Repentance is a topic often hammered upon by conservative folks in my church, but the way they approach it is fundamentally flawed. It's always presented as a sort of effort or force of will that us awful "liberals" somehow fail to make (faithless, moral weaklings that we are).
But our gospel reading last Sunday actually points us in quite a different direction. In it, we heard the parables of the shepherd and the lost sheep, and the woman with the lost coin from Luke 15, as well as, in my case, a recap of the story of the Prodigal Son. And here's the take-away message:
Repentance is about us being the object of a searching God, one who loves us and desperately wants us to be found again. It's about grace. It's not about efforts we make on our own behalf, as we're imperfect humans and those will, always, be imperfect efforts (not that it's not important to make efforts to be better people - but that's not "repentance").
The bible-thumpers have got it all wrong. The idea that all we need is to exert our God-given force of will to repent isn't proper repentance at all - it's Pelagianism. It denies God's grace and elevates human will in its place...
[I'd like to thank the Rev. Michael Merriman of my parish, the Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration in Dallas, for his sermon on this topic that incl. the comment in bold face above. He really hit it out of the park! Any inspirational insights can be credited to him, and any misunderstandings in what I've written here are purely my own.]