A prayer of confession & a word of assurance based on Luke 3 from Stephanie Templin Ashford.

When we were talking about confession, my husband joked: I did it in the library with the candlestick.

We both had a good laugh and while I wanted to brush off the notion that worship is like a game of clue, my mind couldn’t stop hearing the truth in these words.

Because when I spent some time in Luke 3 looking at today’s scripture passage I heard those familiar words of John the Baptist who calls to the people “prepare a way in the wilderness!” as he quotes from the Book of Isaiah:

Every valley shall be filled in
Every mountain and hill made low
Crooked roads will be made straight
And the rough places will be made smooth

And I found myself standing with one theater spotlight on my heart and I was saying, I confess..  I did it.

Will you enter a time of confession with me?

Powerful, powerful, powerful God… hear our confessions. It can be a difficult thing to come before you and admit the moments in our lives that do not live out your gospel vision.  It can be embarrassing to shine light into those dark corners because there, all that we have been hiding is suddenly in plain view. 

It is sometimes too challenging to completely tear out the playbook page that says “this is how I think things should be,” and replace it with the pages of truth that you have provided for us.

You know what really happened.  You saw where I was. You heard what I said. You know the weapons I used. 

I was in the restaurant with the women and I let my eyes fall to judgment of another person’s clothes, another person’s shoes, another person’s body…. instead of finding beauty, I found comparison and distance. I was in the kitchen with dishes allowing my heart to fill with bitterness, wallowing that I was alone in the chores, instead of asking for help or finding gratitude in a warm home with a table to set.  

I was on the couch with my phone, more eager to spend time on Facebook instead of engaging in the beautiful play of the children in front of me.  

But most of all, greatest of all, deepest of all, I was at the dining room table, reading the bible, focused on the quote from Isaiah and doubting. I was reading the Bible and doubting.

Powerful, powerful, powerful God, 

When you say that the valleys will be filled, I see people in the valley, drowning in sadness and pain and instead of believing you will fill the gaping holes, I find myself in disbelief that those hollow places can ever be full.

When you say that mountains will be made low, I stare at the towers of wealth, the height  of greed and I am filled with anger that you haven’t brought down the empire to its knees.

When you say that the crooked roads will be made straight, I stand at the fork in the road and I don’t really believe that you can make a clear path through this mess.

And those rough places…  you say you will make them smooth. But the seas are so rough that many are sick.  The splinters that are piercing so many… how can it be made smooth enough so everyone is safe?

In fact, I’d like to be able to say that I stand against it all, but mostly I sit, watching all of the ways that I feel you haven’t made these promises come true and I confess that I have done too little to be part of your prophetic plan.  I confess that I have been in the supermarket, in the school yard, on the street corner and I have passively shrugged off your call for justice with the safe statements that you’ve got it all in your control, which really translates to: ”I can now rationalize why I don’t have to change anything in my life.” 

Help  me, O God.  Help us, O God. Help us to see and hear the call to prepare a way in the wilderness with new ears.  Because, I confess right now I’m doing a better job preparing for a large meal and a football game than I am preparing for your kingdom to come on earth.  

And so.. this week, this day, raze the empire of my heart. Bring it to the earth and cut the height of my indignant pride to its knees and help me to confess again and again in the moment… help  me to name where I am, claim what I’ve done (or left undone) and to repent… so that you can make a new place in me and in us.    Amen!

Assurance of Pardon                                                                                                                   John the Baptist says all of this…names all of these challenges, all of these mandates and he says it is all for the forgiveness of sins.  All so that the people will see God’s salvation.  Even in our doubt and our shortcomings, God’s promises are true. God’s grace and forgiveness are for each one of you, redemption and new life push through the darkness and bring a new day of peace and of freedom for us and for humanity.  Praise God!