Katie Snipes Lancaster
Scripture: Romans 3:23
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
Spiritual Practice: Confession
Why do Christians have a spiritual practice of confession? Probably to practice. Confessing is hard. We all make small mistakes all day long, and likely make huge mistakes at least once in a while. None of us can live up to or fully into who we want to be, who we promise to be, who God hopes we will be. We all “fall short of the glory of God” as chapter three of the letter to the Romans so astutely proclaims.
The practice of confession in the early Christian church centered around major sins pertaining to our embodied lives in community: murder, sexual impropriety, betrayal, disagreements. It was the big stuff. And it was public. It led to forgiveness and a return to the fold. Reconciliation. Repairing relationship.
Slowly, as the institutional church grew, confession turned inward. Practices of private confession to clergy arose. The church found ways to articulate an intimate speaking to God about all our small (or large) human mistakes, sins and shortcomings.
You will also see (at times at Kenilworth Union, and regularly in some churches) a commitment to corporate confession: that there are ways that whole groups of people “sin and fall short.” Sometimes, together, we ignore our own ethical commitments and fail to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God.
I find the tension between public and private practices of confession very compelling. Same with the tension between corporate/communal and personal confession. We long for all these ways of relating to God and one another as we seek reconciliation, repair and return to relationship.
What confession do you/we bring to God today?
Holy God, we confess
We sin and fall short
We do not come close
To the perfection we hope to maintain.
We blatantly ignore our own ethical standards.
We turn a blind eye.
We intentionally disobey.
Help us to confess.
Help us to recognize our own failings.
Help us to seek reconciliation.
In Jesus’ name.