I am part of a faith tradition (the Reformed Church in America) that embraces liturgy. Although we officially encourage freedom within that liturgical framework, we also believe that worship should take a certain form. That form includes a time of “Confession and Assurance.” In a typical worship order, you might find this series of elements:
It’s a wonderful rhythm in that it reminds us of our need for grace and how God has already granted that grace. In short, it is a way of reminding ourselves, each and every week, of the Gospel.
And it is for this reason that the next movement in our order of worship is usually the Passing of Christ’s Peace. Having experienced the Gospel all over again, we have Christ’s Peace within us and our call is to spread that peace … thus, the Passing of the Christ’s Peace.
I am also part of a community of people who believe we need a reformation in the disciple-making culture of our churches. In this Faithwalking community, we take our sin and God’s grace very seriously. In fact, we have come to see really clearly that our sin not only disrupts our relationship with God, but perhaps even more importantly, it creates a mess between us and another person (or people). That being the case, we have not appropriately dealt with our sin by merely confessing to God and receiving God’s forgiveness. We also need to ask forgiveness from another person and receive their grace. In the Faithwalking community, we call this “cleaning up a mess” and we believe there are four steps to cleaning up any mess:
- Acknowledging the breakdown (tell the truth about this sin)
- Becoming present to the impact of my actions on myself and others
- Seeking forgiveness for the offense by expressing regret and apologizing
- Re-promising (giving our word to God’s desire in the relationship/situation)
It’s amazing to watch what happens in our relationships (and in ourselves) when we follow this process. It is not only healing, but also transformative. At least, that is my experience. It requires all the courage I can muster to humble myself before others and ask their forgiveness. Somehow, it so much easier to humble myself before God. Perhaps because I know God will forgive me … perhaps because the interaction seems less real? Either way, cleaning up the mess with others changes me and changes us.
But, this blog post is not about that (some other time). It’s more about our orders of worship. This four-fold way of “cleaning up messes” makes me think our times of Confession and Assurance should also have four movements:
Call to Confession
Prayer of Confession
Words of Assurance
Call to Clean Up Messes
Now, I’m not sure it should be entitled “Call to Clean Up Messes” (doesn’t sound churchy enough), but hopefully you get the idea. If we have truly offended God, it is likely we have offended God by not loving our neighbor as ourselves. So, not only do we need to do some work with God, but we also need to do it with others. We can be assured of God’s grace and having been assured, we can head out with confidence to go clean up the mess with that other person.
Receiving a Word of Assurance from God does not completely resolve the issue. We may have Christ’s Peace, but not complete peace. To have true integrity as a follower of Jesus, I know I need to go out and reconcile with my brother or my sister. Not only do I need to be made whole, but I need to make those relationships whole. The confession is not complete until the relationship is restored.
It is for that reason that more and more often, our church will be adding a “Call to Clean Up Messes” to our order of worship. And when we have resolved to clean up our messes, we can more freely share Christ’s Peace.