Pastoral letter: January 19, 2021
On Sunday I shared in my homily some resources for guarding ourselves against pride and self-deception so that “we might receive the things of the Spirit of God”. (I Cor. 2:14) You may also find some of these resources helpful as we enter Lent, which is a season of repentance and prayer in preparation for Easter.
A Prayer of Examen
I oftentimes close my days with a prayer of examination. It allows me to revisit the events of my day alongside the Holy Spirit so that I can see my thoughts, words and deeds as God sees them. I have found that a prayer of examination is a useful tool for identifying besetting sins. Besetting sins are those sins that keep cropping up in your life, no matter how hard you try to remove them. Unchecked they can snowball and they prevent the fruit of the Spirit from growing in us. There are many prayers of examination available but here is a basic one.
Confession (or as it’s called in the BCP, The Reconciliation of Penitents)
As I mentioned on Sunday, I meet regularly with a priest to confess my sins. Certainly, we can and should confess our sins to God directly, but I have found confession to a priest helpful for a couple of reasons. First, it helps me to keep short accounts and ensure that my besetting sins, in particular, don’t remain unaddressed. Second, it helps me to be honest. Sometimes I can be too lenient with myself and other times, I’m too tough, but a good confessor can help you see when you’re leaning too far to either side. And a good confessor does not just assure you of God’s forgiveness (which they will), but they can also provide spiritual guidance to help you address the sins that separate you from God and others.
Again, there are many resources to help you prepare for confession. Sometimes I’ll use a prayer of examination but use it to look over the past month, rather than just the last day. Other times, I’ve walked through the beatitudes in Matthew 5:2-12 and asked God to bring to mind those times when I have sinned against God and my neighbor. Here is a prayer of examination based on the beatitudes. If you are curious about what confession or Reconciliation the Penitents entails take a look here or feel free to ask me more about my experience.
We don’t have a priest on staff while Liz is on sabbatical, but if you would like to meet with a priest for confession, we have priests on call in our diocese that we trust and can recommend to hear your confession.
Pray the week’s passage from I Corinthians
There are lots of ways you could do this. The simplest is just to take a chunk of time and read the chapter for the week slowly; asking God to point you to the words or verse that are for you today. Once you feel that the Holy Spirit is guiding you to a particular verse, perhaps just ask the question, “What do you want me to see about you and myself in this verse?” Then sit quietly with God’s response and then perhaps ask the question, “What should I do next?” Sometimes God might reveal a concrete action for you to take, but sometimes you might just be led to simply sit quietly in God’s presence for a while longer. If this method of meditating on scripture does not work for you, don’t despair, there are other ways of reflecting on scripture that may be a better fit for you.
Regardless of if you decide to use any of these resources, I am praying that our study of I Corinthians will enable us, who have already been made holy by Jesus Christ, to live God-filled lives. (I Cor. 1:2)