(Please be aware that during the season of Lent, these weekly devotions will be arriving in your inbox on Tuesdays.)
I mean, really … how often do you get to say these words … “I Renounce Them!” You can’t say “I renounce them!” to the Girl Scout selling cookies outside of Walmart … you simply say “I bought some from my granddaughter.” You can’t cry out “I renounce them!” if the teen at Burger King asks if you want fries with your burger … you just say “no thank you.” When your next door neighbor calls out across the fence, “Hey, how ‘bout those Cowboys?” you can’t scream “I renounce them!” even though you want to. You simply remind him that you are a Cleveland Browns fan. (Then you go inside and cry a bit.) No … <sigh> … our world just doesn’t speak the word “renounce” any more.
But two Sundays ago I heard three hearty and enthusiastic communal cries of “I Renounce Them” spoken with strength and conviction. We were celebrating three baptisms at the late traditional service. I could feel a little more energy in the room than is usually the case for this part of the liturgy. I’m not sure why … maybe because we were baptizing three young adults, aged 12, 14 and 15, which is different than our norm of babies? Who knows? But when we reached the place in the baptismal liturgy where we renounce evil with three different phrases, the words seemed to thunder from the congregation. Do you renounce the devil and all the forces that defy God? I RENOUNCE THEM! Do you renounce the powers of this world that rebel against God? I RENOUNCE THEM! Do you renounce the ways of sin that draw you from God? I RENOUNCE THEM!
How dare we? Who are we to renounce anything? Renouncing is not something our culture is generally very comfortable with. It is a little harsh … it is not a gentle action … it makes distinctions … it implies that there are things in our world worthy of banishment. This is not a message that our culture easily embraces. But the Christian claims it is an essential element of life in a broken and sinful world. We are invited … no … we are called to renounce the forces in this world that work against God’s purposes … the forces of evil, rebellion and sin. Not only in sacramental water rites in which babies, children and adults are brought into the Christian fold … but in any way that compromises God’s Word of grace and love for the world God has fashioned.
So in your prayers this week, consider the things that may merit renunciation in your life. Ponder the places where choices you make are working at cross-purposes to God’s purposes. Reflect on those actions which lead you farther away from God, instead of closer. And renounce them. It is not a perfect solution to sin and brokenness on this side of the Kingdom. But it is as good a discipline as any … as we find ourselves reading this devotion less than twenty-four hours from the observance of Ash Wednesday. May your Lenten journey be blessed with appropriate moments of renunciation.