1 John 1:5-10
Dear friends in Christ, grace and peace. Amen
Being a Christian is a strange thing. No I mean it, I’m not joking; being a Christian is a strange thing.
Take today’s topic as part of our sermon series on the elements of worship; confession and forgiveness. On Sunday mornings, right at the beginning of the worship service, the whole gathered community stands up and with one collective voice, basically says that we are not in control of our own lives, that there is something wrong with us.
I can think of only one other type of organization that does this sort of thing; 12 step groups like alcoholics anonymous. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable. This is step one on the road to sobriety and living again, to admit the truth of being powerless over something.
In the Christian community we speak these words to God.
We confess that we are captive to sin and cannot free ourselves.
We confess that we have sinned against God in thought, word and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone.
We confess that we have not loved God with our whole heart.
We confess that we have not loved our neighbors as our self.
And we do this because somehow we know it is important and it makes a difference in our lives, spiritually and practically.
Part of what I am wondering about this morning is do we pause and listen to what we are really saving with these words; to what we are saying about ourselves and our human condition?
It is a strange practice isn’t it?
We are admitting to ourselves that there is a fractured relationship with God in each one of us, a condition if you will, that creates in our lives a brokenness that we cannot restore on our own.
It is a blindness of the heart that no matter what we do or what we try to do on our own, cannot bring us into the light.
This condition to which we are captive is called sin, described beautifully by Martin Luther as being curved in on yourself. Luther was so right and this is not an easy nor a pleasant thing to admit too.
But it is an important thing to do. You could say this is step one on the road to spiritual health and life-giving faith.
To admit that something is not right in us is difficult. To say I am a sinner doesn’t come naturally because we don’t want the world or God to see us as we really are. We work really hard to keep that part of our lives in darkness, where no one can see it.
This is what the writer of 1 John is talking about in today’s reading.
That God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; 7 but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
Confession is taking the risk of walking in the light.
Confession is acknowledging the power of the cross of Jesus Christ in our lives.
Confession matters more to us that to God because it keeps us in the light. God’s forgiveness has been accomplished once and for all in the cross of Jesus.
Remember, the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin.
Remember the words of Jesus on the cross as he dies; it is finished.
The act of confession is one of God’s necessary gifts to you and me that brings us closer to God and restores our souls because it opens our hearts to the power of God’s forgiveness and love in our lives.
To confess our sin or sins is a recognition of the fact that God is in control of our lives and God is the one who sets us free for our captivity to sin, from the burden of ourselves, from the darkness we are walking in each day.
Take a moment right now and recall a time or experience when your words or actions caused a fracture in an important relationship in your life.
It could be a relationship with a spouse, or a child or a parent or a friend. Think of one right now.
In order for that relationship to be restored, healed, made whole again, you the offending party needed to confess, to own up to what you had said or done in order for the person who was hurt by you to forgive you and move forward.
Can you remember what it was like to confess what you had done?
Was it difficult to do or was it easy?
Did the offended party hear your words of confession and give you absolution?
Did you feel a sense of freedom after it was done, like a burden had been lifted from your heart and soul and you could breathe again and there was life once again in the relationship?
Confession is a spiritual practice that works in very powerful ways and it is something God gives to us in our spiritual tool kit.
It not only works in our human relationships but it is the same in our relationship with God.
God wants what is best for us. God’s desire is to be in relationship with us and the Jesus event, God’s son coming into our world is the clearest and surest sign of what God wants for us, a restored and life-giving relationship that allows us to be the people God needs us to be in this world.
But if we are burdened down by our sin, if we are shackled by the brokenness in our lives, it is very difficult for us to be the people God needs for us to be in this world.
That is why it is confession and forgiveness. These two things are linked for a reason.
Confession is for our benefit not God’s. Forgiveness is for our benefit, not God’s.
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
If we confess our sins.
In a real sense this is where our faith is tested. Are we willing to trust God’s promise here?
Are we willing to risk exposure to the light by confessing, by naming the brokenness of our lives, by being very specific about where we have failed and what we have done to harm or hurt others?
If we are unwilling to do this, to confess our sins, then we are walking in darkness and we are living a lie.
But if your heart yearns for wholeness, healing and a restored relationship with God and others, then don’t be afraid to confess your sin. Don’t be afraid to use this spiritual tool that God has given you.
And as you confess your sin, you will experience the power of God’s forgiveness in Jesus and you will know that walking in the light of this promise and love is a whole lot easier than stumbling around in the darkness.
Thanks be to God. Amen