At the very beginning of our Morning Prayer Service (and early in our Evening and Morning Light services) we say together a confession.
At the very beginning of the Jesus story, the first few lines of the Gospel of Matthew, we encounter John the Baptist, preaching a “baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”
John the Baptist echoes words from the Prophet Isaiah, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”
In a time and place where we are encouraged to love ourselves, practice self-care, and have confidence, confession can feel like a move in the wrong direction. After all, we are all trying our best—why do we need to rehash our failings, especially if God loves us anyway?
But Sunday’s Old Testament reading portrays confession and repentance as a comfort -- “Comfort, comfort, O my People” God commands the Prophet. To confess, after all, is to unburden oneself—and to take a grave risk. It requires letting go of all our pretensions and pretenses and stand exposed in our shortcomings. And to do that—to stand fully exposed in our imperfections—and to be loved anyway—that is the most comforting thing of all. It is true, unconditional, clear eyed, complete love. Some of us call it grace.
This Sunday I invite you to think about repentance and forgiveness with me as we revisit one of the New Testaments most colorful characters: John the Baptist. John preached repentance, a repentance to prepare us for the greatest comfort of all: the arrival of God.