PRACTICES: Sacraments + Confession
What’s at the heart of our Christian faith? What are the most important practices for how we are to live as God’s people? This is what we will spend the next 7 weeks exploring in a series called “Practices.” It’s not just a sermon series, but a series we take home with us and reflect on through journaling and action. We'll hear from diverse Christian leaders from across the country, reflect on how we experience these traditions, and contemplate our own commitments. It all leads up to COVENANT SUNDAY - NOVEMBER 6TH. This is how we will make promises to ourselves, to God, and to one another about how we want to be KINDRED. It's a different kind of "membership." It's less about who's in and who's out, and more about who we want to be.
This past week we engaged the tradition of sacraments – those things we set apart as uniquely sacred, as a combination of divine promise and common earthly elements. For Lutherans, we identify baptism and Holy Communion as the two sole sacraments based on that understanding. The word Sacrament comes from the latin “sacramentum” which had a broader meaning as a vow or promise, as in the swearing of an oath to Caesar. How does this historical meaning of the word sacrament change your ideas about the role sacraments play in the Christian faith? Can you remember a time when taking communion or witnessing a baptism felt like a truly spiritual experience for you? If that never happened, what would it take for those sacraments to hold deeper meaning on your life? Among KINDRED, we practice communion with homemade bread, we serve each other around our tables, and we proclaim that all are welcome – children, skeptics, sinners, and saints. How does the WAY we practice communion reflect how we understand it? What does it mean to visibly seal our lives to God through the practice of the sacraments?
Although not a sacrament in the Lutheran church, the act of confession holds a special place in our tradition. Throughout the week we engage this practice with thoughtful reflection. This practice might feel very new and even uncomfortable, but we open ourselves to the possibility that this practice might offer healing and freedom. Each day this week, we give ourselves over to this practice in a new way:
Day 1: This week, you’ll be working through one of the less-common sacraments, confession. This might be a new practice for you or one that feels a little uncomfortable. That’s okay. Each day, you’ll move a bit deeper into the practice and have the chance to write about the feelings or thoughts it brings up. Today, think about a relationship in your life that might benefit from an act of confession on your part. Write down the name of the person you’d like to reconcile with over the course of this week as well as the part of your relationship that needs to heal.
Day 2: It’s never easy to admit fault, but speaking our failures out loud can take some of their power and shame away. Start the process of confession by talking honestly with God about the issue. Confess out loud to God and allow yourself to feel God’s grace work its way into you. What is this experience like for you?
Day 3: It can help to bring another person into this process to offer support and encouragement. Today, ask a trusted friend or your pastor to listen to you confession. Journal a bit about what might be holding you back from moving more deeply into this practice.
Day 4: Now it gets real. Reach out to the person you need to confess to and ask to meet tomorrow. If it’s not possible to get together in person, set up a time to talk over the phone or over Skype. No texting or email allowed here – this needs to happen in a face-to-face conversation. Write out any fears or anxieties you have about this step. And don’t forget to lean on the person you asked to support you. This is when you’ll need them most.
Day 5: This is the day you make it happen. As you confess, keep the focus on you and the actions you regret. Ask your friend to listen and allow you to say what you need to say. Ask for forgiveness. You might not get it, but no matter what happens as a result of this confession, you will have made a significant step toward repairing a broken relationship. Then take some time to write down your thoughts about this conversation. How did it feel? What did you hope for? What might come from this?
Day 6: Today, take some time to reflect and write about this experience. Allow yourself to feel that weight of guilt lift off of you, no matter how the conversation went. You might not have gotten the response you hoped for from the other person, but you can find rest and peace in the grace of God.