Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Fruits of Confession
I have a wonderful online homeschooling friend who goes by the name of Sister Spitfire; she used to belong to the Evangelical Free Church denomination and converted to the Roman Catholic Church several years ago. She is a wonderful apologist for Catholicism, and I find her writings very interesting and well-done. Sister Spitfire's amazing post on The Fruits of Confession is a must-read for every Christian whether Catholic or not. Don't miss the hyperlinked text on "Making a Good Confession" and read that article of hers, too.
I have found such an amazing working of the Holy Spirit through sacramental confession. It requires a willingness to be transparent and humble in order to not only search one's conscience and listen to God's promptings regarding the sin in one's life, much less repeating those sins to another human being! It's very good in bringing one's ego down to its proper size. :) And as Sister Spitfire mentions, I also have not been able to walk away from confession without tears -- tears of regret at grieving the heart of God and tears of thankfulness for His amazing forgiveness.
Anglicans do not require sacramental confession the way Catholics do, but it is still practiced if one so desires. As was summarized for me, "All May. None must. Some should." I usually meet with Father during Lent, often the week before Holy Week, with Kleenexes at the ready. But one great benefit I had not been expecting was gaining Father Acker's wisdom and advice regarding conquering my "besetting sins." It was so helpful to talk about the sins that I feel (at times) that I cannot shake and to gain a new perspective as well as ideas for getting the upper hand. It was cool and comforting at the same time.
In addition to sacramental confession, I find that congregational or public confession is extremely helpful as well. At times in Lake Murray we are given a moment or two of silence in which to examine ourselves before Communion, but that's not what I'm talking about. Within the 1928 Book of Common Prayer are several congregational prayers that are prayed in unison. A General Confession can be found in both Morning and Evening Prayers, and there is also another General Confession prayed together before Holy Communion:
Almighty God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Maker of all things, Judge of all men: We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness, Which we, from time to time, most grievously have committed, By thought, word, and deed, Against thy Divine Majesty, Provoking most justly thy wrath and indignation against us. We do earnestly repent, And are heartily sorry for these our misdoings; The remembrance of them is grievous unto us; The burden of them is intolerable. Have mercy upon us, Have mercy upon us, most merciful Father; For thy Son our Lord Jesus Christ's sake, Forgive us all that is past; And grant that we may ever hereafter Serve and please thee In newness of life, To the honour and glory of thy Name; Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Note: the capital letters signal a quick breath taken before continuing so that the congregation stays in unison as they read aloud.)
The power of having an entire church full of people praying this prayer from the heart is amazing. But when one considers that *millions* of Anglicans in thousands of parishes around the world as part of the Worldwide Anglican Communion, prays this prayer each Sunday is mind blowing. How the enemy hold is weakened by the confessions and humility of God's people and God's forgiveness flowing through church after church after church across the face of the earth. "Powerful" seems like a totally inadequate word to describe it.
Aside from putting up a confession on the PowerPoint at Lake Murray, the closest we can come to such a congregational prayer is to read Psalm 51 together which is a responsive reading selection in the back of our English Standard Version (ESV) pew Bibles -- Selection 17, in fact. We wouldn't have the worldwide numbers praying the same prayer as the Anglicans do (the second largest Christian tradition behind Roman Catholicism), but even the unity that would arise from praying Scripture in unison in a single congregation would be remarkable.
When God's people humble themselves and seek His face and His forgiveness together, God is pleased; Satan is vanquished; and we are conformed more and more into the image of our blessed Christ the Lord: the goal of every believer. So enjoy Sister Spitfire's posts and consider confessing more often. The Book of Common Prayer specifically states that one does not have to confess to a priest but to any fellow Christian. So find a person whom you trust if you are not of a tradition that offers sacramental confession, and give it a try. That cleansed, free feeling that I feel when I walk out of confession is one I truly want to share with you. :)