In most Eucharist services, just before the exchange of “The Peace” there is “A Confession of Sin” said corporately by the assembled congregation. As often as not, these are the words spoken together:
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.
I have my own “confession of sin” about this liturgical confession. Most of the time I don’t really pay attention.
Most days I’m simply mouthing those words, trying to feel appropriately morose – which of course, given little things like redemption and absolution and salvation and forgiveness is not really the appropriate emotion. Regardless of all that, that was NOT the case during a recent small Eucharist service I sometimes attend on Tuesday evenings. The sentence “We have not loved you with our whole heart, we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves” had particular resonance. It froze me in the pew.
It immediately called to mind a mysterious and Godly gift I had received earlier this fall.
No need to go into the details of why I was suffering no end of angst on that particular Sunday morning. Suffice it to say that the nagging little negative voices that were mumbling messages of failures with career, family, church, health and a long cadre of other concerns were coming through loud and clear. My heart was anything but whole. To say I was feeling not the least bit motivated to go sit through another boring church service would have been the understatement of the year.
Truth be told, I was not particularly motivated to do much of anything that Sunday other than to leave my house and get to a coffee shop so I could attend the full-fledged pity party. After that, I would plow through a made-up list of Sunday errands.
It was not a blinding light or an audible voice that caused me to pause just before walking out the back door. But it WAS something. And I had this sense then, and still do, it was something external. And that Something, whatever It was, quite literally led me to turn around and close the door behind me. I felt myself walking with a steady and determined pace (unusually so, given my MS) back to my bedroom beside my bed, where I fell straight to my knees.
With my face buried into the mattress, one clear thought, one clear phrase, began in my head, repeating gently — but incessantly — in my inner ear. Over and over, I “heard” it “say” to me: “Love your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind….Love your neighbor as yourself.”
And slowly, but oh so surely, all my worries, all my wranglings, all my nervous angst and dark imaginings…began to seem…unnecessary.
“It’s not that complicated,” that ineffable voice seemed to utter.
“Love God. Love your neighbor. That’s it. That’s all you really need to worry about. God will take care of the rest. God WILL take care of the rest.”
With my my best lawyer cynicism, I fought back.
“But what about…?”
God will take care of it.
“But when will…?”
God will take care of it.
“How am I…?”
God is God. You are not. Let God be God. You be you. God, in God’s time, WILL take care of it.
Looking back at that holy moment, before I pushed on the mattress to rise up off of my knees, I remember taking in one long breathe, and realizing that it was the deepest I’d taken in a long time.