This month we will once again begin Lent. In some ways, we have been living in a Lenten season since last March. In truth, I have done enough detaching from this world and the only thing I want to detach from is anything and everything that is virtual. Can you relate?
There is one practice of Lent, that I look forward to, namely, the Confession and Absolution. These words have become more alive for me during the past year:
Most Merciful God, we confess that we are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves. We have sinned against You in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone. We have not loved You with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. For the sake of Your Son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us. Forgive us, renew us, and lead us, so that we may delight in Your will and walk in Your ways, to the glory of Your holy name. Amen.
Recently, I had a conversation with Kent Henning where he reflected on the importance of the confession within the context of various social issues such as diversity, the pandemic, and politics. He shared how the confession gives us a way forward when these issues paralyze us. For instance, the confession reminds us of the guilt and bondage to sin that we ALL share. This means that those people who infuriate us are just as much in bondage to sin as we are. Next, the confession tells us that we have sinned against God and our neighbor by things we have done but also by things we have left undone. In truth, many of today’s current problems are the result of things done and left undone. Our hope is found in the mercy of God who forgives us, renews us, and leads us to walk in God’s ways. The fact that we say these words weekly teaches us that even after all the years we have been Christians, we still need to hear the absolution of God’s forgiveness and renewal. It is in the absolution that God frees us from all that we have done or left undone so that we can move forward to love our neighbor as God has loved us. Now that is mercy!
As we travel into Lent 2021, let us hear once again about the mercy God gives us in Christ Jesus. And let us share this mercy with those around us.