Interestingly, N.T. Wright took a break from the Gospel of Matthew to examine Psalm 32 in today’s reading. He reveals the common misunderstanding of confession as a somber or morose exchange instead of the liberating and celebratory experience it should be. When I was young, I went out into the driveway to wait on my mom before we ran some errands. The door to the van was unlocked and I looked from the passenger seat down to the gear-shifter and wondered how cool I would look if I got to move it like my parents did. Never considering that it might work without the car being on, I put the 86 Red Aerostar into reverse and began rolling backwards down our driveway. A spindly tree somehow stopped the van from careening into a creek across the street just as my mom, screaming hysterically caught up to me from the front. I can still taste the trepidation when I admitted to my mom that it wasn’t the car’s fault but my own actions that caused the dangerous experience. I approach confession to God much like this juvenile confession to my mom.
However, there are several differences. For God, our confession of sin is about as surprising as Travis showing up bald on Sunday mornings. We know Travis is bald, we have prior and repeated knowledge of Trav’s baldness. In Psalm 51, David talks about how our sinfulness was apparent even in our mother’s womb. God knows we’re going to mess up and while that doesn’t excuse the mistakes – it should relieve some of the tension we can allow to to render us incapacitated to confess. Secondly, Wright points out that confession should be celebratory. When we release these burdens, we are able to rejoice that the price has already been paid! Furthermore, we should engage confession more often as a method to clear out the lawnmower sludge from our engines. In middle school, my parents decreed that I needed to take at least one year of chorus or band so that I could be musically literate. Well 6th grade was uncomfortably close to puberty and my voice made that decision easy- I was awkward enough already, really didn’t need a cracking voice in chorus to help that movement along. I was so tall, the band director stuck me with the tuba – which I hated. But I stuck with it long enough to learn that you needed to empty the spit valve if you didn’t want a gargled sound from your instrument. We get clogged up with our sins; and I believe the sounds we produce are distorted to the outside world because of our cloggage.
I hope that this Lenten journey will galvanize us toward more regular confession so that we can be ambassadors of Christ with less bilge and sludge. If we are intent on carrying out the Chapel mission “to make more disciples” than we are in dire need of all the tune-ups possible.