A confessing pilgrim…
‘Tis the season for confession, at least if you observe the traditional church calendar and the season of Lent. Some churches, like the Baptist church that I used to attend, only confess during the season of Lent. I always felt that there was something missing from the service without that confession — it seemed such an essential part of worship.
Now, however, along my pilgrim’s road, I have stopped awhile and worshiped with the community at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church here on Capitol Hill. I welcome the chance to confess in community each week, but I am particularly moved by the words of confession that they have included in the liturgy this Lent:
As we draw near to the place of at-one-ment:
Give us tears to see the wonder of your presence;
Give us tears to see the wasting of your people,
Give us tears to see the wounding of your son.
We are the people who helped make the wood on which you were crucified, and still misuse your creation;
We are the people that helped make the nails that pierced your body, yet still we use work for gain at others’ expense;
We are the people that did nothing to stop your betrayers, yet still are ruled by comfort or cowardice.
Even now, on Monday afternoon, these and other words I spoke during yesterday’s service still call to me. I wished I could tell you the source of these words, but I cannot. While the bulletin does attribute them to a source, it is not clear enough for me to quote accurately. I believe that they are the Wee Worship Book of Iona Community, but I could not tell you which edition.
Not that my inability to pinpoint their source dulls their meaning. These words bring to mind the letter issued by the faculty of the Princeton Theological Seminary on the eve before Ash Wednesday, words that included another confession to which I can relate:
…We confess our own complicity in the sinful entanglements that have created this political and social crisis. Not all of us have taken a firm and vocal enough stance against what Martin Luther King, Jr. called the “giant triplets” of violence in the United States: “racism, extreme materialism, and militarism.” We have often embraced academic elitism that overlooks the needs of the unemployed or the value of jobs that do not require higher education. …
Every time I read the words of confession aloud or in silence, every time I read another terrible tweet, every time I am sad about bans and walls and immigrants and all of the other things that there are to be sad about, I must stop and ask myself the same question that the esteemed faculty of Princeton asked: what is my contribution, what did I ignore, what did I fail to do or to understand? That my friends, is a Lenten practice.
Because, you see, we are the people who…you can fill in the blanks there for yourself. I know that I do. I know that I will try harder. I know that I will do better. And, as the liturgy of confession reminds us, with confession comes absolution and the chance to try again. And there is not better reminder of that than this beautiful paraphrase of the Lord’s Prayer, offered to us by Parker J. Palmer, which I had never heard (or spoken) before:
Heavenly Father, heavenly Mother,
Holy and blessed is your true name.
We pray for your reign of peace to come,
We pray that your good will be done,
Let heaven and earth become one.
Give us this day the bread we need,
Give it to those who have none.
Let forgiveness flow like a river between us,
From each one to each one.
Lead us to holy innocence
Beyond the evil of our days —
Come swiftly Mother, Father, come.
For yours is the power and the glory
and the mercy: Forever your name is All in One.
That is my hope — that if we confess enough, if we confess most humbly and most honestly, and then embrace our own absolution, that “forgiveness (will) flow like a river between us, from each one to each one.”
Clearly, the message of this Sunday’s worship is still working on me and in me. All that, and I had the chance to sing Ubi Caritas again. Go in peace, my friends, go in peace to love and serve the Lord. I know that I did.