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Sin and Liturgy: Post Script

Friday, June 6th, 2008

After a bit more reflection I realized that we do have a part of the liturgy that deals with sin.

In most Disciples congregations The Lord’s Prayer is recited in every worship service. “And forgive us our trespasses…” simply assumes a sinful human nature that requires forgiveness.

Still, it lacks the potency of “I confess to almighty God…that I have sinned through my own fault in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done, and in what I have failed to do…”

The Lord’s prayer loses more of its bite when certain congregations use “debts/debtors” as opposed to “trespass/those who trespass against us.” I will save this issue for another post.

Sin and liturgy

Tuesday, 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.