Photo Credit: Copyright by Soichi Watanabe and OMSC
Our Annual Fall Meeting this year was centered around the theme of courageous conversations, specifically conversations about race and class division–the church’s part in perpetuating these divisions, and what our churches might be able to do to participate in the Spirit’s work of reconciliation, both in our own pews and in our society.
It’s not always easy to see your part in perpetuating division, but, praise be to God, his Spirit and his Word convict us, leading us toward the grace of God that is ours in Christ. As a part of the meeting, we read these passages and prayed a prayer of confession in response to them. We publish them here to encourage confession among our readers and further conversation on these issues.
“Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.” – Isaiah 58:6-10, ESV, Crossway
“And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’ And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” – Luke 4:17-21, ESV, Crossway
Father, In the light of these two passages of Scripture, we confess three things: First, that when we fast for you, we give up things we can afford to lose, fighting injustice so long as we can do so without tasting injustice ourselves, and we set the oppressed free so long as their freedom doesn’t cost us our advantage.
Secondly, that we have seen the poor and the destitute person without providing for him, out of fear of becoming poor ourselves; but you gave up the wealth of heaven for poverty among us.
Third, far from proclaiming good news to the poor and freedom for the oppressed, we’re annoyed by the need of the poor and offended by the indignation of the oppressed. Our hearts are often drained of that which you fulfilled in our presence.
Of these things we repent. Have mercy on us, God, according to your unfailing love.
“Above all,” Peter writes, “love one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.” We who are in the church have experienced the truth of these words, as the love of God among us has provided a means of forgiveness and reconciliation.
When we look to the cross, we see the perfection of this truth in Jesus Christ, whose love covers the sins of all who turn to him in repentance, and we sing along with many who’ve come before us, “My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought! My sin—not in part, but the whole—is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more. Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul.”