Monday, October 17, 2011

Monday Meditation: Rethinking the Daily Mail

Let me confess something: I used to hate bringing the mail in from the mailbox. I would let it build up for days and pretend it wasn't there. I was upset if my wife or kids brought it in.
“No good thing can possibly come in the mail,” I instructed my family, and I really meant it.
Then one day I began to apply my imagination to the possibilities of receiving mail so good that it could change my life. Try to apply your imagination with me:

  • The bank made a mistake years ago calculating your mortgage and now--suddenly--they tell you your house is paid off. In fact, they owe you a rebate as well.
  • A total stranger has paid off your student loans.
  • The doctors write to tell you the diagnosis was wrong and you don’t have cancer after all.
These examples represent the best kind of news. No more coupon-clipping; your future is no longer clouded by debt; your fears of endless treatment and medicines vanish in a moment. Who wouldn’t welcome such great news?
But now imagine that the day after you receive such wonderful mail, you wake up and find yourself worried about money or you wake up in a sweat thinking about hospitals and death. Old habits die hard, and habits of the mind may not die at all.
To receive good news, to really receive it—to take it in and discover new freedom—requires a new way of thinking. This new way of thinking has a Biblical name: repentance. I know. You thought repentance meant things like remorse, feeling guilty, determination and trying harder.
Someone has lied to you. At its very core the word “repent” means rethink your life. The trick is: you have to have a valid reason to rethink your life. A positive mental attitude is not enough; simply trying harder won’t change your world.
There must be some hard-core reality that changes the equation, something that wipes away the past, or presents a future that cannot be denied. Better yet, all three. Jesus presented just that hard-core reality when he said, “The Kingdom of God is breaking in. Right here, right now.” He wasn’t describing some new program or advocating a new philosophy. Jesus challenged people to recognize that the world would be forever different because God had come down and he would do whatever was necessary to set people free.
God could not be stopped, the old order of things was condemned and a new order was made real. He invited us to move to the side of victory with these words: “The time has come. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the good news.”
Good news requires that we rethink our way of life. Have you recalculated yours in the light of his Kingdom? May I suggest this mediation for the coming week? Instead of trying to imagine going to heaven after you die, try to imagine what it would be like if heaven began breaking into your world here and now, because that’s precisely what happened in Jesus Christ.


  1. I love how you put this Ray. I think of repentance as being sorrowful, but it really is all about taking a step in the direction. Great stuff to ponder. I really need this... more often than I care to admit!

  2. What's going to stick with me is the idea of Heaven breaking into my life, right here and right now. That image is strong and hefty, like comfort. Thank you.

  3. You're welcome. From time to time I teach a Christian studies class at a nearby university. At the beginning of each semester I assign a paper, "what would my world be like if heaven broke through to the here and now?" I do so in order to help students break free of the idea that heaven is only for later, because heaven (at least parts of it) are also for now.

  4. Thanks, Ed. Our popular notions of repentance don't really seem to produce much life change, do they?

  5. I love this: "To receive good news, to really receive it—to take it in and discover a new freedom—requires a new way of thinking." We like to think if there's good news right there we can simply receive it, but I think you're exactly right in suggesting that it takes more preparation and openness.

    Also, it's interesting that you're writing about repentance. A few years ago that would have been one of my least favorite words, but now it's a word I like quite a bit. My change in perspective came when my pastor explained repentance as happening in two parts—the turning away from something AND the turning toward something else (something better). Sort of fits right in with what you said here: "...the old order of things was condemned and a new order was made real."

  6. In my view your pastor (and you) have it just right. "Repent" is actually the first word of the gospel message. John the Baptist, who was perhaps more Old Testament hard-core in his approach than makes me comfortable, went so far as to demand evidence of repentance--and I don't think he would've settled for tears!