A Confession

This might disappoint you, or it might actually relieve you to know this is not some tell-all blog post. I’m not getting ready to air my dirty laundry. This is a corporate confession I put together for our worship gathering this Sunday. I hope it can be helpful in your personal worship time as well. Blessings!

Call to Confession
This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:5-9 (NIV)

Moment of Silent Reflection and Confession

Prayer of Confession

Father God, Light of the world, we come to you as children, children afraid of the dark, yet walking in it. Someone has turned out the lights in our world and we are finding ourselves with stubbed toes and bloody noses. Others of us have much graver injuries from walking in the dark. Some of us are trying desperately to find the light switch while others of us secretly love the dark and are resisting the light. Help us to see through your Light that we are lying to You and to ourselves if we insist on walking in our blindness.

Please forgive us of our sin that dims your light in our lives. Help us to humbly admit that we are not without sin and to confess it to you. In your faithfulness and mercy, please shine your cleansing light into our darkness. Like sun-bleached, radiant white linen hanging from a clothesline on a summer afternoon, may we be caught up in the Holy Breeze of you Spirit, surrendering to your Light and your Truth.

Thank you for the promise that if we confess our darkness, You will forgive us, mend our wounds and lovingly guide us toward the Light.

We pray this in the supreme name of Jesus, the Light of the World
Amen


The King of Clubs

The deafening music churned the dancers into a stew of testosterone and sweat. Rhythmic pulsations of the sub-bass reverberated inside their bare chests as they gyrated to the music, all the while looking over each other’s shoulders in case someone better came along. Flashing strobe lights created a living film noir in the crowded bar.

Bruce was the bouncer on duty that night. It was his job to keep the crowd in line and the fire marshal in sight. A line had begun to form behind the velvet rope around 9:00, so he knew it was going to be a long night. He held a clip board that included a list of names and faces of trouble makers; violent activists with homophobic tendencies. He called it his “No Fly” list.

“Please keep the line against the wall, people,” Bruce demanded.

The next two men in line were deep in conversation and laughing. They hadn’t noticed the line had moved and that they were next.

“Okay, fellas, I need to see your IDs if you want in.”

The first guy handed Bruce his driver’s license. It read, “Johnson of Zebedee.” Bruce raised one eyebrow and gave him the once-over, then reached for the other guy’s ID.

“I’m sorry, but I don’t have a driver’s license,” he said.

Bruce had heard every excuse before, so he wasn’t buying it. “I know you’re type, buddy. You think you’re king of the universe and don’t have to play by the rules. Is that right; are you the king of the universe?”

“I AM,” he answered. “I’m Jesus of Nazareth, and John and I are in town and were hoping to party with you tonight.”

Bruce dropped his clipboard and fell back against the wall as if smitten with a bad case of vertigo. As he tried to compose himself, he picked up the clipboard and checked his “No Fly” list. Surely, Jesus’ name would be on that list. But after checking it three times and consulting his manager, he pulled the velvet rope back and allowed Jesus and his friend John to join the party.

The Church’s Worst Nightmare

So I had this dream. Actually, it was more of a nightmare. While most of my dreams are easily forgotten by the time I shower and shave in the morning, this dream has stuck with me.

I dreamed that I was asleep in bed, which in and of itself is kinda weird. Dreaming about being in bed sleeping is like having an out-of-body experience. What was even weirder, the bed was in the middle of a church sanctuary filled with people singing.

Realizing where I was, I quickly pulled the covers over my head and tried to appear invisible to the congregation. The next thing I knew, an angry usher walked up and pulled back the covers, revealing me in all my humiliation. The congregation gasped while the parent’s covered their children’s eyes, protecting them from the scene of an underwear-clad man slinking out of the top bunk bed in the middle of church.

I quickly ran down the aisle, through the foyer and on to the parking lot to find my car. Everyone followed me out the door, yelling at me to leave, as I frantically searched for my car keys. Mercifully, I woke up just at the moment I realized underwear don’t have pockets.

When I came back to reality and realized it had only been a dream, I sighed in relief. As the cobwebs dissolved in my foggy brain, I began to process my dream and see if I could come up with an interpretation of what I had just experienced.

I cannot tell you how frightened I felt being exposed like that in the middle of church. It’s bad enough for anyone to get caught falling asleep in church, but it’s really bad for me as a worship leader, to be asleep during the one hour when I’m supposed to be on the platform leading. To top it off, I was in my underwear, exposed in front of the entire congregation.

Nothing makes me feel more vulnerable than exposing my inner-self to other people, to strip naked emotionally and admit I have broken bones underneath my thick hide. So imagine what it must be like for someone to come to church thinking it’s a safe place to be real, but instead once they reveal their struggle only to experience condemnation or indifference from everyone.

All of us need a safe place to be real. We all need to be encouraged to take off the mask, and yes, at times to even strip naked. We are all broken people seeking freedom from our hurts, habits and hang ups, but that will never happen if we can’t even admit to one another that we have them.

“But everything exposed by the light becomes visible – and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. This is why it is said:

‘Wake up sleeper;

rise from the dead,

and Christ will shine on you.’”        Ephesians 5:13-14

Imagine a day when the church becomes a safe place where we can expose our brokenness to the Light, and in turn, God then uses our brokenness as a light for others. That’s my dream.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Full House on a Vacant Lot

The two-story red brick house looked as if it could have been on the parade of homes back in the day; back before the blacks ran the white folks out of the neighborhood. Well, maybe they didn’t run them out, as much as they just moved next door. The white folks were the ones who ran. The house sat alone surrounded by acres of vacant lots and empty malt liquor bottles.

Brother Ken met me at the door. His hands were wet, or maybe sweaty, perhaps both.  He welcomed me to the “hood” and laughed. His jubilance reverberated against the abandoned townhouses across the street.

“The ladies are fixin’ a spread, sure hope you’re hungry,” he said loudly with a big smile revealing a wide dark gap in his front teeth.

We stood on what used to be a front porch and got better acquainted. The gentle giant proudly proclaimed his thirty years of sobriety and his calling to this neighborhood. He turned to greet a man and his small son walking through the vacant lot next door. The lad was having a hard time keeping up with his dad as his oversized shoes kept coming off. The man set down the bottle he was carrying in a brown paper sack and bragged to us about having thirteen children. Brother Ken swooned and hollered from that revelation, then invited him to their next meeting.

Brother Ken’s ministry in the hood is in my city, but it seems light years away from my suburban sanctuary. Yet are we really that different? We both minister to broken people with addictions who struggle with broken relationships and broken dreams. The only difference is my community has more resources to live in denial longer than my brother’s.

Lost Along the Way

It was first called “the Way.” Followers of Jesus Christ were to be travelers on a faith journey; sojourners on a long hike. But today, many of us live as if it was called “the Stay.” We’ve become permanent residents of steepled fortresses filled with cushy pews and hard heads.

This faith journey implies we are moving forward toward a certain destination, but we haven’t arrived there yet. Unfortunately, many of us act as if we have already arrived. We have all the answers. We have unpacked our bags and settled in. The only problem is, if you really think you’ve arrived, that means you’re dead.

Some of us have focused exclusively on our destination. We have become spiritual ladder climbers, stepping over dead bodies on our ascent to the Welcome party.  “This world is not my home, I’m only passing through,” so there’s no need to be distracted by the beggar or the child who lost her way. No need to pick up the litter. What’s the point, anyway? Besides, it might delay our arrival.

Some of us have pitched our tent at the edge of the Grand Canyon, but are so busy reading a book about the Grand Canyon inside the tent; we have missed out on the real thing.

Some of us are still at the trail head studying the map.

Some of us are arguing about which version of the map is correct.

Some of us are so angry we’ve decided to blaze a new trail to our final destination.

Some of us are arguing over who gets to even go on this faith journey.

Some tour guides have quit because their groups argued the entire way. Others were fired because they were walking too fast, or too slow, or with an annoying limp.

Some of us can’t seem to get along with many of our fellow travelers, so we’ve become lone rangers.

The point I’m trying to make is, if it’s not obvious enough for you, all of us are on a faith journey and our final destination will not be fully revealed until we pass from this life into the next.  So wouldn’t it be better to focus on the journey more than the destination? Wouldn’t it be better to enjoy the trip? Wouldn’t it be better to be encouragers to our fellow travelers instead of acting like children fighting in the backseat of the car?