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Entries in confession of sin (6)

Wednesday
Jul062016

Why Confession Should Be Interrupted, Not Completed

Feeling Worship

Over the last two years, I've been thinking a lot about feeling and affect in worship. I've been pondering how our "emotional apprehension" in worship shapes, informs, propels our congregational gatherings. I used to think that if people just had enough instruction about what worship is and does, they would be more engaged in its elements. I still believe in that, but I've come to the conclusion that I can go deeper as a pastoral worship leader in pondering the participation and formation of the people of God. People are not only receiving things in worship cognitively, but emotionally. As many of us now know thanks to the re-presenting work of thinkers like James K. A. Smith, this emotional apprehension takes place in the core of us, in that place in us the ancients called "the affections."

Of course, jumping on the affections-train has me thinking about worship in a whole new way. I'm scrutinizing my own heart and emotional life along with my congregation's. I'm thinking through how our liturgical rituals (our singing, our praying, our preaching, our baptizing, etc.) can become more alive, more real to us. And right now, I'm thinking about Confession and Assurance/Absolution--that series of crucial moments in many of our worship services where the people of God cry out for forgiveness, and God offers it in His Son.

Surprised by Grace

I want to make a case that, for at least some of the time in worship, Confession should feel interrupted by the word of pardon which follows it. It's a theological case--particularly a soteriological one--that has an emotional outworking. The case is this: You and I are never "prepared" for salvation. Salvation comes to us as a gift (Eph 2:8), and a surprising one at that. The fact that God saves us "even while we were yet sinners" (Rom 5:8) means that we're never "ready" for salvation. The Gospel is, through and through, a surprising Word from outside of us, that breaks in at a moment we least expect it.

Our default, "Old Adam/Eve" mode of thinking is, with Pelagius, that we contribute something to our salvation. Our readiness to receive the gospel fits somewhere in this (sinful, heretical) sphere of old world thinking. Apart from God's revelation, God's breaking in, we are never ready, willing, and able to receive the Good News. We are "yet sinners," thinking our sin-y thoughts, doing our sin-y deeds. Salvation, like the incarnation, is a total surprise, a shocker. It's a megaphone so loud that, for the first time, even the deaf can hear.

A Felt Gospel (and I'm not talking flannel graphs)

I wonder whether our worship services couldn't stand to allow this theological reality to be affectively demonstrated and apprehended. What would it look like? Perhaps it would look like a time of Confession that never gets fully off the ground. Perhaps it would look like a Confession interrupted before it was completed.

What could this look like in various contexts? For sung liturgies (song-set oriented worship), perhaps we need some songs written that move from Confession to Assurance that offer a fitting musical surprise at that juncture (a key change, a sudden lift, a shift in tempo or meter). If it's a move from one song to another, perhaps it might mean a shortened outro of the Confession song and a quick move to the assurance song. For worship services that offer a silent time of Confession before the Absolution is offered, perhaps you could figure out what the "normal" amount of silence is and then lop off ten to fifteen seconds to give everyone a sense of incompleteness ("Wait, I wasn't done confessing. I still had more to say."). If your liturgy is fixed, like the Prayer Book tradition I'm now in, perhaps the liturgist fires off the word of absolution ("Almighty God, our heavenly Father, who of his great mercy...") during the "Amen" of the Confession. 

Will this feel odd to people? I think so. But I wonder whether the oddness is exactly the affect of salvation, rightly perceived. I'm sure Jesus in all His glory felt quite odd and interruptive to Paul on the road to Damascus. I'm sure the "neither do I condemn you" jolted the woman caught in adultery. Maybe, from time to time, Absolution should feel out of place to remind us that it is out of place.  

The reality is that, were we given all the time in the world to confess our sin, it still wouldn't be enough. Our infinite transgression is infinitely confess-able. It is only our self-righteousness that causes us to run out of things to confess. If we're being true to the theology of the liturgy, it just might be that our Confession should take the lion's share of the time. But that's the point. It doesn't because God interjects into our Confession a profession of the One who "made an end to all my sin."

Again, this will look differently depending on your liturgical flow, but it's worth pondering as we consider not only how the liturgy is understood cognitively but apprehended emotionally. 

* * * * *

Postscript: This is just another way I'm thinking though what it means to be an "Emotional Shepherd" in worship. If these thoughts resonate, consider picking up my book, with a chapter dedicated to the topic.

Sunday
Jan172016

Worship as Jesus Renewing His Wedding Vows

Metaphors are powerful, but this one's more than a metaphor...

Pastors from time to time are asked by older couples to join with them in what is most often a quaint yet meaningful ceremony. After decades of marriage together, committed husbands and wives sometimes desire to renew their wedding vows with one another. It's a time for each to remember and recount what they've committed to, and to declare their intentions to remain faithful for the next set of years God would grant. As I reflected on this, the more it became obvious to me that this is exactly what weekly corporate worship is. 

Continuity of Worship Practice

There are some theologians out there who see a lot of discontinuity between what God was doing in the Old Testament and what He did in the New. I am not one of them. In fact, when it comes to worship, I think those of us in evangelical traditions have been quite underserved in mining the wisdom of the theology and practice of worship in the Old Testament. We tend to too cheaply cry "fulfilled in Christ!" before exploring how we can engage (rather than jettison) the worship habits of ancient Israel. Take, for instance, the annual worship calendar of Israel's feasts and festivals. Thoughtful Christians who choose to recognize a Christian year (Advent, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Pentecost, etc.) can understand that "fulfillment in Christ" means not abolishing the annual worship cycles of ancient Israel, but worshiping through an annual pattern that interprets those Israelite rituals in light of Christ (check out my post about that here).

A Responsive Reading on Two Mountains

One Old Testament worship concept we don't hear a lot about these days is worship as covenant renewal. When the Israelites gathered for worship at certain times, there was a keen sense that what they were enacting, from sacrifices to songs to responsive readings and prayers, was a renewal of God's covenant with them and their covenant with God. Recall Deuteronomy 11. Just after God re-gave the Law to Israel and reminded them that the Law was ultimately about their hearts (Deut 10), He tells them about the consequences of keeping and breaking that Law--blessings for obedience, curses for disobedience (Deut 11:26-32). With this (Mosaic) covenant established, God prescribes a ritual of covenant renewal to enact the ratified covenant once Israel enters the promised land. One set of Israelites are to go up to Mount Gerizim and shout forth the blessings of the covenant, and the other set is to go up on nearby Mount Ebal and shout forth the curses. This ritual was intended to help Israel remember their vows and to assure the people that God would remember His.

One Mount to Rule Them All

So what of this worship practice for folks like us who sit on the other side of the Christ-event? Are covenant renewal rituals like this done away with because Christ has come, or is there a way to see these practices somehow re-enacted in Christ? Think with me about another mountain that a lone Israelite would ascend--the hill of Jerusalem. But this time, He didn't have to shout the Word of God because He is the Word of God. Think about the life's journey that this Hero took from birth to that final ascent, perfectly obeying the Law of His Father, withstanding temptation and never straying to the right or to the left. This thirty-year journey was His keeping of the covenant, earning all the blessings shouted from Mount Gerizim long ago. And then the final stage of that journey, arriving on the hilltop of Golgotha, was his bearing of the covenant curses--the dread of Ebal--in our stead. Hallelujah, what a Savior!

If Gerizim and Ebal find their fullest expression in Jesus, how could we reimagine those mountainous moments in our worship today? Well, perhaps the elements of historic Christian worship already do this. Worship services that walk through Confession of Sin and Assurance of Pardon / Absolution are re-enacting Gerizim and Ebal in and through the One who earned their blessings and bore their curses. Confession of Sin is a response to the Christian's acknowledgement that we have not kept the law (yet again for another week) and justly deserve those forever covenant curses. And yet the proclamation of forgiveness in Christ becomes a two-fold statement that (a) the penalty of those curses has been paid in full upon the cross, and (b) Christ's successful law-keeping has earned for us the righteousness required by the Law and shouted at Gerizim.

"Look Into Each Others' Eyes and Repeat After Me..."

This all brings us back to where we started. Many of Israel's rituals (including the Gerizim-Ebal response) were designed for "remembrance" (a rich biblical word) so that, when they were enacted, Israel would remember and feel yet again the affectionate "I love You" that they so needed to hear from Yahweh. Worship is no less for us. It is the Bridegroom Christ renewing His wedding vows with the harlot He irrevocably loves, the Gomer He won't let go. It is Christ reminding His Church that he took all the covenant responsibilities (the blessings and the curses) upon His own shoulders precisely so that His wayward Bride was free to return...not having to earn the relationship, but merely receiving it by faith. 

Worship is Jesus gazing into our eyes, repeating the vows He made on that bloody wedding day in that open-air chapel of Golgotha: "It is finished." Worship is Christ's reassurance that we can stop clamoring for sources of life outside of Him: reputation, power, wealth, relationships...you know, the usual-suspect idols. We can cease scraping for significance in a world that offers it to us in millions of insufficient ways. We can receive our Husband as a gift and rest our weary head on His steady chest.

There is more ground to plow when it comes to engaging practices like Ebal and Gerizim. Perhaps some creative liturgist can write a song or craft a reading that divides the congregation into two or offers a worship leader / congregation call-and-response to more concretely place that ritual in the language of Confession and Absolution. But in the meantime, let's all tarry for a bit around that mystically wonderful idea that worship is a weekly reliving of a wedding day. 

Tuesday
Sep162014

On Worship That Makes Us Feel Lousy

Worship should be uplifting, right? It should make us feel great, right? Well...sort of. Worshipers and worship leaders need to take a good, hard look at the Scriptures and ask, "What is the Bible's vision of worship?" THAT starting point--not what worship we grew up with, not what worship gives us goose bumps, not even what our favorite worship leader or blogger tells us--is the only way to begin finding healthy, wholesome answers.

So, for example, we open up to the Psalms, God's only inspired grouping of top-150 worship songs. What do we see? What fills its contents? What language does it employ? What are its postures? What emotions spread across its spectrum? Well, among other things, there is a whole lot of not-so-pleasant feelings. Dark feelings. Honest feelings. Lousy feelings. And there's a reason for that. 

Over at the Worship Cohort, I spring off a wonderful quote by Matt Redman and explain why good worship should make us feel painfully scrutinized, uncomfortably exposed. In fact, if you've experienced a worship service where you haven't felt like a helpless mountaineer atop a cave-less mountain peak during a lightning storm, you haven't experienced worship's fullness.

In this post, I explore Isaiah's own journey into lousy-feeling worship, and I explain how the Biblical and Reformational dynamics of Law and Gospel are at play when we gather corporately as God's people. Here's a choice, quote, but please go read the post.

Do we worship leaders recognize that part of worship’s job is to make us feel uncomfortable for a time? Contained in a well-balanced, full-bodied worship service should be at least a moment where each and every one of us feels jerked to a halt under the white-hot scrutiny of God’s holy eye. The holiness of God should feel, among other things, like the unrelenting sun in a shade-less desert. You can’t run from its blistering rays.

Monday
May122014

Confession Song Based on the Book of Common Prayer

I want to share with you a little bit about what drove us to write and record "Most Merciful God" off our EP, His Be the Victor's Name. (You can listen to the song below.)

When I arrived at Coral Ridge, one of the things that I and the other leadership began to discover is that God was leading us into a season of expanding our worship vocabulary. Particularly, we discerned that our church needed to be able to have a wider range of expression for the way that we confessed our sin and lamented the brokenness of the world. 

In the immediate years prior, Coral Ridge had not had much regular language for confession, and we knew that for some people from some backgrounds the idea of confession in a worship service would feel foreign and maybe even a little too "spooky-turgical." Over the years, I've discovered a consistent bridge that modern worship leaders can employ when they get the bug to introduce content into the worship that may be a bit foreign: make it a song. Sing that element.

Why We Must Confess

Time and again, I've seen people's guard come down when they are able to sing it. Perhaps this is because singing bypasses some of the normal filter-processes and goes straight to the heart. In all honesty, I do think that one of the regular "oughts" of a worship service is Confession of Sin, but I also know that some traditions have fostered the (ultimately soul-killing) idea that worship is supposed to be happy, joyful, and uplifting. I don't disagree with that idea. In fact, worship's uplifting, joyful nature is another "ought" for me. But the big question I have is, "How does the Bible say we get there?"

How do we get to a place of true joy in worship? When will our worship services feel most uplifting? It happens most accutely when worship is Christ-centered in the deepest sense...which means that it is Christ-mediated. We must come to the end of ourselves to recognize that we can't mediate our own worship. We can't usher ourselves into the service. We must be brought in by the covering of Another. Christ must stand in the gap. The end-of-myself moment in worship happens when we confess our sin, when we say, "I have no right to stand before You in worship, God; in fact, the one thing I deserve now is your righteous judgment and wrath." As long as we hang on to a sense of worthiness and fitness, we've come to worship with far too much bravado. (I discussed this idea in a post a few months back, "Do I Qualify for Worship?")

Coral Ridge, being a church that champions the message of the Gospel--God's free grace for train-wrecked sinners--recognized that we needed to more fully embody the Gospel in our worship. We knew we needed to come confessing.

The Beauty of the BCP's Confession

One of the standard confessions of the Book of Common Prayer (BCP, the liturgical guide-book used by Anglicans and Episcopalians for worship) functions for confession in a similar way to how the Lord's Prayer functions for praying. From an early age, I was taught that the Lord's Prayer was a model-prayer, designed to walk us through the various aspects of prayer (e.g. worship, kingdom-oriented entreaty, individual-oriented supplication, etc.). The BCP's confession has functioned very similarly for me. Its headings help me to understand the ways I can sin ("thought, word, and deed") and how I can sin ("by what we have done...and left undone").  It helps me to understand what my sin ultimately boils down to (neither loving God nor my neighbor) and how to feel while confession ("we are truly sorry"). Sometimes, when I feel like I'm stuck in my own personal confession, I will walk through the BCP's confession in my own mind to prime my confession pump. It almost always does the trick of excavating things I hadn't thought about. That's the beauty of the BCP's confession.

Our Song

So it seemed fitting that one of the first confession songs that Coral Ridge would learn to sing in this new dawn for our church would be an adaptation of this prayer. And that's precisely what we did. I tried to keep us as close to the text as possible while allowing it to be singable and memorable. I also added a very Anglican-like litany at the end, moving us out of confession into asking for mercy to be the kinds of people we should be under grace. But even then, those prayers are a kind of confession themselves, because we know we're not those things.  This song is in regular rotation at our church. Take a listen to it, and feel free to grab some of the free resources below. I think the melody is very adaptable to different situations, from choir-led traditional services, to uber-hip ambient-indie services.

Most Merciful God

chord chart | lead sheet

LYRICS

1. Most merciful God
We confess that we have sinned
In our thoughts and words and deeds
We’ve broken Your law
By the things that we have done
And the things we’ve left undone

Have mercy
Have mercy 

2. We have not loved You
With the fullness of our heart
Nor our neighbor as ourselves
We lack the goodness
To feel sorrow as we should
To repent and turn to You

Have mercy
Have mercy

For the sake of Your Son
Have mercy on us
For the sake of Your Son
Have mercy on us 

May we joy in Your will
Have mercy on us
May we walk in Your ways
Have mercy on us

May we love as You love
Have mercy on us
May we weep as You weep
Have mercy on us

May we serve as You serve
Have mercy on us
May we speak as You speak
Have mercy on us

May we go as You go
Have mercy on us
May we care as You care
Have mercy on us

Make us one as You’re one
Have mercy on us
Father, Son, Holy Ghost,
Have mercy on us

Words: Zac Hicks, 2013, based on the Book of Common Prayer
Music: Zac Hicks & Julie Anne Vargas, 2013
©2013 Unbudding Fig Music (ASCAP), Julie Anne Vargas
Monday
Jun242013

Rightly Parsing "Being a Clean Vessel" for Worship Leaders

Christianese

Sometimes we evangelicals forget how much we "ghetto-ize" our vocabulary. Videos like this one humorously remind us of how foreign our conversations can sound. One of the phrases that often gets tossed around in ministry circles, especially in the spheres of worship leading, is "being a clean vessel."  We pray prayers like these before worship services:

Lord, we just want to be clean vessels this morning as we come to You.  We don't want our sin to get in the way of people worshiping You, so please forgive us and use us as channels of Your mercy.

It's a good prayer.  It's an honest prayer.  I've prayed it many times myself.  I've come to the conclusion, though, that this prayer could mean a bunch of things we don't want it to mean.  I think there are probably honest and formative ways to pray such a phrase, but to me it can too easily mislead us down roads we don't really want to go.  I know it has misled me.

Where Does the Phrase Come From?

Biblically, a "vessel" (especially in the King James) is "something which contains," like a jar, pot, or vat.  The Pentateuch is filled with references to "vessels," particularly for holy use by the priests.  They were containers for holy water (Num 5:17), or oil (Num 4:8; Matt 25:4), for instance.  They were sprinkled with blood (e.g. Heb 9:21) to be set aside for holy use.  They even became the receptacle for the spilled blood of a sacrificial animal (Lev 14:4-6).  Vessels were the "props" of worship, liturgical instruments whose care and maintenance were charged to the Levites (Num 1:50; 3:31). Not only were vessels made out of clay; they were also made of precious metals, which is why the vessels of the sanctuary were often taken as the spoils of war (2 Kings 4:14).  Vessels were precious, and their cleanliness and purity, especially when it came to worship, were important.  They were "the holy vessels of God" (2 Chron 22:19). In contexts of prophetic judgment, Isaiah contrasts "clean vessels" with Israel's unclean offerings (Isa 66:20).

We Are Vessels

We start to see the crossover of "vessels" as a metaphor for "people set aside to be used by God" in places like Acts 9:15, where Saul-about-to-be-Paul is named God's "chosen vessel."  Romans 9 famously and puzzlingly depicts God's sovereign providence over "vessels of mercy" and "vessels of wrath." 

We get more specific in 2 Cor 4:7, where Paul talks about believers being ordinary "earthen vessels" who get to paradoxically contain the "treasure" of God.  But perhaps the verse that most accurately mirrors our prayers is 2 Tim 2:20-21 (KJV):

But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour.  If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work.

There we have it.  It appears that our prayers for "being a clean vessel" are derived from ceremonial-liturgical language of holiness, set-apart-ness.  We "prepare for the good work" of worship by asking God to make us a "vessel meet for the master's use."  

Praying Down Wrong Roads

The difficulty of asking God to "make us clean vessels" lies in some unhealthy theology we may be unknowingly buying into when we employ this phrase.  Though this prayer seems like just an echo of 2 Tim 2:21, the way we pray it often gives off the air that a worship service's success is riding on whether or not we've adequately confessed our sin to God.  We often pray to be "clean vessels" with the metaphor in our minds of a dirty or clogged pipe through which the power and presence of God cannot travel, so long as it's plugged.  Our prayer asks God to roto-rooter our souls with the snake of His grace so that His holy presence can rush forth through us as we lead worship.

If we're thinking this way, we're thinking dangerously too highly of ourselves. We're starting to transgress the edge of territory that is reserved for Christ alone.  Worship leaders often get caught up in language and thinking that puts us in the position of "mediators of God's presence."  We can unknowingly pray in such a way that reveals that we believe that we, or the worship band, or the music somehow mediates God's presence to His people. Suddenly, we've reverted back to the Old Covenant where the priestly mediators (who prefigured Jesus), functioned as the connection point between God and the people.  But Christ has shut those temporary operations down once and for all at the cross, becoming both priest and sacrifice (Heb 9).  Why would we want to set up shop again at the construction site, when the work is finished?  We need to be very, very careful not to begin to think of ourselves as mediators of God's presence.  We are nothing of the sort.  Such "secondary mediators" include things like preaching and the Lord's Supper, in which there is indeed human involvement.  But my fear is that we worship leaders go farther.

Some of us pray to be "clean vessels" as if the whole worship service is dependent upon our personal confession. The truth is that the Holy Spirit is a gracious, incremental revealer of the depths of our sin.  If we knew just how deep our depravity was, we would probably be overwhelmed to the point of spiritual, even physical, paralysis. If the worship service is dependent upon whether we've gotten all that sin exposed out the way, we're sunk before we've even started, because we don't know the half of it.  

The reality is that God does what He does in worship much more in spite of us than because of us.  The whole point of us being called "earthen vessels" and "jars of clay" is precisely SO we recognize that we are broken, not whole; dirty, not clean.  God's glory shines much more magnificently as we realize our weakness, not as we try our darndest to get clean.  

We also mustn't forget that God is so much bigger, His purposes for worship are so much grander, and His presence in worship so much more brilliant, than our sin and confession.  Sometimes, when we're praying to be "clean vessels," we're acting as though God's presence and power are bound by whether or not we've performed a certain prayer ritual.  If we're thinking like that, we're thinking way too small about God and His ability.  God has been in the business of sovereignly subverting our piddly little selves for millenia.  

Already Clean Vessels

The paradox of the worship leader (and any Christian, for that matter) is that we are already clean vessels by virtue of Christ...here and now.  We've already been justified, already declared righteous.  God sees us as holy, perfect, spotless vessels, and He sees us as such by virtue of Another.  The good news for worship leaders is that even though we don't feel like clean vessels, even though we don't demonstrate ourselves to be clean vessels, IN CHRIST WE ARE.  Here and now.  Forever and ever.  Amen.  Luther described this "place" as simul justus et peccator, "simultaneously saint and sinner."  It's a weird place.  But it's precisely where we are.

A Better Prayer to Pray

What might we put in place of desperate pleas for God to make us clean?  I often lead our other leaders in worship with prayers like this:

God, we confess that we're unclean vessels.  We confess that we're jars of clay.  Why would You choose to use us this day?  Forgive us our sins, yet again.  We confess our inadequacy, our brokenness.  We confess that even our best efforts, left to themselves, are poisoned wells of unclean water. 

Show us Christ again today.  Holy Spirit, remind us of His great love, His great life, His great sacrifice.  Reveal the excellencies and perfections of our Great Mediator.  Make Him seen and known today.  And we will gladly be used by You, knowing that You love us, forgive us, and choose to use us, in spite of us.

Perhaps it sounds awfully the same as "make us clean vessels," but do you see the difference in posture?  In prayers like these, we're not aiming at getting right with God so that we can be used.  We're aiming at humbly asking that God use us in spite of ourselves, precisely because we are already right with Him.  The best prayer we can pray is a simple, "Show us our sin that we might confess it, but show us the Christ that is greater than all our sin."  As worship leaders, we don't need to necessarily feel more clean in order to get the job done.  Rather, we need Christ, in all His glory, to be more clear, more powerful, and more beautiful.  

Jesus is the only Clean Vessel.  Jesus is the only mediator of God's presence.  Jesus is the one true Worship Leader.  Let's make it a point to make THAT our greater confession.

Monday
May102010

Confession Isn’t Only About Sin (Liturgical Lessons from Isaiah 53)

I have the privilege of being part of a pretty dynamic pastoral team.  We maintain a shared leadership model, and there really is a sense of mutuality among us, despite the pastoral prefixes of “Senior” and “Associate.” Our shared leadership now extends to a more shared preaching model (a newer innovation), and with that comes shared exegetical (Bible study) and homiletical (sermon) preparation. 

A recent thought-provoking concept emerged from my colleague Marty Martin out of one of these think-tank sessions.  Marty read the following passage:

Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows,
Yet we considered him stricken by God,
Smitten by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
And by his wounds we are healed.

Isaiah 53:4-5, NIV

We’re Protestants, so a big part of our understanding of salvation in Christ involves substitutionary atonement and justification by faith alone.  Marty pointed out that one of the negative effects of this theological emphasis is that, in worship, it truncates Confession to be purely a confession of sin.  Of course, confession of sin is valuable and even integral to the gospel, but it is not its sum.  Philosophers would say it is “necessary but not sufficient” to display the gospel.  Marty made the point that personal sin is merely a subset of the greater package of the human problem—need.  He said that our neediness includes but goes beyond our moral sinfulness.

When we read the passage above (observing my underlinings), we notice that what Christ bore on the cross was more than our “transgressions” and “iniquities,” though, so often, that is what we truncate the gospel to.  He bore our “infirmities.”  He held our “sorrows.”  He took on our peacelessness, our sickness, and our brokenness.  It is not "by His wounds we are forgiven," but, "by His wounds we are healed."  The Gospel shares the news of a greater healing than merely the healing of our sin.  In it we hear that Christ bore my wife’s cancer, my friend’s chronic illness, my son’s autism, and my grandmother’s dementia.  Christ took on my real animosity against radical Islam in Afghanistan.  He bore the weeping of my friend going through a divorce. 

Liturgically, then, what are we saying if, week after week, all we do is confess our sin?  We are certainly saying that the Gospel is the remedy of our moral failure (which it is) and that it is also the news of a broken relationship restored between me, a sinner, and God all-holy.  But, without further explanation, that’s about where it ends.  Of course, if that’s all we say, I think we’ve done pretty well, because the Gospel’s essence can certainly be distilled into those realities.  But can’t we use the Confession as a time to prepare for receiving a more robust, full-orbed good news?

What if, from time to time, we were to shake things up and not so much have a “Confession of Sin” but a “Confession of Need?”  What if, in our silent prayers, instead of praying, “God, I repent of having done x, y, and z,” we prayed, “God, I’m really sick,” or “God, I’m really sad”?  Imagine how different the proclamation of the Gospel would sound having made those kinds of confessions.  Think about how much more glorious the life, death, and resurrection of Christ becomes in the eyes of the people of God!