For the last couple of weeks, the lectionary has been leading us to consider questions of forgiveness, reconciliation, and now, this Sunday, fairness, with the parable of the laborers in the vineyard.
As I have been contemplating the tension between forgiveness, remorse, and grace, I revisited the words of the confession we usually say at each worship service, the one found on p. 360:
Most merciful God,
we confess that we have sinned against you
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart;
we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.
For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,
have mercy on us and forgive us;
that we may delight in your will,
and walk in your ways,
to the glory of your Name. Amen.
We say these words together at the majority of our liturgies. But when we are saying these words together, we may not slow ourselves down and consider what these phrases mean. But I want to commend taking this prayer of confession apart, and meditating on each phrase and what is said about God and about owning up to our sins and faults.
Then, try to flip this prayer over. Woven within these confessional phrases are also converse actions we can take in dedicating ourselves anew to walking in the Way of Jesus. In other words, the prayer of confession also implies a prayer of dedication and discipleship. What we confess leads us to know what we can do in service to Christ. Because sin is a sundering of relationship, the path to atonement calls us to try to repair and restore our relationship with God and each other.
God of Mercy, we seek ways to praise and worship You, our cup overflowing with gratitude.
May we seek to serve you and testify to You, in thought, word and deed, for as we claim your Name, Lord Christ, we are your face in the world. Let us embody your love and compassion, and renounce the poison of division and hatred of neighbor that surrounds us and poisons us.
Let what we have done overflow with the love of God, testifying, O Holy One, to your presence and light within us, making our hearts a worthy habitation for You, O Savior.
Let what we have left undone be only that which greets our neighbors’ pain with silence, denies injustice in the name of our own comfort, or denigrates the dignity and value of those with whom we disageee.
May we love You, O God That Heals, with our whole heart, transforming ourselves in the Name of Love. May we love our neighbors as much as we love our own selves, setting their good alongside ours, seeking their flourishing with joy– joy that You have called us to embody Christ’s compassion and healing for the building up of your kingdom come among us.
May we examine our hearts, own our wrongs, and seek conversion of spirit, casting aside the works of faithlessness, that we may be renewed in faithfulness and compassion, delighting in your will for the restoration of the dream You had for us from the foundation of time.
We rest upon your grace, O Merciful One, and know that all the good we do, we do by your support and aid, by being true to your image that dwells within us all.
We walk by faith and hope, led by the Spirit. Amen.
The Rev. Leslie Scoopmire is a writer, musician, and a priest in the Diocese of Missouri. She is priest-in-charge of St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Ellisville, MO. She posts daily prayers at her blog Abiding In Hope, and collects spiritual writings and images at Poems, Psalms, and Prayers.