looking for in our lives. We want to change the way we think that leads to a change of heart and behavior.

This is what we want from On Mission for The Church Alive! We want a change — a repentance — that is radical and expressed in a new attitude and a new aptitude to serve. We want to think new about old things, to reframe everything so that we not only go in new directions but maybe in precisely the opposite direction.

“Dreams can come true again when everything old is new again.” That’s the miracle that comes with conversion, that’s the miracle that comes with repentance.

Ritzer is a diocesan associate general secretary.

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