Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Inauguration Speech as Prayer of Confession

It's hard for me to imagine now, but I very clearly remember a time when I resented the weekly Prayer of Confession. In my head, I thought:
You know what - I'm a good person and I'm doing the best that I can. All God asks of me is to do my best, and since I'm doing that, there's no reason for me to be reciting this guilt-laden prayer of confession. I've got nothing to confess; nothing to apologize for.
I like to think that 5 years later, maybe I'm a little wiser: My wife and I have shared challenges in our marriage. I've served 3 years as an elder. I have one daughter (who I was convinced wouldn't survive open-heart surgery as a 12 week old) who is registering for kindergarten tomorrow and another daughter who just turned two years old (and asked for fireworks at her birthday party!)

I think I've learned something about humility over the past few years. I've learned at least enough to realize that a prayer of confession isn't about disclosing to God all of the bad things that you've done. For me, it's about rededicating myself to doing what I think God is asking me to do, and to repent (re-think) the decisions I have made in anger or in haste.

Hearing the new President's inauguration speech made me think that we, as a nation, are also growing wiser as we move through the challenges and joys of life, and that we understand the value of the prayer of confession. I'll paraphrase with a few key quotes:
Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions — who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans.

...the time has come to set aside childish things...

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.
The me of several years ago would have said, I'm doing the best I can considering the circumstances. There's nothing to confess. It isn't my fault that the economy is cruddy and that we're at war. Why should I confess anything.

The me of today says that we all have cause to confess and to repent - because we have hope.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

good thoughts. Although I'm not always good at it, I try to balance the prayer of confession in our worship service so that it includes both confession and rededication.

And like you, I found not only the speech but much of the campaign to be refreshing in its language of humility. I hope it stays that way.