Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Eschew Evil and Do Good

i love to go to church on sundays.  i love the organ voluntaries (even when i'm the one playing them).  i love the hymns.  i love the scripture lessons.  i love the sung and spoken responses.  i love the sermon.  i love saying the creed, the call to worship, and lord's prayer in unison with the congregation.  i love the choir's anthem during the offertory.  i love the pastoral prayer.

one thing i don't love is the prayer of confession.  in our tradition, this prayer contrasts our human failings with the goodness of God, and i don't deny that this is a valid comparison.  what bothers me about this prayer is that there is never any recognition of human goodness.  if we are created in God's image, the goodness of God is a part of who we are, and we ought to recognize that in the confession also.  God is in us, and our failure to recognize and cultivate the presence of God in us is the cause of the bad that is also in us.

this God-in-us ought to be recognized along with our shortcomings, and, instead of a consistently negative view of human nature, we should also be confessing the good that we do and giving thanks to God for being present with us as we perform acts of kindness and mercy that are also part of our nature.  the prayer of confession as it is used in the  tradition of my branch of christianity teaches that each person's life is always full of sin, always failing God and others, never growing or changing; it implies that there is no transformative process in living as a christian or as a compassionate human being.  i can no longer accept that view.  the more we recognize the goodness inherent in us, the less we allow evil to control us--we grow and are transformed.  we're never perfect, but we aren't "totally depraved" either.

may we forgive ourselves and others for the wrong we do.  may we not allow guilt over our shortcomings to cause us to forget the goodness that is also a part of us.  may we cultivate that goodness, embracing the lovingkindness and compassion that are a part of who we are.  may we encourage ourselves and others to do good and turn from evil.  shalom.

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