Sin and liturgy

Written by Joel on June 3rd, 2008

From here on out I will be writing from the perspective of my own Christian tradition. The diversity of Protestant Christianity is simply too great to make statements like “Protests do x, and they believe y.”

Even within the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), my own tradition, there is great diversity. I will be writing from my experience and reflection. If your experience differs from my own feel free to comment or send me an email.

Near the beginning of the Roman Catholic liturgy is the Penitential Rite. Here worshipers admit that they are sinners and ask for forgiveness before entering into worship.

I have attended about a dozen different Disciples congregations and found them all to have a unique liturgy. One thing they all have in common, however, is that they do not have anything which resembles a Penitential Rite.

It is rare for me to hear much mention of sin in the liturgy of a Disciples Church. This is not to say that we don’t take sin seriously, but it is largely a personal matter. I have seen sin wrestled with outside the context of worship such as in the Sunday School classes, at church camp, in Bible studies, and occasionally in sermons. I wonder out loud here: Why isn’t sin acknowledged in the liturgy itself?

The Disciples of Christ Church does not recognize the sacrament of reconciliation (confession) either. So if we don’t have confession and we don’t confront sin in the liturgy how do we respond to the sin we find in our lives? The simple answer is…we don’t.

When sin is not addressed in worship or sacrament we are left with a few possible responses.

1. I have a blank check to sin because of Jesus Christ:

No matter what I do, sins past and future are redeemed by the power of the cross. I don’t need to worry myself too much with my own sin because Christ paid that price for me. I will try to be a good person, but its no big deal if I mess up.


2. Sin is completely my personal responsibility to deal with:

I must repent and pray to God directly when I realize my own sin. I’m pretty sure he will forgive me if I pray for it. I have to do this in the privacy of my own home (or head) because surely my Christian brothers and sisters are not as great of sinners as I am. How embarrassing to confess to them that I am not a good enough Christian.


3. Disciples congregations need to deal with sin in liturgy and sacrament:

Sin is not a personal matter and must be dealt with communally. Our expression of Christian community is in the congregation. I am a sinner and so is the man and woman on either side of me as we gather to worship. When we do not acknowledge our failures within worship we deceive ourselves and lie to God. We must come before God in our worship with repentance.


3 Comments so far ↓

  1. Anonymous says:

    Just convert already! Haha I’m just pushing your buttons.

    You would be a fine catholic theologian…maybe you can teach?

  2. Felicitas says:

    You have very concisely addressed the thing I wrestled with for years before converting to Catholicism. I was not exposed to Catholic teachings growing up, and I was really confused by the attitude towards sin displayed by the various Protestants who surrounded me before abandoning Christianity altogether.

  3. tkeldm says:

    Here’s the deal.

    Not that we shouldn’t confront sin but the solution to sin is not trying harder and confessing more often.

    The solution to sin is spiritual regeneratation.

    We need to become a new creation in Christ.

    As long as we are the “old man” we will enjoy sin. When we “put off the old man and put on the new man” we start to find sin repulsive.

    This is the great thing about the Holy Spirit and Christ. We are not our old selves. “Neither circumcision or non-circumcision but a new creation.

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