(The following post contains an invocation, exhortation, and prayer of confession delivered at a regular service at BBC)
Almighty God and Everlasting Father, Thou alone art God. Thou alone art the Eternal One. Thou art the Triune Majesty.
Thou art the God who keeps covenant for a thousand generations. Thou art the God who keeps covenant and mercy with Thy servants. Thou art the God that saves to the uttermost all that come unto Thee in penitent faith.
Thou hast stooped low and consented to be our God, and Thou hast kindly called us out of darkness that we might be Thy Children. Thou dost dwell in the midst of Thy people and Thy holy presence sets us apart from those who are outside the covenant of promise.
Thou art the Pillar of Fire and the Cloud of Glory. Go before us, as we seek to worship Thee, and come behind us and shut us in with Christ. We ask for Thy blessing until the last amen is given, and we glory in the fact that because Thou hast raised Thy Son from the dead, there will never be a last amen.
Unto Thee, O Lord God Almighty, we render all glory and praise, and ask that Thou wouldst be kind to us, and take what we offer up now through Jesus’ name. Receive it as cleansed through His blood and magnify Thyself with it.
We come, not because we are worthy, but because we are bidden. We come, not because we are good, but because of Thy grace. We come because the way has been opened to us. The gates of death are closed to us because the Prince of Life conquered the grave. The gates of life are held open by nail-pierced hands. Our entrance unto Thee has been purchased with the gold of His blood and the silver of His tears. So receive us now, for His sake, as we come bringing glory that does not belong to us.
In the strong name of Jesus we pray. Amen!
Bearing Offenses & Burying Offenses
Living in community as we do, and living in the kind of community in which we do, it is necessary that offenses will come. We will provoke them, or commit them, or endure them, and frequently we will do one of these thinking that we are doing another. We will provoke offenses while thinking that we are enduring offenses, for example.
God is very patient with us, and He therefore requires one thing of us — that we be patient with one another. He has discharged our debts and forgiven us our trespasses so He says that we are to learn the meaning of gracious reciprocity. We forgive because we are forgiven. We are taught to be kind, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ sake has forgiven us.
The right to hurt others in our own authority is therefore not a right at all. And on the other side of things, the right to have hurt feelings is therefore not one of our civil rights. Being offensive is sinful. Being offended is equally sinful (Ps. 119:165). One person needs to ask God for a tender heart, the other needs to pray for tougher hide. Neither is free from fault but both are in a perfect position to learn the art of forgiveness.
Some sins are large enough to require discipline—those must never be minimized. Some sins are small enough not to require discipline—those must never be maximized. Love confronts willful sin but covers accidental sins.
Some have lost the joy of their salvation and they know that the way to get it back is to confess sins. The problem is that they spend all of their time confessing their neighbor’s sins while covering their own. This is a complete reversal of the proper procedure. This isn’t an expression of saving grace; this is an exercise in saving face. Love covers a multitude of sins but self-righteousness covers its own behind. Confess your sins to your Father, cover the sins of your brother, and rejoice that grace has covered your sins. Christians will always have dirty hands but we should pray that it’s because we have been burying our brothers’ sins rather than slinging mud at them.
In so doing, we take small steps toward fulfilling the two Great Commandments. Love God. Love your neighbor. This is certainly hard to do, but it is not hard to understand.
Prayer of Confession
Gracious God and merciful Father, we confess that we drag too much of the week into the Sabbath and not enough Sabbath into the week. This is a day of resurrection and rejoicing. But before we can rejoice as we are called to do, we must confess our sins.
We confess that we are not even able to identify all our sins. But we do know that they are many. Search and try us; reveal to us our manifold iniquities. The prayers of the Pharisee and the publican were both prayers offered up by sinful men, but the one who went home justified is the one who knew his condition. Lord, protect us from the folly of confessing our sins in some unthinking fashion. Prevent us from sinning even more grievously in our confession.
For those sins which we have understood as sins, we confess our rebellion and presumption. For those sins which we have not understood as sins, we confess our ignorance. Lord, have mercy. Christ have mercy.
We confess and forsake our sins through the grace that has been granted to us through Thy Son. We pray that Thou wouldst force us now for Thy Word’s sake. Forgive us for the sake of Thy everlasting covenant. Forgive us for the sake of Thy Son, who is even now at Thy right hand making intercession for us. In His strong name we pray. Amen.