Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Lenten Confessions 04: My dark, dark heart

As I mentioned in my first post to kick off the season of Lent, I would like to offer a series of confessional reflections on individual lines from the Litany of Penance (Book of Common Prayer), which is used for Ash Wednesday services. If you are unfamiliar with said Litany, check out the end of the post: "Why I Needed Wine..."

So I come to this blog as my own confession both and to you as my priests to receive my offering...

- - - -

The Litany continues with this confession:

Our anger at our own frustration, and our envy of those
more fortunate than ourselves,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts, and
our dishonesty in daily life and work,
We confess to you, Lord.

I did not put these two together because hey did not have enough meat for confession individually.  There are actually (at least) three confessions offered there, each of which drive a stake right into my heart.  Anger, greed, and dishonesty.  Ouch. When I read these today I felt like I'd been turned inside out, fully and completely exposed, the darkest part of my soul revealed.

As I sit under the burning light of these confessions, I want to abandon this little project all together.  I am hating myself for deciding to use the Litany for a series on confessional reflections on this blog.

I'd really prefer to just make this post more reflection than confession.  It would be really easy to reflect on the nature of anger, greed, or dishonesty - to talk about how prevalent it is in our culture and our churches.  It would be easy to rant and ramble about how disappointed I am in "the church today" or "Christians in America" and all the ways they manifest these sins.  It was be easy to go the way of most blogs that deal with sin and unfaithfulness - just focus on someone else's.  It was be really easy to keep on reflecting on how easy bashing others would be.



Fidget and twitch... 

Okay... I'll stop pacing nervously around the nave, man up, and enter the confessional.

Bless me, readers, for I have sinned...
I have been envious of those more fortunate than myself
I have an excessive love of worldly goods and comforts
Have mercy on me, O Lord

Axiom: The worst sin to have to confess is the one that you have passionately, publicly stood against.  Like when you see some high profile conservative TV preacher who advocated against gay marriage getting caught in scandal with drugs and male prostitutes (I only wish I were making that up).

When we stand against something, teach about it, deeply sense the importance it, and speak to this publicly, it is that much more painful to face and confess our own involvement in it.

Greed, jealously, materialism... a fight against this unholy trinity is something I have for years made a central part of my own ministry.  I have done so largely because of context.  When we live in luxury and abundant wealth, we must stay vigilant against the temptations that money, wealth, and comfort bring with them.  I would guess that for any given span of  two months when I am teaching regularly you would find me facing these realities at least once.  It is most often from the perspective of (a) our own idolatry and greed or (b) from the plight of the poor and our need to share our goods (even if we don't have an idolatrous relationship with them).

Outside of ministry, I have made an intentional effort over the last decade to get free from my attachment to things and my lust for more.  My wife and I talk regularly about the dangers of wealth, our longing to see the church become radically generous, and our desire to be freed more and more from greed.

That is why we don't have cable, why we have stopped spending so much money on clothes, why we vacation as simply as possible, why we chose not to follow through with a gym membership, why we keep on driving our 14 year old cars.  These are some very minor things we have done because, for us (not making a standard for others), we didn't feel the amount of our money these things required could be justified.

All this is to simply say how much of a hypocrite I am.

I find myself looking down on those who spend more freely and luxuriously than I do - not because of moral conviction but, if I am honest, out of jealousy that I am not able to do that.

I find myself frustrated and angry at times that I can't afford things that I want.  I wonder if I had a sudden windfall of cash if I would still hold true to the above "sacrifices" I am making.

I find myself resisting strongly and justifying with great theological acuity the need to forfeit more of my possessions.  I stand behind the arrogance of having gone further than a lot of Christians I know when it comes to materialism.  I resist the call to let go of what I do have.  I resist the call to give more than what I currently do. And anytime I sense a prodding to do so, I rest in the fact that I tithe regularly and don't spend as prodigiously as my fellow Christians.

My judgment of others is only the proof of my own greed.

My arrogance toward others is only the proof of my own idolatry.

Have mercy on me, Lord.

My heart is indeed dark.  I am indeed in need of God's limitless mercy as well as His resurrection power to purify and renew this greedy, jealous, materialistic heart.

I long for stuff more than for God's Spirit.  
Have mercy on me, Lord.
I cherish things more than I do people.  
Have mercy on me, Lord.
I judge others with a standard I refuse to use on myself.
Have mercy on me, Lord.
I, like the Rich Young Ruler, walk away sad b/c I find your call too demanding.
Have mercy on me, Lord.

I have been envious of those more fortunate than myself
Have mercy on me, Lord.
I have an excessive love of worldly goods and comforts
Have mercy on me, Lord.

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