This Sunday we’ll be adding a time of corporate confession to our weekly rhythm or liturgy. We’ll get to the reason for this specific addition, but first there are a couple questions I want to answer related to why we repeat things on a weekly basis.
Why do we repeat some things every week? Don’t they just become stale ritual?
Yes, it is possible for the things we repeat to become stale ritual, but this isn’t a given. If you kiss your spouse goodbye when you leave the house everyday, it can become stale ritual. If you go to the gym everyday, it can become stale ritual. Anything we repeat can become heartless and lifeless. However, this is not inevitable. If we remember why we repeat things they have tremendous power to shape us and the things we love.
Humans are creatures formed by our habits. These habits can be life-giving or life-destroying. Our physical, spiritual, and emotional health rest largely on the presence or absence of habits that nurture us. Habits have tremendous power and they are not formed by doing something once; they are formed by repetition over time.
Our hope is that we will enter into the things we do repeat with a focus and perspective that allow them to be full of life each time. There’s no guarantee of this, but it’s worth the risk.
Is Trailhead becoming a rigid church that just follows the same formula (liturgy) every week?
I think Trailhead is pretty settled in using a thoughtful rhythm at each worship gathering, but this has been true since its inception. Since the beginning of Trailhead there has been singing, reading, preaching, and participation in the Lord’s supper. In recent years we’ve added a space for storytelling or an interview and the praying of the Lord’s prayer, but our times together have always had a consistent structure.
It has also been true that Trailhead has been a church with flexibility to change things up when it’s helpful. We tend to approach the things we do each week a little differently each time. The songs are different, the sermon is on a different topic and might include different elements, the focus going into the Lord’s supper varies, and so on. With most of what we do the structure is consistent but the specifics are very flexible. This will be true with a time of confession as well.
Why are we adding a time of confession?
We are adding a time of confession because we believe in the power of sin and the importance of confession. Sin is the power that contorts and breaks us and our world. Our sin is not innocuous or free of consequence. On the contrary, it moves us further from God, each other, and the good work of God in the world. By confession we bring our sin into the light and ask God’s forgiveness and healing. In one of his letters, John writes, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).” In his letter James encourages people to, “…confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed (James 5:16).”
We are adding this time right before the Lord’s supper because when we eat the bread and drink the wine we are remembering the price that was paid for our sin. Our hope is the this time of confession will prepare us to remember the sacrifice of Jesus and cause us to take it seriously.
I want to give two caveats to this time of confession we’re adding. The first is that this is not a means of giving us license for immoral living. I grew up in a tradition where the focus on grace was sometimes misconstrued to mean that we could do whatever we wanted if we just asked for forgiveness. Similarly, I was recently talking to someone who grew up Catholic and he shared that weekly confession was used by many as an excuse to live however they wanted during the week. Using confession as license to sin is blasphemous. I know that’s strong language, but it’s necessary. That approach severely underestimates the destructive power of sin as though all the evil “wiped away” by confession has no consequence. Our time of confession is meant to do exactly the opposite of this. It reminds us that sin has power. It trusts in God to forgive us through the sacrifice of Jesus. And it implores him to empower us to live without sin so we can become the people he intends us to be.
The second caveat is that participating in confession is not compulsory. Hopefully that goes without saying, but nothing we do is required. In fact, if you have no intention of living in line with the ways of Jesus I encourage you to refrain from confession and the Lord’s supper as it would be insincere. I don’t mean you may not fail again! God’s mercy is always greater than our sin. What I mean is that your intention is to honor the grace and mercy of God by seeking his power to live with him fully.
This Week’s Confession
What we do/say will change some each week, but here’s what we’ll be using this Sunday. It’s based on Psalm 51.
Have mercy on our souls,
according to your unwavering love;
according to your abundant mercy
wipe away our sins and the guilt we have carried for so long.
Instead write on our hearts your love
Your boundaries for our lives
Your salvation that sets us free from our sins.
To live the abundant life you have for each of us.
Lord we would see Jesus,
We would love Jesus,
We would follow Jesus
We would serve Jesus.
Create in us clean hearts,
Renew your Spirit within us.
Do not turn us away from your presence,
do not take your Holy Spirit from us.
Restore to us the joy of your salvation,
and sustain in us a willing spirit.
Write on our hearts, your love O God,