In Defense of Confession

There are a lot of things that happen during Lent that we’d rather avoid.  One of them is confession.

Why confess?  What have I done?  Most people only know about confession from cop shows where someone “confesses” to a crime.  Since most of us aren’t guilty of a crime, there seems little reason to confess anything.  It’s kind of a foreign concept.

But the root of the word “confession” is simply to “admit” or “declare.”  It doesn’t have to be about something bad.  After all, you can confess that you love someone.  You can admit that you care about them.  You can declare that certain social causes are important to you.  That’s confession, too.

I was asked recently in our confirmation class why we don’t practice confession like they do in the Catholic church.  To be sure, we DO practice confession.  The main difference being that in the United Church of Christ, we practice corporate or collective confession during the course of Sunday worship rather than private confession.  Private confession in our tradition typically takes place in the context of pastoral counseling and is absent assigned prayers to bring about absolution.  

On Communion Sundays you will find the pattern of a unison Prayer of Confession followed by a Time of Silent Prayer (our version of private confession) and a concluding Assurance of Pardon; a reminder that nothing can separate anyone from the love and forgiveness of God.

Up until recently, Christian confession—particularly during Lent—has had a great weight of guilt attached to it.  You confess your unworthiness.  You confess that you are insignificant.  You confess that you are, by nature, bad.  Who wouldn’t feel guilty!  Wallowing in guilt is completely in keeping with your fallen nature!  And that’s where a lot of people get stuck.  They understandably want nothing to do with confession and their faith doesn’t evolve.

Whether during Lent or otherwise, confession at FCC is an “admission”, a “declaration” of our dependence upon God; that we are here because of God’s loving action and that a close companionship with God is the only means by which we can be all that God created us to be.

Lost to sin?  Impossible!  That could only happen if God abandoned us.  This cannot happen given that God’s spirit is woven into all things, including us.  We confess this truth.  We confess that we are wrapped in forgiveness.  This, then, refreshes our faith.  

In short, confession has its place.  Even guilt has its place as a motivation to improvement (although it is a powerful emotion that can have debilitating consequences if taken in high doses).

This Lent, I invite you to explore the possibilities of confession in your life.  Try adding it to your prayer life.  Try incorporating it into how you view the events of the world.  I am confident that it is something that can activate your faith, draw you closer to God, and improve your discipleship.

See you in church,

–Rev. Dominic