by Christian Ruch
This year on Good Friday (April 18) from 3:00 to 6:30 PM we will be offering a time for praying confession with a clergy member. While confessing sins to a priest or deacon is not required in the Anglican church, it is a practice that many (including myself) have found both spiritually beneficial and encouraging. Here are a few reasons to consider it:
It can diminish the power of sin over us. As followers of Christ, we stand in the truth that in the grace that comes through the death and resurrection of Christ we are fully forgiven, and sin has lost its ultimate power over us. However, we still struggle with sinful actions. Sometimes in our struggles, shame grows and gains power in our lives. We may come to believe the lie that we are no longer loved by God or that our sins define and control us. We may become convinced that if others knew about our struggles, they would reject us. The more we keep these sins secret, the more power they can have. Confessing our sins to someone else brings those struggles into the light, and can begin a process of getting free of that shame. This healing power of confession is probably why the book of James speaks of the confession of sins in the context of praying for healing (James 5:16).
We need the prayers and wisdom of others. After you confess your sins to a clergy member they then have an opportunity to pray for you. This is a prayer acknowledging and extending God’s forgiveness, but also a prayer for strengthening and help. God uses prayers like these to help us to grow in understanding and obedience. Many times our sinful actions are symptomatic of some deeper issue. As others pray for us we may begin to see what is at the root of our sins and how God is at work there. Part of living in our identity as members of Christ’s body is to receive and benefit from the gifts and insights of others in the body. Confession is one way to do that.
It increases in us thankfulness for God’s grace. Andene pointed out in her sermon this past Sunday that when we try to numb ourselves to pain we also numb ourselves to joy. Ignoring our sinfulness and need for forgiveness can numb us to the deep comfort and joy of knowing God’s acceptance and restoration. Confessing our sins out loud to another can be a very difficult and humbling thing to do. It may bring home in new ways the reality of our sin. But after that confession, we hear the words of absolution spoken over us, and that may bring home in new ways the amazing reality of God’s mercy.
If you would like to read over the liturgy that we use in confession, it is on pages 447-452 of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer (you can click here for a pdf—you will need to scroll down a little bit to get to the confession section, which is titled “The Reconciliation of a Penitent”). I usually prefer to use the first form of confession because I like that it ends with the person who has heard confession saying, “Go in peace, and pray for me, a sinner.” It is reassuring to end a time of confession with the reminder that we are all in need of prayer and grace. As we prepare to enter Holy Week on Sunday, let us all be quick to continue to offer to one another God’s peace—the peace which comes from knowing Jesus.
If you would like to sign up for a time to pray with Pastor Christian or Pastor Cheryl, please click here.