[#pictureLent] Feb. 19: Turn Toward God

By Rev. Pam McMillan
St. Paul's UMC, Tallahassee, FL

First, read Matthew 4:17

I love the Christian calendar. The Christian Calendar, or Liturgical Year, is a calendar used in Catholic and Protestant churches that celebrates seasons throughout the year that remember the life of Jesus.

Churches sometimes change the colors around the sanctuary to fit the season in the Christian calendar. And then the church repeats the stories during worship through scripture, prayer and sermons. At Christmas, we always hear the Luke 2 passage that depicts the miraculous birth of an infant king. Special Sundays like Baptism of our Lord and Transfiguration Sunday mark special moments in Jesus’ life when his divinity was revealed to those around him. And the church now enters the penitential season of Lent, where we remember the 40 days that Christ fasted in the wilderness.

I love the Christian calendar because it repeats itself. Returning to the stories of Jesus each year doesn’t make them trite. Rather, each time the story is told, I remember the best parts of the story and get excited when I discover something new. It is kind of like watching a favorite movie or reading a favorite book for the 1000th time and still never getting tired of it. The best parts remain awesome and the small details seem even more awesome. I never get tired of Harry Potter, no matter how many times I read the books or watch the movies. 

Our verse for today is one that many of us have heard repeated in church. It depicts Jesus beginning his preaching career. His message is simple: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near!” I have read this passage many times before, but this time, I noticed something for the very first time. The message that Christ declares is the same message that John the Baptist announced in Matthew 3:2. It is the same message! In this story, Jesus isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel. Instead, he is repeating exactly the same message as John the Baptist.

I don’t know why Jesus repeated the words of John the Baptist but I could take a guess. The words Christ spoke were worth repeating - “Repent, for the kingdom of God has come near.” Repentance is an act of the heart turning toward God. It is something that we as Christians should constantly do. Otherwise we will wander on our own path away from God. But Jesus reminds us over and over again that grace is made available for those who repent and turn their hearts to God.

No matter how many times you have heard these words before, hear them again with a receptive heart and a willing spirit - Repent, for the kingdom of God has come near.

Prayer: Holy God, may we never grow weary of your words. May we be renewed each and every time we hear the story of Christ repeated. And may we go out and share that story with the world. Amen.

Discussion Questions

  1. What are some annual traditions your family has? What makes them special?
  2. What are some annual traditions your church has? How are they similar or different from your family’s?
  3. During Lent, how can you hear the stories of Jesus, the same stories you have heard since Sunday School, with a receptive heart and a willing spirit?