We come this morning –
Like empty pitchers to a full fountain,
With no merits of our own.
O Lord – open up a window of heaven,
And lean out far over the battlements of glory,
And listen this morning. (James Weldon Johnson)
You prompt us yourself to find satisfaction in appraising you, since you made us tilted toward you, and our heart is unstable until stabilized in you. (St. Augustine, trans. Gary Willis)
This Lent, we are exploring our faith by running through the alphabet. Today, “C” is for Confession. Now, when you think of confession, I’d be willing to bet that the first thing that springs to mind is that wooden phone booth looking thing that you find in Roman Catholic churches. True, those are called “confessionals.” And one of the definitions of “confession” has to do with making known one’s sins to a member of the clergy and seeking absolution. But I want to take a bit more of an expansive stab at “confession.”
One of the books on the Church’s all-time bestseller list is St. Augustine’s Confessions. Now, if this book were a couple hundred pages of Augustine spilling his sins on the page, it would never have sold so well. Rather, Augustine uses a larger understanding of the concept of “confession.” The book is not strictly an autobiography, and it’s not a list of sins. The Confessions is Augustine’s prayerful reflection on God’s movement in his life. It is his witness to the overwhelming manner in which God changed that life. This is what confession is – the externalizing of an internal relationship, the proclamation of things hidden within.
In Augustine’s case, he uses his Confessions as a witness to other Christians. For modern followers of Jesus, our confessions happen when we make our faith in God known through our words and deeds. In a court setting, one confesses one’s guilt and awaits punishment. In a church setting, one confesses one’s life – the sin, the guilt, the success, the failure, the joy, the hardship, the love, the service – and awaits not punishment, but further instruction.
Dear God, your movement in my life gives me something to confess. Help me to be unafraid to confess my faith in you and to let that faith transform me. In Jesus Christ’s name I pray. Amen.
I leave this moment with you, God, taking hope in the overarching reality that you are the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.