I have a confession to make. I haven’t been to church in a while. We all have our challenges. As a full-time writer I often hear my colleagues use the axiom “butt in chair;” you have to spend time at a desk in order to meet your goal. Well, if you will pardon the construction, I have difficulty with “butt in pew.” You have to spend time in communal worship in order to truly meet with God. Unfortunately, I’ve allowed many things to interfere with that time.
However, over the years I’ve gotten pretty good at “butt in chair” as a writer, and each day before I meet the blank page I post “#5Thanks” on Twitter. (Bear with me; this is not a reflection about social media!) Today I wrote thanks for the cool weather, for my Mother’s Day tulips from my daughters, and. . . “2. The Great Confession.”
Until I typed those words into the little text box on Twitter, I’d thought I’d be writing this reflection about being in church on Mother’s Day, or about Father Tim’s sermon on how Jesus focused on prayer and not “strategies” in the Gospel, or even about the fragrance of the lilies around the Paschal candle. But no. God had already focused my subconscious on confession and on how important it is that we make confession together each week.
That’s right. I can make any kind of confession I like to you on this page. I could have a member of our clergy hear my private confession if I so wished. I might confess something to my spouse, or only to God. However, the Lord wishes us to gather in His Name and recite time-honored words together.
Savvy Episcopalians reading this will already have spotted the “turn” I’m about to take. The words we recite together are called “The General Confession,” not “The Great Confession.”
What is called “The Great Confession?” Some would say it is the moment in the Gospel of Matthew when Peter proclaims Jesus as The Christ. Others use the phrase to describe Christianity itself, springing from Peter’s proclamation.
I must have known one or both of these facts. I must have, because where else could my gratitude item have come from? But the truth is I didn’t, at least consciously. After I typed those words, I went and looked them up.
Why did “The Great Confession” spring into my mind? I believe (although you don’t have to) that God was sending me a message—and not the social-media kind. He wanted me to learn something new about the very roots of my Christian faith. There is no Christianity until one person proclaims it and another person hears that proclamation. We hear the Good News from clergy and laypeople, from our fellow humans.
What a glorious gift Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have given us in The Great Confession! We don’t have to be divine in order to know that we are forgiven, that we are loved, that we have a Savior willing to carry the weight of our sins. We can be human and use human means—speech, music, text, symbol, more—to proclaim our faith.
We can also use our language and voices to confess our sins together each week, reminding each other that we start every week with a clean slate, are washed clean of sin anew before every Holy Communion, and are reminded that no one’s sins are greater or lesser than anyone else’s.
Yesterday for the first time in many weeks I recited the General Confession along with my fellow St. Mary’s parishioners. None of them knew my sins; I knew none of theirs. That is not the point of confessing together, of course. The point of confessing together is to know we are cleansed together and may support each other “in newness of life.”
We don’t always know each other’s sins—or each other’s challenges. But we can always know that the person in the pew nearest ours deserves our prayers, peace, and mercy. Our Great Confession, by being together in church, is that none of us goes it alone, that all of us walk with help.
- What did you take away from this week’s service?
- How does confessing affect you? (you don’t like it, you do, it’s challenging, easy)
- How does confessing in a group change you?