During Lent, we have been offering a corporate (as a body) prayer of confession prior to our communion feast. Some of you probably wonder why we’re having a confession every week. Others haven’t noticed. Since part of Lenten practice is being mindful, I wanted to remind you about why it is good for our souls to confess our failings and encourage you to be mindfully engaged in this part of our worship each week.
Many years ago now, a group of us were trying to revive the PRIDE multi-faith service after a major organizer of the event left town. As we began to plan the service, we each offered elements that we felt the service should have. One woman, a good friend of mine and a wonderful, committed, straight ally of the GLBTQ community, offered, “We should have a confession.”
Of course, I thought, a worship service should have a confession, a recognition that none of us live wholly loving lives that reflect the true nature of the God we worship…a recognition that we fail and we are forgiven.
But maybe not this particular worship service.
I began talking with my friend about the experience many of us who are GLBTQ and Christian have had when it comes to confession. I explained how so many of us have been assaulted by those who believe our sexuality and gender expression are an affront to God, and how often we’re urged to “confess” what is most certainly not a sin. I shared that many GLBTQ people I’ve met are so fragile in their self-esteem or, at the other extreme, so determined to celebrate their sexuality and God’s affirmation, that confessions might need mountains of accompanying education to ensure that they could be embraced and understood for their true meaning and value. I told my friend that I wasn’t sure we could pull off a confession in a service that was so multi-faceted and hoped to reach such a diverse swath of the GLBTQ community.
We didn’t have one that year, but the next year we introduced a confession that acknowledged our need to provide better stewardship to our earth, air, and water. It felt like an honest, careful way to offer a corporate confession. From there we expanded our confession to things of a more personal, spiritual nature.
That brings me to our worship together here at MCC Austin and the question I was asked by one of our members: Why don’t we always have a confession before communion? I thought there might be many of you wondering the same thing, so here I am doing my best to answer this big question in this little space.
The first thing I want to share is that at MCC Austin, we often include a confession (generally in the form of a Prayer of Confession) in our communion service. We have the advantage–through the course of living in community and worshipping and learning together regularly–of placing the confession within the context of God’s faithful forgiveness. Always, when confession is part of our liturgy, it is followed by an assurance of God’s pardon and grace…of God’s love!
Offering our confession (together or as individuals) allows us to bring our complete selves before God and to acknowledge the teaching in 1st Corinthians that we examine our hearts before taking communion.
Though we are using a set confession during Lent, you don’t have to participate in it, especially if it doesn’t seem personal or relevant for you. In that case, I encourage you to offer up your own confession. It can be simple and personal, along the lines of “God, I know I’m far from perfect. Forgive me when I fail.” You might use the words of a familiar song, hymn, or scripture; something like “Change my heart, oh God/Make it ever true,” or “Create in me a clean heart, oh God/And renew a right spirit within me.” If your soul craves the liturgy of other traditions, you might confess “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.”
And for those of you who need the pastor’s assurance that God will forgive, does forgive, has already forgiven, believe this: When we confess our failings, God who is faithful and just forgives us wholly, totally, perfectly.
That is very good news.
Love and Blessings,