Hi Everyone and Welcome to Fall…..I hope!
It is September and to be honest I am done with summer and ready for fall colors, pumpkins and sweaters!
This month I am continuing through the worship liturgy and we are going to look at the Call to the Confession of Sin, Prayer of Confession, and the Assurance of Pardon. Through the years people have asked “Why do we do the Confession of Sins when it seems like such a downer in the middle of an otherwise uplifting and comforting service?” This part of the service is probably the most misunderstood. If you think about a service and participating in the ‘Call’ then the ‘Prayer’ and finally the ‘Assurance’…..we rarely focus on the two bookends of this prayer; the Call and the Assurance. The entire act of public confession in worship is an act of trust and hope rather than despair. Instead of skimming past the Call to Confession, you might notice that it acknowledges that God is the creator who is holy, full of self-giving love, justice, and loving-kindness. Common Calls to Confession are straight from Scripture: 1 John 1:8-9; 8 “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” In humility and faith let us confess our sin to God.
Romans 5:8, Hebrews 4:16; 8 “But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. 16 Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” In faith and penitence, let us confess our sin before God and one another.
When we hear the Call to Confession we are reminded how much we are loved and we have hope and confidence in the mercy of God who is known to us through the saving love of Jesus Christ who gave his life to deliver us from sin. A gift of grace we cannot accomplish ourselves. There is nothing in our lives that we confess that will change that or even surprise God!
Now, moving to the other bookend, the Assurance of Pardon. (I will come back to the prayer itself in a moment.) In the Assurance of Pardon we again hear the Good News of the Gospel: In Jesus Christ we are forgiven! Signed, sealed and delivered…our burden is lifted and we give thanks and praise to God for this good news…that NOTHING in life or in death “will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)
We have this assurance in common responses, again taken from scripture: 1 Timothy 1:15, 1 Peter 2:24 15 “The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the foremost.
24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.” Know that you are forgiven and be at peace.
With this we have the assurance that we are forgiven and free to seek reconciliation to one another even as the grace of Christ has reconciled us to God.
The Call and the Assurance provide us with hope and confidence that we live and move and breathe within the grace of God everyday….not just on Sunday.
Now, the prayer itself. Often someone will say, “I don’t even do those things or think that way!” And I agree you probably don’t…..the prayer goes beyond the immediate. There are some misconceptions about the prayer and how we participate in ‘corporate (united)’ prayer. The confession of sin is not about berating ourselves for our transgression or wallowing in human depravity. It is an act of being honest with God and honest with ourselves about the stark reality of our situation and praying for the grace of God, who alone has the power to save us from our sin. However, keep in mind that simply being human isn’t something for which we apologize. Our humanity is a gift from God who created us and called us good. When we confess our sin we confront the reality of sin; our alienation from God, our animosities to one another and the abuse of God’s gifts; mistakes and failures that break our covenant with God. Another thing to keep in mind is that the prayer of confession is not a focus only on individual sin. We live in a fallen world where systemic and institutional injustice exists in our reality. Too often we may focus on the details of personal sin and remain oblivious to our collective complacency and complicity with systems that oppress other human beings and destroy God’s good creation. The communal nature of confession helps us understand that our lives and our choices and decisions effect many people who God loves as much as he loves us.
The Confession of Sin in worship is not the Debbie Downer, it’s more of the Holy Lifter. Our reminder of the wideness of God’s mercy, that in Jesus Christ we are reconciled with God AND with one another and that NOTHING will separate us from the love of God, not even our mistakes and failures. That, for us my friends, is a burden lifted and reason to rejoice and give thanks!
Blessings, to you and yours!