We have not loved you with our whole heart…

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 the liturgical confession: I often don’t 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).  Such 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. 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.  Hell, I was not particularly motivated to do much of anything other than to leave my house and get to a coffee shop so I could attend the full-fledged pity party I had planned, before moving 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 appear…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.

That We May Delight In Your Will…

Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed… 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.

To delight in something (or someone) is to take great pleasure and happiness from its mere existence; to be thrilled just knowing that it IS! It is that “delightful” state of discernment that someone precious to you is truly near, even if present “just” in thought or prayer; or that something dear to you is truly real, even if not fully understood.

To delight is to have the thought of that person or certain something be enough to bring you a quiet smile, if not make you downright giddy and gleeful. It is, I think, close to what Jesus had in mind when he talked of the Kingdom of God…a woman cleaning out her entire house to find — and finding! — a lost coin; a landowner who buys an entire field to find — and finding! — a great treasure hidden there.

The General Confession calls us not simply to do our Creator’s will, but to delight in it.

I wish I could do that — to “delight” in something as illusive and mysterious and amorphous as “Your Will.” But I confess that’s just hard for me. That’s especially true when I’m thinking that God is “willing” me down certain UNcertain paths that I just don’t want to go down. It’s a tough calling.

But there it is, right there in our exquisitely lovely liturgy, pretty much every Sunday.

Anne Lamott

         Anne Lamott

Writer Anne Lamott visited out parish recently. She meanders a good bit in both her writing and her lecturing, but there are precious gems for those willing to be surprised by Serendipity. One of her side comments passed me by at first, and then had me scrambling for something to write with, so I could capture this one (of her many) keen insights into our human condition: ‘THERE CAN BE MEANING WITHOUT THINGS MAKING SENSE.”

And maybe that’s the point of that sublime last sentence of our poignant prayer of General Confession. It is NOT mandatory that we know or understand or even do “Your Will” in order to delight in it. Just to simply trust that it (whatever It is) exists, and that It leads us and protects us and heals us and nudges us forward and most of all loves us beyond all our feeble faith to understand…

That, on my better days, is sheer delight.