"I'm what the world considers to be a phenomenally successful man. And I've failed much more than I've succeeded. And each time I fail, I get my people together, and I say, "Where are we going?" And it starts to get better." - Calvin Trager
Monday, May 24, 2004 One of the things that bothers me is when I go to a liturgy -- particularly a Eucharist -- and they have eliminated the confession of sin. It's not a quirky liturgical idiosyncracy. I think we need the confession in our liturgy -- perhaps now more than ever.
When I talk to people about why they have left the confession out, what I get most often is some variation on the theme of "it's a downer, we don't want to beat people up, we want this to be uplifting." First off, I think that shows no concept of what confession is about. It's not about beating ourselves up, it's about being honest about the state of our lives, honest about where those fall short of God's will, honest about our relative powerlessness to change our lives on our own and need of God's help, and honest about our desire to make relationship right with God and each other and to receive God's reconciling love.
Opportunities for confession, repentance and absolution are what enable us to continue to grow in our relationships with God and each other. Not to confess is stubbornly to live in denial not only of our errors but of our need of God and each other to get it right.
Confession can be hard -- really hard. It's never fun to take a long, honest look in the mirror ... especially when you know already that what you're going to see has some serious unsightly blemishes. But there's a reason we put the confession before the Eucharist ... unless we confess and repent and allow God to mend the breach between us, we cannot receive the overpowering love of Christ in his body and blood. We can't do it because a refusal to confess proclaims our own lordship over our lives, not his over us.
I see this in my own life and in the circles I travel in, but also in society. Confession is seen as weakness. You look at the 9/11 hearings -- there is so much buck-passing that it makes you dizzy. Nobody takes responsibility for things anymore. As I've watched presidential candidates come through Missouri, the one thing they all have in common is trying to portray themselves as Harry Truman, thinking that will ingratiate themselves to us (and, frankly, thinking that we are such idiots that we can't tell the difference.). Well, Harry Truman is most famous for that plate on his desk that said "The Buck Stops Here." And we have candidates from each party who say they can't even REMEMBER the last mistake they made much less confess it.
It's an apology to the people of Iraq, and it reads:
We as Christians and/or Americans want to tell the people of Iraq and others that we are shocked and deeply ashamed to hear of the torture and humiliation inflicted on Iraqi and other prisoners in the custody of our government.
The photos make us horrified and very sad.
We are genuinely and profoundly sorry for what happened to you.
We apologize to victims of this abuse and their families, and to all the people of Iraq.
We too are mothers, sisters, brothers, fathers, and people who pray, like you.
This should NEVER have happened in our name.
We pledge to work together so this never happens again.
To the prisoners, we say: we cannot erase what happened to you but we will work so you receive a formal symbol of regret, as well as this apology.
May God have mercy on all of us.
It was written for E4GR by the Rev. Sabina Alkire, an amazing priest/economist and warrior for global justice. Now, you might say "I didn't have anything to do with the prisoner abuse! I'm not in favor of it! Why should I apologize? The people who did it should be the ones to apologize!"
Well, the people who did it, and the people who are responsible for it ... all the way up to the president ... absolutely should apologize. Frankly, I think the buck SHOULD stop at President Bush's desk ... but there's more than that.
The buck also stops with us.
We are citizens of this country. We elect our leaders -- for good or ill. Most of us benefit from the incredible wealth of this country and the privilege accorded by being Americans. When things go well, many of us reap the benefits.
We need to confess. We need to repent ... to commit to trying to do better in electing and holding our leaders accountable and in removing the spirit of the abuse from our own lives. We need to reach out to our sisters and brothers in the Arab world and acknowledge the relationship we have broken with each other. We need to admit that these are indeed "sins committed on our behalf."
Apology and confession are not signs of weakness -- they are signs of strength. They are signs of a belief in the power of forgiveness and the power of the love of a God who stopped and stops at nothing to reach through our brokenness to show her love for us.
Read the apology -- and check out the rest of the stuff on the website. Take some time to think and pray about it. If you agree with me that the buck stops with us, too, and that confession is not only appropriate and necessary but life-giving, I hope you will sign it.
I sign off most of my correspondence with "Christ's peace." I started doing it after Julia died because it was how she signed everything, but it's not a memorial to her. I sign correspondence that way because Christ's peace is what I hope for in all the relationships of my life -- it's a peace that is borne out of honest relationship and love that heals brokenness. But to heal, we first have to acknowledge it.
EGR resources and connects the church to embrace what one person, one congregation, one diocese and one church can do to make this mission of global reconciliation happen.
Want to find out more ... check our our website at www.e4gr.org.
"Christ's example is being
demeaned by the church if they ignore the new leprosy,
which is AIDS. The church is the sleeping giant here.
If it wakes up to what's really going on in the rest
of the world, it has a real role to play. If it doesn't,
it will be irrelevant."