I thought at the beginning of Lent we might just pause for a moment and think about confession, which is the subject of Psalm 32, our Psalm for today.
We think that confession, repentance and forgiveness are mostly New Testament ideas, but they are and were very strongly present in the Old Testament as well.
I am speaking of three words today. Confession, which is admitting fault and owning that you or I both sin and fail in our lives before God.
Repentance, is how after we have admitted it, we bring it before God and seek to change our ways according to God’s will and purposes.
And forgiveness is God’s response so that our slate is clean.
We often think of this as a sombre and painful reality, and there are aspects of it which are.
The pain of our damaged relationships with God, others and ourselves.
As Christians, we may also think of the pain we bring to God and our part in the crucifixion of Jesus who died carrying our sin on the cross.
The blow to our pride and maybe self- belief in having to own that we just can’t be that good, even when we want to. We are forced to admit that we are creatures with limited sight and capacity.
Admitting things about ourselves before God that we would rather not have to admit. Those hidden things which are painful and which we’d rather not tell anybody and which we’d rather cover up and pretend they never happened or aren’t there. The things which hang over our lives in one form or another because we don’t want to look at them or deal with them.
For some of us, they are always there, like an unresolved grief; for some of us, we can pretend they aren’t there until something happens which brings it right back as if the situation was there today. There are touch points in our lives, which make us dysfunctional because we can’t bear to go there, or when we do, we go there in deep fear and anxiety.
But the Psalm makes it plain, we need to admit even these things before God and repent and hear and acknowledge that forgiveness which is already there even before you open your mind and your mouth.
But the interesting thing about Psalm 32 is that although all of that is there, the overall feeling of the Psalm is joy and thanksgiving and liberation. Listen to it again and you will detect what I am speaking of.
1 Blessed is the one
whose transgressions are forgiven,
whose sins are covered.
2 Blessed is the one
whose sin the Lord does not count against them
and in whose spirit is no deceit.
3 When I kept silent,
my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
4 For day and night
your hand was heavy on me;
my strength was sapped
as in the heat of summer.
5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you
and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess
my transgressions to the Lord.”
And you forgave
the guilt of my sin.
6 Therefore let all the faithful pray to you
while you may be found;
surely the rising of the mighty waters
will not reach them.
7 You are my hiding place;
you will protect me from trouble
and surround me with songs of deliverance.
8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.
9 Do not be like the horse or the mule,
which have no understanding
but must be controlled by bit and bridle
or they will not come to you.
10 Many are the woes of the wicked, [that is those who have not confessed and repented]
but the Lord’s unfailing love
surrounds the one who trusts in him.
11 Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous;
sing, all you who are upright in heart!
Lent is a time when we practice fasting and self -discipline, not just for its own sake, but because we want to come in close to our God and reveal how we love him by making a sacrifice to him of our lives.
Confession repentance and receiving forgiveness are the ultimate actions of self- sacrifice, because we choose to let go of those things which stand between us and God and we bring them to God with hearts, not afraid, but full of humility, love and trust, knowing that God, through Jesus, in his compassion liberates us from our deepest and most difficult realities and covers us in a deep blanket of forgiveness and love.
We don’t have to carry the burden of our sin, we can bring it to him, all we must do is lay it at the foot of the cross and receive the life, God, through Jesus offers us. Yes, the difference between the OT and NT is Jesus death on the cross carrying our sin for us, if we are willing to let go and let him.
If you need any help with this then please come and see me. Confidentiality of the confessional is a commitment for Anglican clergy. But you also may just want to clarify something, I am here to help with your Spiritual journey.
Let’s just have a time of reflection with a song based on the Psalm.