Category Archives: Church
I think there are practices that we Protestants did a bad job of keeping, almost a worse job than our forebears criticized our Catholic brothers and sisters of doing. I could talk until I’m blue in the face about those, but there has been one that stood out to me of late: confession. I think we do a horrible job of this in our faith communities. That is a collective thing — I do a poor job of it, my community does a poor job of it. I don’t want to speak from a seat of judgment. Rather, I want to propose something we might all want to think about. Confession.
We associate confession with those boxes that people sit in and tell a priest what they did wrong. We associate confession with ‘fessing up to something wrong. We see confession as telling someone that we screwed up. Confession is all about guilt.
What if that wasn’t what confession was for?
What if confession was about healing? Reconciliation? Comfort? Encouragement?
Too much, I think, we limit any notion of confession to the admission of wrongdoings. Confession is nothing more than the act of incriminating ourselves in front of other people.
Let’s make confession more than that.
Confess to your brothers that you’re struggling to make it through this week.
Confess to your sisters that you’re just having a bad day.
Confess to your fathers that you’re burnt out.
Confess to your mothers that you’re stretched thin.
Confess to your family in faith that things are good, that things are bad, that you’re angry, that you’re happy.
Confess that you need healing, that you need comfort, that you need encouragement, that you need something.
Confession is fundamentally about being vulnerable with each other — it’s not about guilt. Confession isn’t even about sin. Confession isn’t just about right and wrong. It’s about good days and bad days, positive emotions and negative emotions, exhausting experiences and fulfilling times. Confession is about openness and grace. It’s about the mercy we extend to each other not just in forgiveness but in being present, helpful, and supportive.
Confession as a discipline is the practice of being vulnerable. It doesn’t require sin. Confession is sometimes just asking for a little help along the way.
But remember that confession means little without absolution. That means we need not just to seek forgiveness, comfort, encouragement, and support, we need to give it, too. Few things mean more in this life than an outstretched hand, whether you’re offering or receiving it.
Perhaps that’s even what it truly means to confess Christ.
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appears.
This Advent season saw the death of twenty children, six school staff and teachers, and that of a disturbed man and his mother. Just on Christmas Eve, a police officer and bystander were killed in a shootout in Houston. Two firefighters were killed in an ambush while responding to a fire in Rochester.
O Come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;
From the depths of hell Thy people save,
And give them victory over the grave.
I have personally found it difficult to sing our songs this year. On the Saturday after Newtown, we gathered for commencement at Samford University. Slated for the song in the liturgy was “Joy to the World.” Never have I had to try so hard to sing a song than that morning. The words didn’t seem true. The Savior reigns? He rules the world with truth and grace? Read the rest of this entry