Tag Archives: confession

Ash Wednesday – An honest Appraisal

Reblogging this from last year – a moment to pause and reflect

Ash Wednesday is a time for reflection, for confession, for honesty before God.  It is an opportunity also to seek God’s forgiveness – and receive it, deep into our heart and mind; to know that those things that trouble us, and those we are barely aware of but effect us deeply, can be dealt with by God; and to receive his peace.

Ashes are a way to show sorrow, a physical sign of an inner reality.

2014-02-27 12.12.10

Ashes mark penitence and mourning, an acknowledgement of and sorrow at our wrongdoing.

Daniel 9:2-4 (CEV)
Daniel Prays for the People

1-2 Daniel wrote:

Some years later, Darius the Mede, who was the son of Xerxes, had become king of Babylonia. And during his first year as king, I found out from studying the writings of the prophets that the Lord had said to Jeremiah, “Jerusalem will lie in ruins for seventy years.” 3-4 Then, to show my sorrow, I went without eating and dressed in sackcloth and sat in ashes. I confessed my sins and earnestly prayed to the Lord my God:

Our Lord, you are a great and fearsome God, and you faithfully keep your agreement with those who love and obey you.

We go through life.  We think we’re doing ok – not a bad job all things considered.  Or we don’t even have time to stop and think about it.  We are busy just surviving, getting to the next thing, trying to hold everything together.

But sometimes we are pulled up short.  We realise we have got something badly wrong, or just a little bit wrong, and we have to stop and think.  We need to apologise, put right what we have got wrong and receive forgiveness.  Often the hardest person to forgive is ourselves.

Ash Wednesday is a specific opportunity to do that thinking.  To take the time to purposely reflect before God on the reality that is our life.

Burning,
cleansing God,
I come before you today;
I want to take this time
to remember,
to honestly recall,
to examine my life
in your presence;
to ask my self
if I live up to all you ask of me,
day by day,
heartbeat by heartbeat,
in every corner of my life.

We know the Ten Commandments:

The Ten Commandments

20 God said to the people of Israel:

I am the Lord your God, the one who brought you out of Egypt where you were slaves.

Do not worship any god except me.

Do not make idols that look like anything in the sky or on earth or in the ocean under the earth. Don’t bow down and worship idols. I am the Lord your God, and I demand all your love. If you reject me, I will punish your families for three or four generations.But if you love me and obey my laws, I will be kind to your families for thousands of generations.

Do not misuse my name. I am the Lord your God, and I will punish anyone who misuses my name.

Remember that the Sabbath Day belongs to me. You have six days when you can do your work, 10 but the seventh day of each week belongs to me, your God. No one is to work on that day—not you, your children, your slaves, your animals, or the foreigners who live in your towns. 11 In six days I made the sky, the earth, the oceans, and everything in them, but on the seventh day I rested. That’s why I made the Sabbath a special day that belongs to me.

12 Respect your father and your mother, and you will live a long time in the land I am giving you.

13 Do not murder.

14 Be faithful in marriage.

15 Do not steal.

16 Do not tell lies about others.

17 Do not want anything that belongs to someone else. Don’t want anyone’s house, wife or husband, slaves, oxen, donkeys or anything else.

Read them slowly, thinking not just about the letter of them, but the spirit too.

Talk honestly to God about where you are with them and with him.  How have I lived out what God wants me to do?  How have I shown love, his love and mine, to those around me?  Not just the lovely people, but those that annoy me too?

I worship God, but are there other gods in my life?  Things I do rather than spend time with God or do what he requires of me?  Are there things I put in God’s place?

Am I free and easy with God’s name?  Do I do or say things that make me sound like I am closer to God than I am; or when I use his name to validate what I say, when it is actually my opinion that I have to say?

Do I make space, real space, for God, for myself and for those I love?  Or am I busy cramming my life with things that don’t really matter?

Do I truly respect those that I should?  Those who have experience and wisdom that I don’t?  Those who have sacrificed much for me and cared for me?

Of course I’ve never murdered anyone, but have I done and said things that have made people die on the inside?  Have I wished ill of people?

Am I faithful?  Do I always give the honour that is due?  Am I focussed, or do other things distract me?

I may not commit robbery, but do I look for short-cuts, loopholes or the cheapest rather than the best way?  Do I take others time, take them and all they offer for granted?  Am I looking for an easy ride through life, or willing to give as much as I get?

Am I honest in character?  Do I stretch the truth when it suits me?  Avoid the question?

Am I easily jealous, wanting what others have?  Thinking it will answer my problems?

There is so much I do that I shouldn’t do, and don’t do that I should…

Lord,
I come before you in shame,
in penitence,
to say that I am truly sorry.
My life is not what you would have it be,
I have not lived as the person you called me to be,
I have got some things very wrong
As I think of the ashes,
the dirt and the dust,
I see the darkness in my life;
I rub my hands in it
and see and feel the stain
Forgive me,
I pray.
Thank you
that you promise forgiveness
and give it freely.
This day may I go,
marked by you,
forgiven,
restored
and free
in and through
your love

A Prayer For Forgiveness

By Trautner-kunst (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Psalm 51:1-10

(For the music leader. A psalm by David when the prophet Nathan came to him after David had been with Bathsheba.)

A Prayer for Forgiveness

51 You are kind, God!
    Please have pity on me.
    You are always merciful!
    Please wipe away my sins.
Wash me clean from all
    of my sin and guilt.
I know about my sins,
    and I cannot forget
    my terrible guilt.
You are really the one
    I have sinned against;
    I have disobeyed you
    and have done wrong.
So it is right and fair for you
    to correct and punish me.

I have sinned and done wrong
    since the day I was born.
But you want complete honesty,
    so teach me true wisdom.
Wash me with hyssop
    until I am clean
    and whiter than snow.
Let me be happy and joyful!
    You crushed my bones,
    now let them celebrate.
Turn your eyes from my sin
    and cover my guilt.
10 Create pure thoughts in me
    and make me faithful again.

Forgiving By scem.info [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0) or CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

This is an amazing prayer of awareness of all that is wrong in a life, and a crying out to God to be washed free.  What an awesome prayer to pray for each one of us.  Perhaps today, we can pray it slowly and take the time to reflect on our lives – that God may wash us clean and make us faithful again.

Making Trouble

There are many ways of causing trouble, but ultimately they all lead to one thing – upset and hurt.

Paul is writing to the Galatians.  No sooner had they heard about Jesus and begun to follow him, than arguments were breaking out about what was and wasn’t a necessary part of the Christian life and faith.

Galatians 1:1-12

1-2 From the apostle Paul and from all the Lord’s followers with me.

I was chosen to be an apostle by Jesus Christ and by God the Father, who raised him from death. No mere human chose or appointed me to this work.

To the churches in Galatia.

I pray that God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ will be kind to you and will bless you with peace! Christ obeyed God our Father and gave himself as a sacrifice for our sins to rescue us from this evil world. God will be given glory forever and ever. Amen.

The Only True Message

I am shocked that you have so quickly turned from God, who chose you because of his wonderful kindness.You have believed another message, when there is really only one true message. But some people are causing you trouble and want to make you turn away from the good news about Christ. I pray that God will punish anyone who preaches anything different from our message to you! It doesn’t matter if that person is one of us or an angel from heaven. I have said it before, and I will say it again. I hope God will punish anyone who preaches anything different from what you have already believed.

10 I am not trying to please people. I want to please God. Do you think I am trying to please people? If I were doing that, I would not be a servant of Christ.

How Paul Became an Apostle

11 My friends, I want you to know that no one made up the message I preach. 12 It wasn’t given or taught to me by some mere human. My message came directly from Jesus Christ when he appeared to me.

Some were causing trouble.  Insisting there were “add-ons” to the gospel they had heard and received, altering what they thought they knew, trying to take them to a different place.

Now there is nothing wrong with healthy debate about what faith means and how it is lived out.  That is often how we learn and grow.  The problem comes when people start insisting on certain things, that are not core gospel principles, trying to force others to see and follow their point of view.  Of course there will always be matters of opinion on what constitutes the core gospel principles, but when Jesus was asked what was most important part of living God’s way, his reply was

36 “Teacher, what is the most important commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus answered:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. 38 This is the first and most important commandment. 39 The second most important commandment is like this one. And it is, “Love others as much as you love yourself.” 40 All the Law of Moses and the Books of the Prophets are based on these two commandments. (Matthew 22:36-40)

Surely the basis of loving others is not causing trouble for them.  There is right and proper challenge, but there is also love and nurture.  And some things are more important than what I think.

In Romans, Paul says something very important,

The weak and the strong

14 Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarrelling over disputable matters (Romans 14)

i.e., don’t cause trouble for others in their faith.

And so, I have to ask myself, are there things that I do or say that cause trouble for others?  Ways I behave?  Bold pronouncements that  make?  Judgements that are harsh, unfair or ill-informed?  Do I say things that would better be left unsaid?  Or not say things that I should?

Forgive me Lord
the times that I have said and done
stupid things,
harmful things,
words and deeds
that have hurt
and caused others to struggle
or even turned them away from you.

May I always remember love
– your love
to me
and to everyone.
may my actions
point people to you,
not turn them from you