One of the easiest liturgical elements to gloss over in America is the confession of sin. It doesn’t seem “positive” enough for the kind of Christianity we see around us. The Christian radio stations pride themselves on being family-friendly and “upbeat.” But there is nothing upbeat about confessing sin.
But it is vital and life-giving, because we learn to approach God in humility, not thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought. We learn how to put no confidence in our own abilities to bring about change, to cultivate goodness in our own strength. We learn to come to God with empty, expectant hands. And we find that in our confession and by his grace, he takes our weakness, brokenness, and sin and begins the work of transformation in our lives so that truth and goodness come to characterize us more and more.
So I always love finding a great confession prayer, something that cuts to the root issues of our lives and doesn’t skirt around them with vague language. The confession below is one such prayer (ht).
Eternal God, you asked for our hands, that you might use them for your purpose; but we gave them for a moment, then withdrew them, for the work was hard.
You asked for our mouths to speak out against injustice; but we gave you whispers that we might not be accused.
You asked for our eyes to see the pain of poverty; but we closed them, for we did not want to see.
You asked for our lives, that you might work through us; but we gave a small part, that we might not get too involved.
Lord, forgive our calculated efforts to serve you – only when it is convenient for us to do so, only in those places where it is safe to do so, and only with those who make it easy to do so.
Father, forgive us, renew us, and send us out as usable instruments, that we might take seriously the meaning of your cross. Amen.
A contemporary confession of sin
from the Worship Sourcebook #35, p 98.
What kinds of practices do you engage in to keep your heart humble and soft in confession?
**Bonus points if you can name the movie the photo above is taken from.