Psalm 32 speaks to the goodness and graciousness of God, who forgives our wrongdoings, and covers our debts. A God who invites us to experience real joy and happiness that only Divine love can offer.
We don’t know who wrote this, or what he did. But at some point he realized that in holding on to the weight of his sin, his body wasted away. Yet, in his confession his wellbeing was restored.
I remember the day we learned I had cancer. As far as I was concerned the only option was to remove it. If I held on to it I would have first lost my voice, then my ability to swallow, and then eventually my life.
In the same way, holding onto something you’ve done can cause all sorts of problems, physically, mentally, and of course, spiritually. But there’s good news. God welcomes our confession and even uses it as a balm to heal the hurt we’ve done to others and ourselves.
Now, in the religious sense, confession can mean a couple of things. It can be speaking of ones beliefs - I am a Christian, I confess my faith in Christ. Or the more popular one that means admitting one's "sins," or misdeeds. Both are powerful in that they can give us a better understanding of ourself, of forgiveness, or both.
Confession also helps in our healing. As Phycologist Lloyd Thomas notes, “Confession serves as a gate to let ourselves out, and let in whatever we need.” God invites us to kick open that gate and let go of our past mistakes so we can receive from God what our heart desires the most.
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In this space between heaven and earth, you are given a choice. You can be one who is penitent. Or you can one who pretends.
Last night we went to a costume party for our brother-in-law’s 50th birthday. Kathleen went as the TV waitress Alice. I went as Mel, the surly cook and owner of the diner she worked in. It was fun being in character, playing someone else. In fact, it was nice to be crabby and cantankerous without somebody chastising me.
Once a year we get a free pass to pretend we’re something or someone we’re not. But come the next day, we have to remove the masks and return to reality. Is it really coincidental that Halloween is followed by All-Saints Day?
But lately it seems more and more people, including many Christians, are choosing to keep the disguise on. Do they think people won’t noticed?
Tomorrow night our neighborhood will be filled with kids in costumes. Some will pretend they are the real Batman, or Ariel, or some Jedi character. I’ll play along when they knock on the door, but even I know the real Batman isn’t a 4 year old.
Just as we can see through people’s disguises, God can see through ours. So why pretend? What’s the point of wearing your Sunday best if the cancer of hatred, resentment, and judgment continues to fester in you?
When confronted by those who had clothed themselves in religious piety, Jesus reminded them that it’s not what goes into one’s mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out their mouth. The stuff within them, that proceeds from the heart. (Mt. 15:10-20).
God looks at our heart. And no mask or costume will hide our truth. So what’s the point of dressing up like a Christian if you can’t act like Christ? God sees all. So let it go.
A swami on TikTok talked about a pheasant and a bull who are out in the field looking at a great tree. The pheasant confessed to the bull how she wished she could fly up to the top just once in her life. The bull told her if she ate a little bit of his dung every day, she’ll be able to reach the top in no time.
Wanting so badly to be up there, the pheasant took a little bite of the bull’s dung and flew to the first branch of the tree. The next day the pheasant took another little bite and went up another branch. And did this every day until she reached the top. When a farmer noticed the pheasant at the very top of that beautiful tree, he pulled out his shotgun and killed the bird.
The moral of the story is this: a bunch of bull crap might help you reach the top but it certainly won’t keep you there forever.
We can’t go through life pretending. Eventually we will be exposed. Like the psalmist realized, it’s better to go through life with a clean and penitent heart than it is to pretend or B.S. our way through it.
As Christians our goal is to be like Christ who was filled with the light and love of God. Jesus never tried to disguise or hide who was. So when the world saw him, they got a glimpse of God’s unfailing and always present glory.
Jesus’ ministry is ours to continue. It needs to be real and authentic. And it needs to be shared because there are still people who don’t know God’s love, people who are crying out for it but just can’t see it through the darkness of their pain and suffering. But here’s the thing: if we try to fake it, trust me, they’ll know we’re not real. What will that teach them about God’s glory?
In the gospels, Jesus sends his disciples out like sheep among wolves. He did not send them out to be wolves disguised as sheep.
As the Body of Christ, this church is not sent to pretend that life is good. We are sent to proclaim God’s love and grace to all people because life isn’t always good. We are sent to bring good news, so those who are hurting can be healed; so those who are hungry can be fed; so those who cry out for grace can find forgiveness and peace.
Like Thomas noted, if we are to be filled with all the goodness of God, we have to open the gates of our hearts and let out all the crap that’s taking up space and keeping us from receiving what God has to give. We have to empty ourselves, so that we can be filled with God’s incarnate glory until it spills out all over the world. The first step there is a penitent heart, one that comes clean before the Lord.
As you leave here today, entering that space between confession and healing, I hope that you’ll take a moment to remove whatever mask you have on, trusting that God’s unconditional love will not only welcome you as you are, but will give you what you need.
“Whether you begin your confession with "Hello, my name is Bill and I am an alcoholic" or "Father, forgive me for I have sinned," or "Hey honey, I need to talk to I about something horrible I've done" the benefits of confessing can be freeing, strengthening and releasing.” (Thomas) It can be the healing balm needed for both you and others.
Thus, we must make confessing a natural part of our worship and life, because it is what gives us real life - the kind of life that goes above and beyond the one we’re used to living.
The good news of this psalm is that it frees us to shed the masks we hide behind and allows us be who God made us to be. It invites us to let go the B.S. and fall gracefully into the heart of the Divine One, who makes our joy complete.
For “Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” Amen.
Thomas, Lloyd. The Benefits of Confessing. May 19, 2015 (accessed on October 28, 2022).
An ex-copywriter turned punk rock pastor and peacemaker who dedicates his life to making the world a better place for all humanity.
"that they all might be one" ~John 17:21
“Prius vita quam doctrina.”
~ St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)
* “Life is more important than doctrine.”