Our Sunday school class teacher posed a real puzzler of a question to us, “If you were a Christian, and someone came with a gun, and they were killing people who were Christians, and they asked you, ‘Are you a Christian?’ What would you say?”
Our whole class fell silent. This was a serious question to ponder and it really captured the attention of this normally rowdy group of grade six-ers.
Finally Betty-Jean raised her hand. “I would tell them I was not a Christian, but inside, I would still be a Christian!” I remember this so clearly because that was exactly the answer I had come up with, it’s just that Betty-Jean had the courage to say it out loud.
Then our Sunday school teacher looked very serious, and shook his head solemnly, saying that was the wrong answer, and then he quoted a verse which says that if we deny Jesus, Jesus will deny us.
Where a minute before I had been jealous of Betty-Jean for sharing my answer, now I was so relieved that I had not said anything out loud!
This week we are going to meet another early Anabaptist leader, a female leader. The issue of recanting, or denying something you believe in was a very real question at that time. Come to church and hear about what she decided to do.
This week’s prayer: As we proclaim good news Lord, give us wisdom to know how and when to do it!
The word “confession” is pretty closely linked in our minds with criminals. It’s criminals who confess to breaking the law. “Did they confess?” or “Will they confess?” are words that come to mind when someone is arrested.
But if you are Catholic, the word confession brings up other ideas. Confession is an important part of religious practice in the sacrament of penance. You are expected to confess your sins to God, through a priest.
Mennonites don’t talk very much about confession. At least anymore. Some Mennonite congregations used to require people who had committed adultery or other sexual sins to come in front of the congregation and confess their sins. I haven’t heard of many other reasons people were asked to confess publicly. It was a strange practice to single out only one type of sin, and it was a practice that rarely proved to be helpful, as far as I’ve heard.
To “confess” is an important concept in scripture, and an important idea in the history of Christianity, it’s the word we’ll be looking at this Sunday. I confess I haven’t written my sermon yet…
This week’s prayer: Merciful God, help us to be open and honest with you, to confess what needs to be confessed, and to offer you thanks and praise.
Throughout Lent our congregation has been focussing on confessing our sins, and I wonder what this has been like for you. I think confession is pretty much of a counter-cultural experience. At first glance, when you watch TV or youtube, it seems like confession is all the rage. There are numerous reality shows or videos where people let you in to the darker side of their inner life. But if you watch you soon realize that this is confession for show, confession to bring attention, confession to shock. It`s very rarely ever confession for change.
The point of all this hard work of confession, as a Christian, is that we want to change. God wants to change us. We bring our broken bits, our missing parts, our sad stories to Jesus, who wants to re-create us into something more complete, more beautiful, more fulfilling. We endure the slogging work of confession, the humiliation of examining our deepest motives and inner drives in order to be transformed.
And that is what holy week is all about. On Good Friday Jesus dies, carrying the burden of human sin. But by Easter morning he is transformed, undefeated by death. Confession for Christians changes during holy week too; from confessing our sins to confessing that Jesus Christ is Lord. We join with Mary in telling others; I have seen the Lord! Have a blessed Easter weekend!
Anyone who has ever taken care of multiple children for any length of time has probably had this experience: one child hurts another. You bring them together and ask one to “Say sorry!” And if you have a good memory, you can probably remember the tone of that sorry. I have heard too many surly sorries!
You can’t get a sorry on demand. You can’t manufacture a sorry. You can’t manipulate a sorry. A sorry has to come from inside. Telling someone to “say sorry” might be good advice, but it often doesn’t get results. The real issue is what is in someone’s heart.
I think back over all the times I’ve tried to get people to say sorry. Maybe it was the wrong approach. Maybe what was more important was whether I was saying sorry. Was I modelling what I was trying to teach? Did I say sorry often enough? Did I mean it from my heart?
This Sunday we’re going to be looking at a broken family in the Bible, and using it as a springboard to think about the brokenness in our own lives. Why is it so hard to say sorry? Where is God in this picture?
This week’s prayer: God, give me an open heart, a clean heart, a heart that can see where a sorry is needed.
This past week, a hit in a hockey game in Montreal by Zdeno Chara left Max Pacioretty with a broken neck and a severe concussion. Since then, every sports pundit has weighed in: could Chara have foreseen that his hit could have terrible consequences? Did Chara’s past negative history with Pacioretty have anything to do with this? Some players insist that he would have known the potential for severe injury was present. What we do know is that Chara has not confessed that he had any intent to harm anyone. I’m sure, by this point, he has been advised by a lawyer not to confess to anything.
What would happen if Chara did confess? If he said, for example, “I made a mistake in judgement.” What would it have meant if Chara had come across the ice to see how Pacioretty was, when he was lying unconscious (some people even thought Pacioretty might be dead). What would the words “I’m so sorry” have meant if they were spoken on the ice? Maybe it’s hard to imagine that happening in NHL world. But what would be the right thing to do? What would those words mean to Pacioretty’s parents who were watching in the stands? What would they mean to Pacioretty as he lay in his hospital bed, knowing that his career is on hold for an indefinite period?
This week we are continuing a Lenten series on confession, and we’re talking about a man who wasn’t very quick at confessing. He waited until he was confronted with his crime before he finally admitted, “I have sinned against the Lord.”
We hope that our confessions come freely, as we confront our own sin. But unfortunately, too often we are blind, or we conveniently blind ourselves, to the sin we commit. You’ll hear about that in the sermon this Sunday. Can you guess which biblical story I’m preaching on?
This week’s prayer: Give us insight to offer confession freely, thank you for the people you bring into our lives who show us our sin.
I knew someone once who said she was allergic to fish…she actually wasn’t allergic to fish, she just hated fish, and that way she could get around having to eat it! None of us are allergic to confession, but it’s something we might want to avoid for various reasons.
Being in the Mennonite church, you can avoid confession pretty much. During our congregational prayer time there is usually a component of our prayer that talks about sin and if we say the Lord’s Prayer we talk about trespasses, but you can tune that out if you want. Other denominations emphasize confession more strongly. In the Catholic church for example, confession is a sacrament. Although in recent years even the Catholics have renamed this sacrament “Reconciliation”; it’s not just Mennonites who are allergic to confession!
This Sunday I’m going to be exploring our attitudes towards confession; why is confession something that James talks about in his letter? He says “confess your sins to one another”; do we do that? Why or why not?
Lent is just around the corner, next week is Ash Wednesday. Lent is a time to join with churches around the world in cultivating a penitential spirit. Uh oh…maybe you are allergic to being penitential too!
Today’s prayer: I don’t like confessing very much Lord; I confess I don’t like confessing. Give me an open heart this week, and clear eyes to see myself as you see me.