At tonight’s Maundy Thursday service we were reminded of the need to confess our sins to God. We’re reminded to do this many other times during the year, of course, but something about Holy Week makes the whole idea seem more immediate and necessary.
I realized, in the midst of the process of silently naming my sins, that I have not been taking this discipline seriously enough in recent weeks. One by one I named them tonight, called them what they were, stains of sin in my life, in thought, word and deed, in what I have done and what I have left undone. It was sobering. And freeing.
Many years ago, when I was in college, I went on a retreat with a campus ministry I was a part of. Our guest speaker was a well-known pastor from Nashville. I remember so little of what he taught on, but one thing has stuck in my mind since that weekend. It was an illustration of the importance of the discipline of confessing our sins and asking God’s forgiveness. He said that when we come to God to confess our sin to him, one or two sins are not that hard to break free of, like a thread wrapped about our torso and arms. Without too much energy or strength we can break free of them. But if we leave our sins unconfessed, if we fail allow the Spirit to search our hearts and reveal our sins to us, they continue to wrap around us like a thread. Once, twice, three times. Not too difficult to break. But let those sins go unconfessed 67, 92, 112 times or more, and it gets much more difficult to break free. Those single threads of sin wrap around one another and around us to become twine and then rope that is nearly impossible to break.
But tonight I named them. One by one. And the minute of silence we were given during the prayer time was not enough.
I was reminded of how rarely I’ve paused to listen to God’s Spirit and confess my sins to him. It’s as if I’ve become “too mature” to have to do that anymore. How utterly false. Maturity is demonstrated in daily (at least) confessing my sins, not in no longer needing to do so.
Later, as we shared in remembering the Last Supper and took part in communion together, I found myself more grateful than usual. Sixty-five plus of us broken and contrite sinners gathered around the table, twelve at a time, and remembered. We ate the bread and drank from the cup. And the grace was even more immediate than the sins we had confessed only moments before.