Yesterday afternoon, I took a seat on the Metro to Newcastle, opposite a very young, very recently-together lesbian couple. In their wide-ranging animated conversation, they rehearsed a lengthy litany of (the failings of) each other’s various ex-lovers.
I felt for them—and glad that I am no longer so young. I remember being their age, having girlfriends; I remember the ways in which they wounded me, and I wounded them; the times I needed to forgive, and be forgiven...
And I thought about how wise a gift general Confession is—and how few people of their age, regardless of gender or sexuality, have access to it.
When we gather as the local church, we begin in Confession, speaking both for ourselves and on behalf of our wider community, the society in which we live, and in recognition of the human condition. The tried-and-tested words we use include several variations of recognition that “we have sinned against you [God] and against our neighbour in thought and word and deed, through negligence, through weakness, through our own deliberate fault,” asking—with confidence in God—for mercy, forgiveness, and enabling to live a restored or renewed life.
Those words speak so pertinently to our common experience of betrayals, for a complexity of reasons, some of which we can understand and accept (which is not to excuse) more easily than others. But the words are unsparingly honest that we are as guilty of breakdown of relationship as everyone else (which is not to judge equal responsibility in every breakdown) through negligence, weakness, or deliberate fault. And yet, recognising that we all share the same burden, Confession and Absolution is generous in liberation, in transformation and in empowerment, flowing from God’s reputation as a merciful parent.
We got off the train at the same stop. They walked a little ahead of me in the crowd, but near enough for me to over-hear them turn to a new topic of conversation: a litany of vicars and vicar’s children who had judged them for their sexuality.
By viewing them as sinful-and-beyond-forgiveness, by virtue of their sexuality; as opposed to sinners-to-whom-forgiveness-is-held-out, by virtue of their humanity; people they are right to identify with me have cut them off from the very thing that can heal the wounds left so open and raw...
That can only bring me to Confession.
Most merciful God,
Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
we confess that we have sinned
in thought, word and deed.
We have not loved you with our whole heart.
We have not loved our neighbours as ourselves.
In your mercy
forgive what we have been,
help us to amend what we are,
and direct what we shall be;
that we may do justly,
and walk humbly with you, our God.
May the God of love and power
forgive you and free you from your sins,
heal and strengthen you by his Spirit,
and raise you to new life in Christ our Lord.
Almighty God, our heavenly Father,
we have sinned against you
and against our neighbour
in thought and word and deed,
through negligence, through weakness,
through our own deliberate fault.
We are truly sorry
and repent of all our sins.
For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,
who died for us,
forgive us all that is past
and grant that we may serve you in newness of life
to the glory of your name.
who forgives all who truly repent,
have mercy upon you,
pardon and deliver you from all your sins,
confirm and strengthen you in all goodness,
and keep you in life eternal;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
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