A Call to Prayer of Confession and Forgiveness

Dear friends of Jesus,

Grace to you and peace in the name of the one who wills that we be One in him, even Jesus Christ our Lord.

Tuesday January 25 marks the end of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2022. This is observed every year with varying levels of intensity and attention. I try to keep it in mind and before you in some way each year. I am pleased that in several communities across our conference West Ohio United Methodists have participated in local observances. I rejoice that I had an opportunity to participate in two such events. One statewide convened virtually. The other was an in-person event held in a downtown Columbus church. Both of these prayer-full worship experiences included a broad array of Christian expressions, denominational and independent churches. There was a wonderful beauty in the breadth of variety. We were bound together by our yearning to be one in Christ Jesus and to be a sign to the world of what is possible in the quest to overcome the acrimonious division that is all to often the way the world sees the church. The world writ large is clearly no stranger to such divisions. We read and hear about them every single day.

The services I participated rightly included early in the service a call to and prayer of confession. Here is one of them:                    

We confess before You that we have turned away from Your ways and disobeyed Your will. We have disfigured Your good creation and squandered its resources. We have polluted Your rivers and seas, poisoned Your air and water, and contributed to the extinction of Your many species. We have acted selfishly towards our brothers and sisters in the human family. We have allowed our own needs and desires to prevail over our commitment to justice and the common good. We have built walls between us and planted seeds of distrust. We have separated people based on ethnicity, race, religion, and gender. We have used religion to do harm. Forgive all these sins as we humbly come before You in repentance and seek Your wisdom.

Of course, our confession was followed by words and gestures of mercy and forgiveness. Our confession offered two gifts. The first is the gift of naming. Confession always does this. It is an opportunity to examine our own lives in the light of what we understand to be God’s best hopes for us. All naming has power. The second gift is the gift of receiving mercy, forgiveness and absolution. I love the way our own Service of Word and Table puts it with this phrase: Free us for joyful obedience through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. We are forgiven freely because it is God’s nature to be merciful. At the same time I cannot help but believe that in forgiving us that God years that the freedom that comes with forgiveness would be succeeded by our desire to live obediently to the law of love which surely stands in stark contrast to the ways of division that grind the life out of us and the earth.

So today join with me and the many that are confessing the scandal of our divisions and receive the forgiveness that liberates us to live in new ways. The ways I believe God intended from the beginning. I remain,

Yours in Christ Jesus who prayed that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.


Faithfully,                                               

                                                                                         

† Bishop Gregory V. Palmer