Confession (Sunday’s sermon, dance mixed)

Do people still do a “dance mix” that makes a song longer and more funky? I have no idea. Either way, this is an extension of my sermon on Sunday that didn’t fit in, but that I was thinking about nonetheless.

The text was Ephesians 2:1-10:

“You were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient. All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else.

But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.”

You might have noticed that I highlighted “But God…” in this text. This is because I think this is what this text, and also the gospel message, hinges on. This little phrase, “But God….” goes between what we do and how the world is, and who God is and what God does. “But God” is the difference between walking in sins and walking in good works. And God is with us even and especially when we wander off into separation from God, which we call sin, and God still loves us through it. That’s a summation of my sermon.

Here’s what I didn’t say, but what I was thinking when I talked about sin and brokenness.

I was thinking about confession.

Here in the Lutheran church we do confession differently than in the Catholic church. We confess as a group. I’ve heard individual confessions, and I’m sure I will continue to hear them, but mostly we all confess together, as a group, at the very front end of the service. We confess how we crapped up the week (not in those words, usually) and how we didn’t do what we wanted to do and how we did some stuff that we feel terrible about.

This can seem like a bit of a downer. In fact, studies show (um….I can’t actually cite any, but let’s just say anecdotal evidence, okay?) that people are turned off at first by a confession, especially young people. And so as a wheezing old church, if we hear that the young people don’t like it, we get freaked out and want to toss it.

But we shouldn’t.

Here’s why: confession can be so, so GREAT. The Catholics were on to something, and when we co-opted it to be a corporate confession (that means the body of the church, not, like, GE), so were we. When we stand before God and everybody and talk about our week, we’re being super honest. And if we’re being super honest, we KNOW we didn’t do the stuff we needed to do. We KNOW we did some stuff we shouldn’t have. We KNOW that we feel vaguely terrible about who we are as people, and we can say all of this to God on the front end of the service, just to get it all out there.

And then we get forgiven. Not right then; God did that a long, long time ago. But we HEAR it proclaimed by someone like me who’s blessed enough to be able to say it, on behalf of God, that all that crap you did and didn’t do that week is a THING and is no more, as far away from you as the deepest ocean floor, as far as space, just gone, swallowed up in God’s mercy. Hearing that “But God…” on the front end makes everything different, everything new, means we get another chance this week to live into God’s promise of grace and truth and life.

And then we can really get down and worship. Even, and especially, in Lent.


3 thoughts on “Confession (Sunday’s sermon, dance mixed)

  1. This is a lovely post, and it’s something I’ve been thinking about for some months now. I got a copy of the Book of Concord for Saint Nicholas’ s Day and ripped right through up until the catechisms and the start of Lent. There are a couple of things I’d like to highlight in your post:

    ““But God” is the difference between walking in sins and walking in good works.”

    This is a quibble, but as an Evangelical Catholic I’m surprised in your choice of “good works” rather than faith, or grace, but that really is a quibble and I’m sure you weren’t condoning works righteousness.

    “Here in the Lutheran church we do confession differently than in the Catholic church.”

    I agree with you here generally, but not specifically. The Church of the Augsburg Confession never did away with confession. We may have grown away from it culturally, as we desire to look less and less Catholic (Roman), but there has always been a rubric for both private and corporate confession in the Evangelical Catholic Church. and indeed you’ll find corporate confession present in the Roman liturgy, bu tin a different position in the service, just before the Eucharist.

    The main difference that I see between Lutheran and Roman confession is the idea that one must innumerate every sin committed, or that by contrition we merit grace. clearly the later is works righteousness, and as I recall the Apology to the Augsburg Confession explains that the former is a stumbling-block in that it is impossible for man to remember every sin in thought, word, and deed, so that confession in the Roman style became a law that could not be fulfilled, and only lead the confessor to feel greater and greater distance from the love of God.

    “as a wheezing old church, if we hear that the young people don’t like it, we get freaked out and want to toss it.”

    I agree with you so much here! It seems that Lutheran bishops and presidents feel that our catholic traditions are driving the youth out of the church. I’d argue that it’s a lack of catechesis that’s driving them away. Without an understanding of our traditions and beliefs what is there for them? Furthermore I believe that the truly unchurched are seeking tradition in a more and more disposable culture.

    Thank you,
    But we shouldn’t.

  2. Bummer you couldn’t include that in Sunday’s sermon because it’s really good stuff! You’re right – getting it all out there at the beginning frees us to come to God honestly in worship.

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