Fr. Bob Johnston (email)
A few Sundays ago, I spoke about the woman at the well (John 4) and how the story can help us during Lent. In the story, we understand that Jesus loves her fully even though he knows everything she ever did. Along with this story, we read Romans 5:8: “8 But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” I mentioned that both of these help us overcome our resistance to bringing our sin to God and fully confessing it. In this regard, I spoke about confession (the Sacrament of Reconciliation).
I had a few questions concerning confession, and I thought I would expand on it here. We believe that God in His mercy forgives the sins of all those who fully repent. At the same time, we believe that God has given a gift to the universal church to have priest pronounce His forgiveness. = The old Anglican quip with respect to confession is that “all can, some should, none must.” Still, I encourage everyone to utilize it regularly or at least try it.
The sacrament is done according to the form on page 447 of the Book of Common Prayer. At Incarnation, you can make an appointment with one of the priests any time for confession, and during Holy Week we have set times for it. Before arriving for confession, spend some time examining your conscience and reflecting on your sin. Some people find it helpful to read the sins of the flesh and fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:16 ff.) during this preparation. It is often helpful to make a list of sins that particularly are weighing on you.
When you arrive at the appointed time, the priest will have you sit and then kneel. Most priests will explain exactly what to expect if you let them know it is your first confession. The priest will follow the order from the Prayer Book. When arriving at the designated place in the service, you will vocalize the sins on your list. This is difficult, but powerful.
James 5:16 admonishes the reader to “confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” This lines up with the powerful impact of confession that I have experienced and seen. Admittedly, it is difficult to say them out loud, but going back to the sermon, we should be mindful of God’s unwavering love for us even as we confess our sins.
I pray that you have a blessed week as you continue on the Lenten journey.