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Sunday Reflections, May 22, 2016: Confession & Assurance

 

Jenna teaching

Last night marked the second week of our Living the Liturgy series a four-week exploration of the sacred rituals we practice each and every Sunday that shape our daily lives. Every Sunday at The Practice, and in churches all around the world and across history, Christians have worshipped God through a series of sacred rituals more commonly referred to as a liturgy – an order of worship that includes key elements such as the communal reading of scripture, a confession and assurance, the passing of the peace, communion, and a benediction.

In this series we want to pull back the curtain and look at why practicing these sacred rituals on Sundays is so formative for our daily lives. Last week, Curtis helped us understand the importance of why we read scripture passages out loud from the Bible each week– how in the hearing and in the sharing of God’s great story, we are shaped into God’s people who have a shared language and history. And last night, John Perrine led us into a deeper exploration of Confession & Assurance.

Our opening liturgy began with some of my favorite words that center my heart and prepare me for worship,

We come as those hungry…
hungry for God’s word.
We come as those thirsty…
thirsty for God’s spirit.
We come as those broken…
seeking the healing that God provides.
We come as those in need…
needing reminders of God’s love.
We come as those longing…
longing for God’s kingdom to come.

Our opening liturgy also included a double reading of Psalm 8, one version which was rewritten by Deirdre JVR, and a beautiful time of prayer for the world, written for our gathering by the brilliant Sam Ogles.

It was then my joy and privilege to welcome everyone to the evening and give everyone another installment of what we’ve decided to call “Brain Science with Jenna” – a brief insight each week into why liturgy works with our brains to shape us into Christ likeness. This week we looked at the Enactment Benefit – most simply summarized by Confucius in 500 BC:

I hear and I forget.
I see and I remember.
I do and I understand.

When we participate and learn by doing, or by assigning a gesture or posture to information, it is better encoded into our memory and easier to recall than information simply learned by listening or watching. I love how participatory our liturgies are, placing you in a position of doing that enacts the liturgy to help you learn deeper! (ok nerd moment over).

John then stepped forward to share his message on confession and assurance with the room.

You can listen to John’s message and the practice time from the evening through our Practice Podcast or here below:

Perhaps my favorite part of John’s message was his weaving of confession and assurance into the picture of the woman caught in adultery in John 8. Like the pharisees, are you a person that throws stones, disconnected from the weight of your own sin or like the woman caught, are you a person who has become buried under the stones of others, or stones you yourself have thrown?

Are you disconnected from the weight of your own sin in need of a deeper confession? Or are you disconnected from the depth of your forgiveness and in need of a deeper assurance?

As John drew attention to the fact that it was Jesus himself who alone could have thrown the only stone in that narrative – but who instead chose to say, “Neither do I condemn you, now go and sin no more” – it struck me that this is exactly what Christ says to each of us every day of every week. Against God and God alone have I sinned, and from God and God alone can we receive the forgiveness and righteousness that is his alone to give.

Our time of practice was a deepening experience of confession and assurance, to let everyone in the room connect both to the weight of their sin and repentance, and then be ushered into the deep beauty of assurance.

During confession, Sharon sang the incredible song “We confess” by Glenn Packiam. Everyone in the room was invited to cover their face and hold in a closed fist a stone they had received as they arrived, as a symbol of their confession of guilt. Each time we sang “have mercy” the room was instructed to squeeze the rock tighter, and each time we left space for confession, the room was instructed to lean into the discomfort of holding the rock outstretched, deepening the weight of repentance for us all.

For our assurance, as Sharon sang the beautiful words of Christ, “As far as the East is from the West…” from Glenn’s song, we invited each person in the room who wanted to participate to come forward to a server, their stone held in an outstretched hand, and their other hand covering their face, a posture of repentance. Then, each server gently took the stone from their outstretched hand, gently guided the hand covering their face down so that both hands were now open and outstretched, and finally they placed a hand on their head and reminded them, “In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven.”

I reminded everyone that our servers had no special ability to forgive sins, rather they were just here as representatives of the church to remind and symbolize to each of us what is already true – we are forgiven. It was a privilege to say this blessing over people as they came forward, and as I took stones from people, moved their hands away from their faces and prayed the blessing, I saw many tears – both of sorrow and then joy. It was profound and beautiful.

We ended our time together as we always do, with communion – the sign and symbol of God’s great love for us. It was a night of deep repentance and assurance of God’s love and forgiveness.

Our Kingdom Practices this week are simple:

  1. Keep your liturgy from Sunday and use the words of confession and assurance, to make space in your week to lean into what you know you need most. Perhaps you are in need of a deeper confession, you’ve become complacent and disconnected from your need of Christ – or perhaps you are in need of a deeper assurance, you’ve wallowed in shame long enough and need to be reminded you are forgiven.
  2. We recommend you listen to Glenn’s song – ‘We confess.’ It is a beautiful song that transports you into a sacred place of confession and assurance no matter where you are.
  3. Next week, we are not meeting in the chapel – but we have provided a Memorial Day Weekend Picnic Liturgy you can use at your weekend picnics and BBQs, find out more and print the liturgy HERE.

Thank you for being on the journey with us friends, we’ll see you back in the Chapel on June 5 with Jonathan Martin and Nichole Nordeman to talk about Eucharist,

Grace and Peace,

Jenna & The Practice Team

 

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