“I’ve been out of step with you for a long time, in the wrong since before I was born. What you’re after is truth from the inside out. Enter me, then; conceive a new, true life. Soak me in your laundry and I’ll come out clean, scrub me and I’ll have a snow-white life. Tune me in to foot-tapping songs, set these once-broken bones to dancing.” Psalm 51:5-8 (the message)
During Advent this year we are doing something that one might associate more with the season of Lent. Throughout the four weeks of Advent my congregations are participating in a piece of our communion liturgy called “confession and pardon.”
In some churches this is a practice that tends to be avoided. It is avoided because most people don’t appreciate being reminded that they are not perfect and that they need to seek forgiveness from God and from each other. To be honest, even in my planning for this Advent season, I had considered leaving it out. But, ultimately, I kept it in because its an important part of our waiting and anticipating Christ.
Jesus didn’t come because everything was ok and God thought we would be super fun to hang out with. God came because humanity was broken and hurting and estranged. Jesus came to show God’s love to humanity and to show us how broken bones of our souls could be mended and our feet set to dancing once more – how we could come home.
Before I was a United Methodist I was spent time in many different denominations and before all of that I was raised in the Roman Catholic Church. The one thing that I have always missed since leaving the church of my birth is the sacrament of reconciliation (or confession). There is great freedom in examining your life, your words and thoughts and deeds, and confessing that which creates distance between us and our creator. And while we can do that at any time and in any place an extra dimension of reality is added when we confess to another person. In the case of our liturgy of confession and pardon we all take on the role of confessor and priest. We hear each other’s admissions of sin and we forgive each other in the name of Jesus Christ.
For Christians, to “come home to God” is about recognizing where we are, realizing that, though we may think everything is in its place, it isn’t. The old saying “confession is good for the soul” is not a cliché; it is a truth. When we can admit, even in the broadest strokes of our group liturgies, we are clearing the way for healing and reconciliation. We are closing the gap that has slowly gotten wider between us and our God.
None of us is perfect. All of us need to confess. We sin through action and inaction. We sin in thought and word and deed. When we confess, repent, and accept the forgiveness God offers us, the guilt and the misery can be washed away, and we will be ready to receive the gift of Christmas, the gift of Jesus. So don’t shrink away from the confession, embrace it. Accept the forgiveness and extend it to others.
Forgiven and free,