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The Power of Confession

March 30, 2019

This picture from our trip to Santa Fe holds a lot of meaning if you simply sit with it for a while. The Psalm for the Fourth Sunday in Lent (Psalm 32) talks about Confession and Reconciliation or Forgiveness. Are we “fenced in” by our past and our failings or are we liberated by forgiveness. I will invite the congregation at Presbyterian Community Church of the Rockies to sit with this picture as they continue to walk this Lenten journey.

Confession… that concept was one of the rubbing points (to put it mildly) between the Roman Church and the Reformers Back in the 1500’s. What had happened during the Reformation was a matter of corruption of a solid faith concept. Confession, Penance, and Reconciliation had become a matter of paying to get out of Jail (okay, Purgatory) and also to pay for the sins of your deceased relatives to get them sprung from Purgatory!

When Jesus taught about this concept in Matthew’s Gospel, he said the following: If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. (Matthew 18:15)

The whole purpose of confession was to reconcile one’s self with God and with one’s neighbor. Sadly, in Jesus’s day, it had become a matter of buying the correct sacrificial offering in order to save yourself. The ones who made the money on this scam were the religious elite… just like the problem with the religious elite during the Reformation!

So, what does this have to do with the reading from the Psalms? In the opening verse of Psalm 32 we read the following: Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. (Psalm 32:1)

Do you see anything about buying forgiveness in these words? It is about forgiveness! In Jesus’s day, the concept of Atonement, was all about reconciling the people with their God. At-One-Ment to be specific. To be reconciled and restored, to be made one with God.

Confession was all about the restoration of a right relationship with God and with one’s neighbor. It was about restoration, not salvation in the Pearly Gates, Streets of Gold, and Jeweled Crowns vision that many folks have today.

Again, as the Psalmist says: Then I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not hide my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the guilt of my sin. (Psalm 32:5) Forgiveness, Restoration, Wholeness…

A good friend of mine who is a Catholic Priest (and now Bishop) once told me years ago about the difference between Catholics and Protestants. Mike, he said, Catholics go to Confession (which was transformed by the Second Vatican Council from a dark Confessional to an across the table conversation between the Priest and the Parishioner) which is free while Protestants pay a whole lot of money to a therapist!

There is a certain amount of reformed and theological logic to that statement. To regularly review one’s life with God and/or with a Spiritual mentor is a good thing. It helps us to stay on track. I know from personal experience the blessing that such a relationship can be. It can transform a life from one hemmed in by barbed wire like the picture above to a life that is freed from that barbed wire as the Spirit transforms us and leads us in the direction which we are called to go.

Then we can, in the words of Psalm 32:15, Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart.

A part of our Lenten journey is to reconcile ourselves with God and with one another. Perhaps that is something we should focus on not only during Lent, but every day of our lives. Dear reader, will you join me in this journey?

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