the truth about us

I know what self-justification and self-protection looks like, because like all of us, I do it far too often.  Into a world of self-justifiers (like me) where we defend ourselves from any responsibility for any specific wrongdoing, the words of Jesus by the hand of John’s gospel cut through to the basic motivations behind such self-protection:

19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God. (John 3:19-21)

My simple observation here (which I don’t want to clutter up the sermon for this Sunday night) is that Jesus is not contrasting ‘evil’ people with ‘good’ people, as if life were so simple.  Instead, the one who “knew what was in humans” (John 2:25) contrasts those who do “evil” and those who live “by the truth”.  The words used to describe their actions are also contrasted.  Those who do evil stay in the darkness not wanting their “deeds” to be exposed, while those who life by the truth can cope with “what they have done” being in the light of day, as well as the sight of God.

So the point of difference Jesus is making between these two kinds of people seems not to be that some have been naughty and others have been nice.  Some seem to see God as a God who is out to condemn the world, while others seem to trust that God, as Jesus says a few verses earlier (3:17), did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.  Fear drives some to hide their sin, while faith/trust (Greek: pistis) enables others to confess it. Johannine material elsewhere in the New Testament agrees.

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:8-9)

prayer in four words

I just saw someone else recommending this book on prayer:  Anne Lamott, “Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers” (Riverhead).

I’ve not read it,  but I assume it treats these words as follows:

Help:  supplication
Thanks:  thanksgiving
Wow:  adoration

Not bad. A, T and S from ACTS prayer acronym.

If I were to attempt an addition of the S in ACTS (supplication), and to roughly follow the progression of the Lord’s prayer, my book title would be:

Wow. Help. Sorry. Thanks.

the (w)hole in our confession

Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind & strength
Love your neighbour as you…
Love your self.

Love of God, neighbour and self are all interwoven.  I’ve been thinking lately about confession, which – like love – occurs in relationship.  Protestants often are quick to give reasons why they don’t confess to a priest like Catholics.  “Through Christ, we can confess [but do we!?] directly to God…”  Fair enough.  But one thing about confession to a priest is that at least they are confessing horizontally as well as vertically.

I may be wrong, but I suspect that Protestants are not that great at horizontal confession.  When we do it, we often only confess the really easy-to-confess stuff.  “Oh, I just have to be honest with you… I’ve allowed myself to get too busy this week.”  In the ModWest, being busy is a virtue, for crying out loud – that’s hardly confession…  Rarely do we [OK… I!!] have a) the courage, and b) the quality of relationship to confess the darkest, deepest, hardest-to-confess stuff.

My theory is that our vertical confession is at least complimented (and, at most, completed!?) by our horizontal confession.  I reckon it can be all too easy to create a ‘god’ that suits our (vertical) confessional needs; that responds to our confession with just the perfect amount and flavour of gentleness, assurance, anger, frustration or whatever makes us feel better – which is too often the reason for doing it anyway…

Confession, like love, is meant to be so holistically real that it touches all of our person – our emotions (heart), our identity (soul), our thoughts (mind) and our actions (strength).  May we be truly honest, real and vulnerable in our confession – vertically to God, horizontally to our close, trusted friends, and even internally to ourselves!!

Confess to the Lord, with all your heart, soul, mind & strength
Confess to your neighbour as you…
Confess to yourself.

confession

I’ve blogged here and elsewhere about is/ought distinctions, ethical theory and other pretty philosophical and idea-based stuff.  Don’t get me wrong – good thinking is great, and contrary to popular so-called intellectual adage, there is nothing more practical or ‘down to earth’ than a good idea(l).  But lest any readers be led to think that all I think that matters is intellectual argument for beliefs, I thought a post of a different flavour was in order.

It’s really a shameful thing (which I as a pastor can and do contribute to) that we feel we have to hide our sins.  Hiding your sins, failures and temptations (not to mention fears, anxieties and frustrations) is the surest way to ensure that they continue to control you.

Public confession of your deepest/darkest secrets is probably not an honest, helpful or edifying course of action for you or the people you broadcast them to.  But sharing them both with God and a co-life-journeyer ((Always both – too many Protestants only confess to God and not to one another (distorting and parting from the instruction of Martin Luther in doing so.)) is the proper way to deal with them.

“The heart of psychotherapy is confession.” (Carl Jung)

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Paul – Galatians 6:2)