Tonight at 7:00 pm, many from our community will gather in the Underground for a Service of Confession. This will be our first time holding such a service. So I thought it might be helpful to share some guides to our time together. 1. First, the Christian life, as Martin Luther, the Protestant Reformer, said is to be a life of "continual repentance." So in holding a Service of Confession we are only living out our Christian faith as we learn to repent, confess our sins, and pray for each other.
2. Second, there are many types of confession. Of course, there is always our sin to confess. And we should be growing in our confidence and ability to identify, name and confess our sins one to another and speak the gospel of God's forgiveness back into each other's lives.
But we can also confess areas of need in our life. Areas where we are afraid or confused or need guidance in. We can also confess wounds in our past that have become "blockages" to freedom and joy in Christ. We can also confess areas of strength that we want to bring to the community and share with our brothers and sisters. And we can also confess areas of resolve or vows that we have made. In other words, confession is a broad enough category that all of us, should feel confident that we have something to confess before our brothers and sisters.
3. Third, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer elegantly lays out in his book Life Together, in confession is the final breakthrough to community. Sin and shame isolate us. But when we confess our sins, our wounds, our needs, our strengths there is a breakthrough to real community. We no longer relate to each other as "the pious" but we can relate to each other as sinners and wounded and weak and needy and strong who together need the grace of Jesus Christ. In confession, real Christian community is born.
4. Fourth, confession should never be done in such a way as to draw attention to oneself, but rather it should be done in such a way as to point oneself and others to Jesus.
So in your confession, seek to avoid rambling, or blameshifting, or gossiping, or trying to "out-confess" others. Be clear and direct. Name your sin. Name your need. Name your wound. Name your strength. Share that you need the help of Christ and Christians to relinquish control and apply the truth of the gospel to that area of your life. And don't feel your need to hold yourself together or put things in such a way that you make things palatable. Be honest but not self-absorbed.
5. Fifth, and finally, we must learn how to be a "safe place" for sinners; we must learn together how to be a community of grace. This means that we must not be shocked when we discover "real sinners" among us. Our doctrine of total depravity should have already informed us of that reality, and our doctrine of the Perfect and Finished Work of Christ should give us an undying hope that no one's sin is to big for Christ's grace to forgive and no one is to hopeless a case that Jesus can't heal them.
So we must learn to listen to each other and to "sit in" each other's sorrow and burdens and cares and sin and shame. We must learn to pray for each other and to resist trying to "fix" the other person. It is not our job to rescue them. That is the work of Jesus!
So tonight, let us be a safe place for real sinners to come and confess; and let us learn what it means that Jesus is sufficient to meet all of our needs according to His Promise.