Rest in Peace: CONFESSING


# 3 in Series: Rest in Peace
Sunday, January 11, 2015
Baptism of the Lord Sunday

Mark 1:4-11, CEB

There is an old saying, “Confession is good for the soul.”  It actually originates in Psalm 119, though not in those exact words.  Psalm 119 expresses a prayer about a man’s knowledge of his own condition.  It is a confession and it acknowledges that confession is not about making God know our sin; it is about making us know our sin.  God already knows; we are the ones who need to be made aware of our own shortcomings.

As I was preparing for this message I was thinking about the relationship between confession and forgiveness.  We have often talked about how forgiveness is about us, not the person we are forgiving.  What I mean is that we need to forgive other people for the sake of our own souls.  When we pray The Lord’s Prayer, we ask God to: forgive us in the same way that we have forgiven others.  Before we make that request we had better be sure that we have actually forgiven others.  Most of the time whether or not we forgive someone for what they may have done to us is irrelevant to them.  We are called to forgive others so that our conscience is clear, not so that the other person feels better.

Today we come to this idea of “confession”.  Once again I think that this is for us, not the other.  What I mean is that God does not need us to confess our sin because God already knows what we have done.  WE need to confess our sin so that we understand the truth about ourselves and about our sins.  Confession is about being self-aware and courageous enough to be honest about what we have done.  Confessing our sin to another person we may have offended is always a nice thing to admit, but it doesn’t change anything; they are already painfully aware of our sin.  Confession is so that WE will be aware and accountable.

Growing up Roman Catholic we became accustomed to the Sacrament of Confession.  This was a regular practice of going to the priest, confessing our sins, and receiving our penance, along with absolution from sin.  I never quite understood this ritual or how it had any effect on my behavior.  As children we were told to confess such things as arguing with our siblings, talking back to our parents, or eating meat on Friday.  I wondered why I had to tell the priest all the bad things I did AND I never quite believed that God really cared whether I argued with my sister.  As the Catholic Church has moved forward they have changed their concept of this sacrament and even changed its name.  It is now called The Sacrament of Reconciliation.  Now, that makes a lot more sense to me and I think it may be a concept we should consider as well.  Not the part about confessing to the priest as an intermediary or calling it a “sacrament”…The part I want us to think about is “reconciliation.”

We have talked before about why Jesus came into our world in the first place.  He did not come to establish a new religion or a church.  Jesus came to reconcile people back to God.  Reconciliation is and always has been a primary focus of Jesus’ mission on earth.  If we accept this and if we can view confession as the first step in accomplishing reconciliation, then we must see how confession is indeed “good for the soul.”  

Today we celebrate the Baptism of Jesus.  Certainly, Jesus did not need to confess or repent,  but that isn’t the point of the story.  The point is that Jesus set the example by submitting himself to God’s authority by humbling himself in baptism.  That is why we commemorate this day each year.  It is a reminder that we submit ourselves to God at baptism and our baptism was preceded by our confession.  Some of us were baptized as infants and the confession and promises were made by adults on our behalf.  Some of us were baptized as older children or as adults and made our confession and profession of faith publicly, for ourselves.  However that happened for you, the idea is the same.  Baptism is preceded by our confession.  Our confession leads us to reconciliation with God.  Baptism is the symbol of that reconciliation.  That is why, each year at this time, I call us as a church to remember our baptism and reaffirm the promises that we made or that were made on our behalf.

Confession is good for the soul.  It reminds us of who we really are and challenges us to be more critically self-aware.  It frees us to enjoy a more honest relationship with God.  It pushes us to be better than we thought we could be.  As we reaffirm our baptismal covenant, it is also important that we remember some things about baptism.  When you were baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, that is all the baptism you need.  Baptism is a once-in-a-lifetime event that joins us to the Body of Christ.  Baptism is about God’s work; it should never be necessary to repeat it and we, as United Methodists, do not re-baptize.  The liturgy that we will celebrate this morning is not a repetition of our baptism; it is a simple re-affirmation of the promise made at our baptism.

Today is about reminding us of who we belong to and the generous gift of God’s grace that comes to us in spite of our sinful nature.  While baptism is not something we repeat, our sin, confession, repentance, and forgiveness happens again and again.  That is the great joy of our relationship with God.  We are humans with faults and we are prone to sin.  There is no end to the list of things we do every day that we need to confess as sin.  Selfish behavior, ignoring the needs of others, treating one another rudely, and the list goes on.  God calls to us to return to him every day; to confess our faults, repent, and be forgiven.  Oh, yes, confession is truly good for the soul!  In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

(Power Point) 03-Confessing