February 08, 2018
Ash Wednesday Confession | 8:15am, 1:15pm, 5pm | upstairs in St. Gregory
Every year on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, the Church takes a moment to pause and offer a radical opportunity to her people: the chance to confess personal sin to another person. The timing of this opportunity is no coincidence, as Ash Wednesday begins the penitential journey of Lent and Good Friday ends it. However, it can be hard to understand the value of verbally confessing something you're ashamed of to another person, especially since we're given the opportunity every week to confess directly to the Lord through our Sunday liturgy.
The answer lies in the understanding of confession as a sacramental act. Like the sacraments of baptism and Eucharist, confession is meant to take us straight to the cross, where God's justice and mercy become one in the death of Jesus. When we stop and confess our sin, we give proper weight to the grievous hold it has on our hearts, minds, and bodies, and admit ourselves guilty in nailing Jesus to the cross. But immediately after that acknowledgment comes the assurance of forgiveness as we hear Jesus say, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34). After we confess our sins, we stand free in the gift of the Resurrection: freedom from being slaves to sin and healing joy in living life with Jesus.
You may note that there is nothing new or surprising in this process for a believer. This is, in fact, the fundamental arc of faith: the realization of our sinfulness and desperate need for Jesus, and the receiving of his forgiveness through the cross. What is unique to confession, however, is the embodied act of confessing sin to another person.
When we stop and verbalize the sins that act as stumbling blocks in our walk with the Lord, we break one of Satan's chief weapons against us: isolation. Satan knows that we are the most vulnerable when we are alone with ourselves, stuck in sinful patterns and too embarrassed to admit them to anyone else. He whispers in our hearts that if anyone else knew the awful things we do or think or feel, they would reject us. Sometimes he even convinces us that Jesus will reject us if we admit the extend of our guilt to Him.
When you break that isolation and speak out loud the sins that weigh you down to someone else, healing flows in. The pastors who hear your confession are not there to judge and condemn, but rather to proclaim Christ's forgiveness in an embodied way. This embodied, concrete experience of repentance and forgiveness ministers more deeply the blessed assurance of the Gospel: that your sins truly are forgiven by the power of the cross, and that you can walk in the dignity of being a beloved son or daughter of Christ.
This is why the Church offers confessions on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. It is an opportunity to expose the sin that so easily entangles us within the community of the body of Christ, all the better to receive the fullness of our freedom in Christ on Easter Sunday.
Go to this webpage for more details about making confession on Ash Wednesday.
April 06, 2017
Good Friday is a solemn remembrance of Jesus' sacrifice of his own life so that we might find forgiveness and reconciliation with God. This is not a somber recapitulation of Jesus' death, but rather a thankful and reverently joyful recollection of his death that gave us life. This day and the next—Holy Saturday—are the only two days of the church calendar when there is no Eucharistic celebration. Traditionally, this service can be held at three o'clock in the afternoon or later to mark the hour of Jesus' death according to the Gospels.
It is believed that the liturgy for this service is derived from the earliest days of Christianity. The service begins in silence and with prayer. The clergy process into the room silently, dressed in black. In some traditions, they prostrate themselves before the cross at this point. Our readings for the day are from Isaiah's Suffering Servant poem (Isa. 52:13–53:12) and from the sermon to the Hebrews in which the author explains Jesus' role as our great High Priest and Mediator (Heb. 10:1-25). At this time, we return to the same Gospel reading that we read on Palm Sunday—the Passion (John 18:1–19:37). This service also includes the praying of the Solemn Collects in which we intercede for the church, our nation, and the world. Our Communion for this service consists of wafers that have already been blessed during the previous night's Maundy Thursday Eucharist. Good Friday is not a Eucharist service because we are remembering that Christ's body was in the grave, and we are waiting for his resurrected body to bring us new life. Finally, we take time to venerate the cross. At Church of the Resurrection, we lay the cross down on the chancel stage, and all who are led take a few minutes to touch the cross and pray. It is a powerful time of connection to our sacrificial Savior.
In the pilgrimage of Holy Week, Good Friday brings us to a somber and contemplative halt. From the moment the silent procession enters the sanctuary until we all leave in silence, we are invited into a focused contemplation of Jesus' death on the cross. Each scripture reading, prayer, and song points us to one man's experience on an ancient instrument of torture. Why? Because we believe that the moment Jesus died on the cross was the moment the entire world was rescued from sin and death. That is why we spend so much time savoring the reality of the cross.
On Good Friday, we celebrate both the specific instant in history when Jesus redeemed us and the reality that it can meet us in our sinfulness today. We invite the Holy Spirit to give us the grace to acknowledge our personal sinfulness and and then to immediately find forgiveness available at the cross. It is a stunningly personal opportunity to ask the Lord to highlight the sins keeping us from drawing close to him and then to set those sins down on the wood of the cross.
Join us Friday, 3/30 to experience the forgiveness and healing found in our remembrance of Christ's death on the Cross. We have the following services on Good Friday:
Stations of the Cross, 12pm & 1:30pm
Good Friday Family Service, 3pm
Good Friday Evening Service, 7pm
This is Part 4 of our "Peek into Holy Week" series. In the days leading up to Holy Week, we're taking time to prepare our hearts and minds so that we will be ready to hear the voice of the Lord. Read the next post about the Great Vigil of Easter here.