Saturday, February 23, 2013

Shining with the Glory of God That Is Within Us: Confession

RCL Lent 2C
24 February 2013

Saint Faith’s Anglican Church
Vancouver BC

Genesis 15.1-12, 17-18; Psalm 27; Philippians 3.17-4.1; Luke 13.31-35

            When the average Canadian hears the word, ‘confess’, it is likely that she or he thinks of one of two things.  On the one hand, he or she may think we are talking about an admission f wrong-doing on the part of an accused criminal or a disgraced politician.  On the other hand, he or she may think we are talking about a religious rite in which a penitent sinner shares with a priest those deeds and thoughts which have separated the penitent from God and from her or his neighbours, family and friends.

            Either of these thoughts would be a fair interpretation of the meaning of the word, ‘confess’.  There is, however, yet one more meaning of the word.  To ‘confess’ also means to declare one’s faith in a person or an idea.  Every ‘Amen’ we speak at the end of a prayer is just such a confession of faith in the One to whom we address our prayers.

            Believe it or not, our reading from Genesis is about a confession of faith, God’s faith in Abram and Abram’s faith in God.  Abram has followed the call of God to leave hearth and kin to travel to an unknown land to obtain an as yet unfulfilled promise.

            One more time God reiterates the promise, but this time Abram dares to ask God for some sort of assurance that the promise will actually bear fruit.  “I am old,” Abram says, “and my only heir is an adopted servant.  How will I know that your promise will be fulfilled?”

            To demonstrate good faith, God joins Abram in a grisly covenant sacrifice.  Animals are cut in two and, in the form of a burning light, God passes between the separated carcasses.  By passing between them, God says, in so many words, “If I do not fulfill this promise, then may I be cut in half just as these animals have been cut in half.”  With this confession of faith made by God to Abram, Abram journeys on, his journey a confession of his faith in that God, the unseen God who bids him travel into a still unrealized future.

            Prayer often takes the form of adoration, but it also takes the form of a two-fold confession:  we affirm our faith in the God who commits God’s very self to us and we acknowledge that we have often failed to live our commitment to God.

            It is easy to overlook the Psalms we recite in worship, but they are often such two-fold confessions of faith.  This morning we prayed these words:  “The Lord is my light and salvation; whom then shall I fear?  The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom then shall I be afraid?”  This is a prayer, a prayer confession our faith in a God who enables us to face any challenge, even the challenge of acknowledging our sins and our failures to commend the faith that is within us.

            If the God in whom we believe is our light and salvation, our strength, then we need not fear speaking aloud the secretes of our hearts, the darkness that sometimes overshadows us, the angry thoughts and actions that separate us from the love of God and from the love of our family and friends.

            If the Lord is indeed our light and salvation, our strength, then we need not fear to speak, in prayer, the hardness of our hearts, the coldness of our dealings with others, the moments of envy and jealousy that sometimes grip us.

            The prayer of confession does not begin with words of sin but with words of hope and trust in the Holy One who is always more ready to forgive than we are to confess.  But these words of hope and trust must needs be followed by words of courageous honesty, the recognition that we are more often the wrong-doer than the wronged.

            Whether these courageous words are spoken in confidence to a trusted friend or advisor or whether these words are spoken in the privacy of personal prayer, God who is faithful and compassionate hears and forgives.  burdens are laid aside and we discover new sources of strength to become who we truly are.

            And just as the faces of Moses and Jesus shone with the glory of God, so our faces will shine, revealing the life of God within us.  Amen.

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