Psalm 32

Psalm 32 instructs us that the only people who are truly happy are those who experience God’s forgiveness. Therefore, the refusal to openly confess our sins leads only to spiritual and physical misery. 

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.

Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,

and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away

through my groaning all day long.

For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;

my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.

I acknowledged my sin to you,

and I did not cover my iniquity;

I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”

and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.

Therefore let everyone who is godly

offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found;

surely in the rush of great waters, they shall not reach him.

You are a hiding place for me;

you preserve me from trouble;

you surround me with shouts of deliverance.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;

I will counsel you with my eye upon you.

Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding,

which must be curbed with bit and bridle,

or it will not stay near you.

Many are the sorrows of the wicked,

but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord.

Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous,

and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!

A Three-fold Cycle of Worship

There is a notable pattern to many of the worship encounters that we find in the Bible. For example, the prophet Isaiah’s encounter with the great God of heaven in Isaiah 6 offers us a three fold cycle for corporate and personal worship: Praise-Pardon-Petition. This pattern serves as a broad structure to our church’s worship services.

A vision of the one, true, living God leads us to awe and reverence as we declare “our God is mighty” and “worthy of all praising.” This leads us to acknowledge our unworthiness and how we have not gladly submitted to His kingship. A true knowledge of God always leads to a true knowledge of ourselves. Therefore, we candidly and specifically confess our sins to the Lord and experience His pardoning grace. Experiencing His generosity moves us to become generous in offering all that we are and have to Him.

Then our service moves into a cycle employing the various means of God’s grace. We turn to the Scriptures and devote ourselves to reading and preaching them. We give ourselves to intercessory prayer and to the sacraments so that we receive God’s needed grace to strengthen us spiritually.

Our service concludes with a hymn of commitment where we renew our resolve to lead others to our Savior. Then, we receive the benediction as the Lord sends us forth to serve Him just as He sent the prophet Isaiah long ago (See Isaiah 6:8).

Growing in Humility

Français : Lavement des pieds de Saint Pierre ...

Français : Lavement des pieds de Saint Pierre par Jésus. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In one of his ordination charges given while Archbishop of Canterbury, Michael Ramsey offered some wise and practical advice on how to grow in humility:

First, thank God, often and always… Thank God, carefully and wonderingly, for your continuing privileges and for every experience of his goodness. Thankfulness is a soil in which pride does not easily grow.

Secondly, take care about confession of your sins... Be sure to criticize yourself in God’s presence: That is your self-examination. And put yourself under the divine criticism: That is your confession.

Thirdly, be ready to accept humiliations. They can hurt terribly, but they help you to be humble. There can be the trivial humiliations. Accept them. There can be the bigger humiliations… All these can be so many chances to be a little nearer to our humble and crucified Lord…

Fourthly, do not worry about status… there is only one status that our Lord bids us be concerned with, and that is the status of of proximity to himself…

Fifthly, use your sense of humor. Laugh about things, laugh at the absurdities of life, laugh about yourself, and about your own absurdity. We are all of us infinitesimally small and ludicrous creatures within God’s universe. You have to be serious, but never be solemn, because if you are solemn about anything there is the risk of becoming solemn about yourself.

– Michael Ramsey, The Christian Priest Today, (London: SPCK, 1972), 79-81. Quoted in Pride, Humility, and God in the book Alive to God: Studies in Spirituality Presented to James Houston, p. 121.

Unburdening Our Hearts with the Lord’s Prayer

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. . . .
[Let us confess the ways that we have been infatuated with making our name great rather than our Father’s]

Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. . . .
[Let us confess the ways that we have pursued our kingdom and our wills more than God’s]

Give us this day our daily bread. . . .
[Let us confess all of our ways of self-sufficiency and acknowledge our dependence]

Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. . . .
[Let us confess the ways that we have not pursued forgiveness and interpersonal reconciliation]

And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one. . . .
[Let us confess our own personal struggles with temptation and evil]

For the kingdom and the power and the glory are yours forever. Amen.
[Let us confess the ways that we look to others things other than our King for satisfaction, beauty and worth]

—based on Matthew 6:9-13

Confessing Our Sin… Experiencing His Grace

Gracious Father, to enrich us will not diminish your fullness

for all your lovingkindness is in your Son.

We come pleading His blood to pay for our debts of wrong.

Accept his worthiness for our unworthiness;

his sinlessness for our transgression;

his purity for our uncleanness;

his sincerity for our hypocrisy;

his truth for our deceits;

his meekness for our pride;

his constancy for our backslidings;

his love for our selfishness;

his fullness for our emptiness;

his faithfulness for our treachery;

his obedience for our lawlessness;

his glory for our shame;

his devotedness for our waywardness;

his holy life for our impurity;

his righteousness for our own filthy rags;

his death for our life. Amen.

– Adapted from The Valley of Vision, p. 157.

Confession of Sin – Palm Sunday

Forgiving Father, Your Son came as the gentle King of Glory.

He rode a donkey not a stallion.

He humbled and sacrificed himself in order to bring us peace with You.

We confess our own lack of humility. Forgive us for the lack of gentleness in our lives. Our harsh words have stirred up strife and dissension. Our angry tempers have hurt those we love.

Long ago the crowd with incessant hallelujahs greeted our Savior, but how quickly they mocked as he went lonely to the cross. Forgive us for the ways that we, too, have welcomed Him only in words and resisted His kingship.

May Your Son not find in our hearts another place of crucifixion, but a place of love, loyalty, and devotion fit for such a gentle and humble King. Mold us into the gentle ways of Jesus in whose name we pray, AMEN.

Confession of Sin – The Emmaus Walk

This prayer of confession of sin is based upon Luke 24 which chronicles the Emmaus walk.

O Almighty God, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, we are unworthy of Your redeeming grace. We have not believed Your promises, nor trusted in You, our living Lord. Through worldliness of spirit, we have not discerned Your presence with us. Through discontentment in our minds and disappointments in our lives, our hearts have not burned within us as we have heard Your Word. We have not trusted in Your redeeming power, and have been overcome by evil. We have forgotten the joy of Christ’s victory over death, and ignore the things that belong to our peace. So now in humility we come to You, begging Your forgiveness. Mercifully grant us release from all our sins and restore to us the joy of Your salvation, for Christ’s sake, our risen Lord and heavenly advocate.  AMEN.