At some point in your gathering spend a moment taking communion together, whether as a full meal together or some version of the bread and the cup. If you don’t have a plan already, you can have someone read the following passage we’ve provided below and spend a moment in silence before continuing:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.
Yours is the Kingdom and the power
and the glory forever. Amen
Confession is good for the soul, but it can be very hard to do. It is also a terrifying gift, which should sound like a contradiction because it is. We live in a world that is invested in looking like good, moral people. After all, appearing good is one way of dealing with the notion that something is wrong with us. We can put a great deal of energy into maintaining that image, but this very appearance of goodness can be a way we defend ourselves against our sin. When we can’t see our sin we have nothing to confess. The truth is that we all sin, and when shame, guilt, or fear consume our minds, we tend to hide. We’ve somehow universally agreed to sort out our issues in private and keep up appearances in public, which is a tragic mis-step because hiding is an agonizing lie.
So, what’s the only alternative to hiding? It’s the refusal to hide, the terrifying insistence on exposing ourselves to God. That’s the only way to open ourselves up to unconditional love. The curse of sin doesn’t have to define us, even when we make the most massive mess. It’s in that moment of realizing what we’ve done, that we get to run to the Father. The gift from our Creator is that grace, not sin, defines us. And that’s the power of confession. God takes our worst moments and turns them into our triumphs.
In the practice of confession, we excavate down into the layers of our life, uncovering beyond what is obvious on the surface and deeper into the story of our own history.
The reward of believing in grace and practicing confession is that the parts of our stories we most want to edit or erase all together become the very parts of our stories we’d never take back and never stop telling. That’s the kind of author God is: Not an editor, but a Redeemer. He only works with rough drafts, but he only writes redemption stories.
- What has your experience or practice with confession looked like? Where has it been difficult or not used well? Where have you seen it bring joy, compassion, or even greater self-awareness?
- What would help create a safe space or person when it comes to confession? What would take away from a space or person being safe when you think about confessing.
- At the heart of God is the desire to give and to forgive. What might God want to give you through the practice of confession? What would you want to receive? (e.g. greater intimacy with God, greater compassion for others, greater knowledge of self, etc.)
Practice for Tonight
Remember that a healthy person is not a person with no sin, it’s a person with no secrets. As you spend time discussing tonight, use the following four layers of sin (used by the early church) as a framework to guide your process.
- Blatant – These are sins universally recognized within both secular culture and the Kingdom of God. (e.g. acting on feelings of rage, lust, greed, etc.)
- Deliberate — These are sins (usually outward, behavioral sins) recognized in the Kingdom of God, but not within the broader, secular culture. (e.g. sexual expression outside of marriage, overindulgence of food or alcohol, marijuana use, etc.)
- Unconscious — The sins are deeper thought patterns that lead or give birth to expressed sin. (e.g. prioritization of productivity over people, codependency, being defined by success, etc.)
- Inner Orientations — This category reminds us that sin reveals who or what we really trust. Searching here reveals the motivations behind our actions. (e.g. security, power, control, affection, pleasure, approval, etc.)
Split up into same gender triads. Use the next chunk of time to split into smaller groups and confess to one another the ways that you have failed to love God and others. This could be something you shared on Sunday when you came down for response time or something else. As a way of honoring one another’s privacy and comfort level, you may want to simply share one word or phrase that sums up what you’re wanting to confess (e.g. lust, jealousy, gossip, resentment, rage, over-indulgence, pride, etc.).
Keep in mind that this is not the time to provide counsel, advice, or share a connected personal story. Simply hear the confession, anything else they want to share about it, and then bless them in their honesty before God and others by praying a simple prayer over and with them. Your triad gets to host a space to offer grace, while God is the one who extends forgiveness.
Also, keep in mind that nothing that gets shared in your Triad should be shared outside of it. What is being shared is vulnerable and sacred, so please respect the trust being given by not sharing it with anyone else (even spouses or others in the Community). If something that is shared involves a threat of harm to self or other people, it is appropriate to privately share that concern with a Community or pastor.
Practice for the Week Ahead
- Set aside some time for confession and self-examination. In the presence of God ask for light to pierce your defenses. Then consider asking, Who have I injured or sinned against through thoughtlessness, neglect, anger, or so on? As the Holy Spirit brings people to mind, confess your feelings to God. Ask God to forgive you and if need be to give you grace to forgive them. Write an apology, make a phone call or confess out loud, and ask God for help and wisdom to move forward.
- Read through Psalm 139 or Psalm 51 or James 5. Be still before God and ask Him to breathe new life into you as you confess your need and dependence on him. Take some time to pray that God would help you desire honesty, which leads to confession, which leads to change.
Close in Prayer
Before you end your time together, pray, asking the Spirit of God to fill and empower you to pray as you can. Take some time to pray for other prayer requests as they come up.