I’ve been wondering for a while now about how to do confession in a church service. This has been prompted by Ridley chapel, where they often use the Anglican prayer book. I think in all three Communion orders, confession comes in preparation for receiving communion and I’ve wondered how helpful this is.
My concern is that it might seem like in order to receive communion, you have to have confessed your sins. On one hand, that’s appropriate, but I wonder what it does to having the confidence to draw near to God. Does it seem like there’s a process to go through to be good enough to do so? It’s not just the prayer book that does this. The ACTS model of prayer is another example. The issue is, do these models implicitly contain a notion of performing ritual before approaching God? Perhaps not, but I suspect that without explanation, they can be read that way.
Which would be a tragedy, because we know that we do not have to make the same sacrifice endlessly in order to make perfect those who draw near to worship (Heb 10:1). Rather, because Christ is our once-for-all sacrifice (Heb 10:10) we are able to approach God with confidence (Heb 10:19)! The prayer book actually affirms this with a hearty assurance of drawing near to God after confession but I’ve wondered whether this actually needs to be given BEFORE we confess as well, just to make sure that we all understand why we’re doing it.
I found it so helpful this week in Ridley chapel, then, when Cat gave a number of reasons for why we confess our sins. Here they are, reproduced with her permission:
- in order to remind ourselves that these sins are forgiven through Jesus’ death on the cross,
- in order to stop hiding from God,
- in order to express our sorrow for the relational damage our sin does to our, relationship with God, each other and our world,
- in order to be self-aware and not deceived about our true nature,
- in order to turn away from them, to keep being transformed, to be healed and made whole,
- in order to deepen our thankfulness and appreciation of God’s grace.
I was confident that God would indeed forgive me; comforted that what I was about to do would be life-changing; and challenged to be honest and thorough in my confession.
This list may not be exhaustive. Perhaps you want to add to it! But I found it a helpful start to thinking about confession.
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.