Repent, and Trust in the Joyful Message of Hope

When Jesus started his ministry, according to the gospel of Mark, he announced: “The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” Mark 1:15 NRSV

Mirriam-Webster gives synonyms of “bemoan, deplore, lament, regret, rue” for repentance. But, the Greek term “metanoia,” is far more than that. “Metanoia,” is a change of mind, a basic reorientation and transformation of outlook. It means that a person’s vision of the world and who they are changes. Christian repentance  commits to a new way of loving others and God. I wonder at times if we have missed the heart of Jesus’ message to repent. If we’ve limited it to regret and substituted penance, for the life transforming grace of turning around in our minds and our thinking.

Jesus wasn’t asking people for a repentance of groveling in shame. He was asking for a turn of the heart that would believe in the good news – a turn toward hope . . . a turn toward love. He was asking people to trust that, in the reign of God come near, life could and would be different. Life could be more whole, more real. Love could rule the heart and also the world.

Jesus wasn’t asking us to live a life of guilt inducing shame, but one where yesterday’s mistakes are washed and woven into the fabric of our lives, remade even as we work through the consequences of those wrongs. Because a life, no life, is ever destined to be lost. In God’s love, lost lives are reclaimed, rescued and made new.

To repent is to believe that grace is always possible. That the life we imagined versus the reality of today, in the Reign of God come near, can burst out of the darkness of despair. Seeds of hope do grow and yeast can bubble over into the fragrance of the very Bread of Life for all.

What if repentance is simply to believe that in this Kingdom of God come near, there is good news . . . Good news for today and good news for tomorrow? Good news that we are never alone or forgotten, no matter how lost, we might feel today. To trust that God in Christ is with us through our darkness, loneliness, failures and doubts . . . To rest in the assurance that the God, who came near in Jesus, is only a prayer away, a breath away, waiting for us to trust – and to believe in the Good News.

In the *Aramaic writing of these words of Jesus, rather than “believe in the good news,” the words read, “put your trust in the joyful message of hope.” After a year of Covid with all of its losses, griefs and pain, I am more than ready to repent and turn to the “joyful message of hope.”

*Footnote “The Passion Translation” Mark 1:15