The RevoLectionary Team are delighted to have partnered with the Biblical Association of the Church of Ireland (BACI) to produce ‘Transforming Repentance: Coming Home To God’, a 5 week series for the season of Lent. What follows is an introduction to the series and we’ll be posting each reflection on the RevoLectionary Blog. You can find out more below.
‘Transforming Repentance: Coming Home to God.’
AS A CHAPLAIN and former youth worker, one of the most frustrating misconceptions I encounter is that young people today are not interested in the Bible. To the contrary, I have found that young people are fascinated by the Bible — but only when they are invited to participate in the conversation. They may not be captivated by our monologues or lectures but, when
they are given the chance to wrestle with the text for themselves, they will consistently surprise us with their insight, wisdom and profundity.
In September 2016, with the help of the Priorities Fund, I started a simple website with a simple goal. It’s called the RevoLectionary and it exists to create a platform for young Irish writers to contribute to the local, national and global dialogue that happens in parishes across the world through the richness and breadth of the lectionary. Each week, one of our writers writes a short reflection on the coming Sunday’s Gospel reading and offers fresh eyes and fresh ideas to the clergy and laity whose responsibility and privilege it is to preach about it to their community. (Find it at www.revolectionary.com)
In 2018, we were delighted to be asked to contribute to the Biblical Association of the Church of Ireland’s Lenten Series. Lent is a transformative season in the liturgical year and we are honoured to have our voices included in such an important resource that will act as a guide and companion to so many.
As a team of writers whose practice is to reflect on the lectionary’s Gospel readings, we began our preparation by looking at the readings for Lent and were immediately faced with a crucial decision. Should we lean into the lectionary’s provocative and challenging emphasis on repentance? Or should we look for something less ‘old-school’ and more ‘of the moment’? We decided to lean in and explore what these passages could teach us in a world where the word ‘repentance’ has passed out of style. After all, how can we faithfully journey through Lent without an understanding of repentance being part of the process?
The Hebrew word for repentance (“teshuvah”) combines two verbs: ‘to return’ and ‘to feel sorrow’. It means to grieve the ways in which we so easily forget who we are, what we were made for and who we are invited home to. It means to come home to the One who is redeeming, rebuilding, restoring and reconciling all things to himself.
When we understand repentance in this way, it is very hard to confine our conversations about it to the academic and the abstract. Even if one could, my work with young adults has taught me that they won’t let
you off the hook so easily. Throughout these studies, you’ll find an emphasis on the heart and the inner life which will invite you think, reflect and
share deeply. This may not always be comfortable but Lent seldom is. Just remember that you don’t have to share anything you don’t feel ready to.
As you plan your sessions, here are some guidelines and suggestions for your time together:
- Allow 90 minutes for study, reading, conversation and prayer. These times together are at their best when they have the space and time to develop organically without being rushed.
- Begin with prayer. This can be a set prayer, open prayer or silent prayer but it helps to prepare ourselves by inviting God to continue his work in us through these gatherings.
- Read the passage. It may help to leave some time after the reading for people to give first impressions or ask questions before starting into the study material.
- Read the reflection.
- Before discussing the set questions, make space for participants to share their thoughts, questions and highlights from the reflection.
- Use the set questions once participants have had a chance to share their initial reactions.
- End your time together by praying with and for each other according to what emerges during your conversation.
- Remember, Lent is a journey and the parts we share of ourselves are not limited to one gathering. Take time to follow up with each other about what has happened in the times between your gatherings.
Thanks to BACI Committee for inviting us to be part of their ministry. It is a huge privilege. We are particularly grateful to Ginnie Kennerley for her editing, insight and guidance as we prepared this study.
Finally, a massive thank you to Katie Lynch, Emily Murtagh and Philip King (who contributed to this series) and to Christina Evans, Alex McElwee and Emma Rothwell who are also part of the RevoLectionary team. Every week, you give me the privilege of opening my inbox to read your words and wisdom and share them with the world. I am so grateful to each of you.
Scott Evans is the Church of Ireland chaplain to University College Dublin, producer of The Graveyard Shift Podcast and co-founder of Paradoxology, a prayer space at Ireland’s Electric Picnic music festival. He grew up in Bangladesh and his life has been a series of crazy decisions, odd adventures and bad haircuts. He is also the author of 3 books, Closer Still, Beautiful Attitudes and Failing From The Front (& Other Lessons From The Lives of Losers.) He loves Vietnamese food, coffee, writing, Aston Villa and Jesus.