Monday, March 27, 2017

I Confess

Minister's Corner, Shawnee News Star
March 25, 2017

Merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, 
by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart and mind and strength.
We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
In your mercy forgive what we have been, help us amend what we are,
 and direct what we shall be, so that we may delight in your will
and walk in your ways, to the glory of your holy name.
Book of Common Worship, ©1993, Westminster/John Knox Press

            Whenever I get to teach a confirmation class – a group of young people who are working towards “confirming” the vows made at their baptisms and joining the church in full, active membership – I work with them to understand what it means to be a Christian and what it means to be a Presbyterian.

As I am sure it is for most denominations, central to our Presbyterian expression of faith is our worship. Our worship is our response to God – to God’s love, mercy, grace, justice, righteousness, etc. Worship is our human expression of love and gratitude in response to the divine expression of life, creation, and sacrificial love. As Presbyterians we do many other things – we participate in mission, in outreach, in service – but worship is central. Worship is fundamental. If Presbyterianism is a wheel, then worship is its hub. The spokes are all the other things we do; they flow from that hub and return to that hub. In other words, worship is it.

Our worship, our response to God, also has a center point, and that point is hearing God’s Word and Proclaiming God’s Word. Everything before builds to the Word, and everything after is response to God’s Word. Right about now you’re probably thinking, “Great, Amy, but get to the point!” Here’s my point: one critical aspect of our preparing ourselves to hear God’s Word, and for me as pastor to proclaim it, is confession. In our worship we pray a corporate prayer of confession.

Why confess? Most of us probably get the idea of personal confession. During a time of confession, we consider and reflect on the ways we have personally sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. But in my denomination we put an emphasis on corporate confession – praying together a larger confession of sin and falling away. The prayer of confession does not always state something that I have done in particular. Yet, I still pray it, because I know that in a bigger sense I am connected to all of God’s children, both directly and indirectly. My actions or lack thereof affect others. Perhaps I don’t exploit children in unsafe labor conditions, but what about the clothes I buy and wear? Where are they made? Who makes them? If I buy a shirt that was made by poor children in a poor country, forced to work in terrible conditions because they have no other choice, is that loving my neighbor?

My answer is “no.” I also realize that saying that does not mean that my consumerism will be perfect. No matter how much I try to avoid it, I will probably purchase something else made at the expense of someone else. Praying the prayer of confession does not give me a free pass when it comes to sin. But it reminds me that I am called to be in relationship with God and with other people. Our weekly, corporate prayer of confession compels me to look at my life and my living in a different way, through a different lens. I may love the neighbor right next door, but other people in other places are also my neighbors. How have I loved them?

So I pray. I confess. I continually seek God’s mercy and grace, and I continually seek God’s help in amending who I have been and directing who I shall be. I do this, not just in own private time of prayer and confession, but alongside sisters and brothers in Christ in my congregation and around the world.

Forgive me, God. Help me be more fully the person you created me to be, so that I may truly and completely love your children, and more truly and completely walk in your holy and wonderful ways. Amen and amen.

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