Lent 3 – Confess
This week’s focus is on the third and fifth baptismal question: “Do you confess Jesus Christ as your Savior, put your whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as Lord in union with the church which he has opened to people of all ages, nations, and races?” and “By the grace given you, will you remain faithful members of Christ’s holy church and serve as Christ’s representatives in the world?”
The questions are found on page 34 of the United Methodist Hymnal (UMH).
For this week, there are a few verbs to focus on confess, trust, serve, united and represent.
Let’s begin again with a definition (www.dictionary.com)
- Confess – to acknowledge or avow by way of revelation.
- Trust – to rely upon or place confidence in someone or something.
- Serve – to act as a servant
- United – to join, combine, or incorporate so as to form a single whole or unit.
- Represent – to serve to express, designate, stand for, or denote, as a word, symbol, or the like does; symbolize
Take a moment to think about times you use these words in your everyday life.
Let’s take a look at how Taylor Burton-Edwards looks at these words:
CONFESS – Our verb confess in English comes from Greek roots that mean literally “to speak together.” This is part of why “confessions of faith” in worship are spoken in unison. We are all, literally, speaking our faith together. The verb also means, by extension, to agree. To confess is to agree that what one is saying is true. We are called to confess (to agree, to say together) that Jesus Christ is Savior. This is one of the earliest, and also one of the most dangerous, Christian confessions. During the period of the early church, until Christianity was recognized as one of the legal religions in the early fourth century, there was only one person to whom the title “Savior” (Soter in Greek, Salvator in Latin) applied in the Roman Empire: Caesar, the emperor. To proclaim anyone else by this title was literally an act of treason. Indeed, this, plus calling Jesus “Lord” were often among the legal charges of treason brought against early Christians during times of persecution. We confess– we agree, and we say together– that Jesus Christ is Savior, and there is no other. In so doing, we also agree and say together that his way of being Savior, by love and service and solidarity with the suffering rather than by conquest and suppression, is the only true way of being Savior that there is.
What kind of things do we confess? Confession for us can be about removing sin from our lives but it is also about proclamation. How do confession and proclamation make us better people?
TRUST -As we discussed last week, disciples of Jesus are those who “believe into” him. That is, we do more than merely assent to a set of beliefs about him. We stake our lives on him and on the way he shows and leads us to live. Here we make a pledge to “put our whole trust in” or, we might say, “believe into” his grace. We will do more than confess him as Lord. We will also stake our lives on mercy, being merciful as he is merciful in every way we can. This is part of what the Wesley’s were pointing to, explicitly, in the second General Rule*, where they and early Methodists pledged to do good “by being in every kind merciful after their power.” We are able to show mercy more and more as we trust more deeply in the mercy that has been shown toward us in Jesus Christ.
How do we show trust in our homes and families? In our community? In our world? What do we do when we cannot trust? When trust is broken, what can repair that? What do we trust about Jesus?
(The second Rule is * By doing good; by being in every kind merciful after their power; as they have opportunity, doing good of every possible sort, and, as far as possible, to all men:
- To their bodies, of the ability which God giveth, by giving food to the hungry, by clothing the naked, by visiting or helping them that are sick or in prison.
- To their souls, by instructing, reproving, or exhorting all we have any intercourse with; trampling under foot that enthusiastic doctrine that “we are not to do good unless our hearts be free to it.”
- By doing good, especially to them that are of the household of faith or groaning so to be; employing them preferably to others; buying one of another, helping each other in business, and so much the more because the world will love its own and them only.
- By all possible diligence and frugality, that the gospel be not blamed.
- By running with patience the race which is set before them, denying themselves, and taking up their cross daily; submitting to bear the reproach of Christ, to be as the filth and offscouring of the world; and looking that men should say all manner of evil of them falsely, for the Lord’s sake.
It is expected of all who desire to continue in these societies that they should continue to evidence their desire of salvation,)
SERVE as LORD – The term Lord (Kyrios in Greek, Dominus in Latin) was, like Savior, a term reserved by the Roman Empire to refer exclusively to Caesar, the emperor. “Lord” as the Gentiles used that term meant “the one to whom all allegiance is ultimately due and who controls/dominates one’s life. Jesus was quite clear in his teaching about how his disciples were to offer leadership. It was not by “lording it over” others, as the empire did. It was by becoming servants of all, just as Jesus had given the example by taking the role of a servant to wash the disciples’ feet at his last meal with them (John 13:13- 17). So when we pledge to serve Jesus as Lord, we commit treason against all other powers, declaring sole allegiance to Jesus. And more than this, we pledge ourselves to his way of lordship in the world– the way of service, especially among the least, the marginalized, the displaced, and the most targeted people among us.
Have you ever seen an act of service that mirrored leadership? Have you ever been in service and felt like a leader? What type of service do you think the least, marginalized, displaced or targeted people are looking for so they can see a leader?
BE UNITED – To confess Jesus as Savior, trust fully in his grace, and serve him as Lord is not a solo act. It is something we are called to do with and among people “from every tribe and tongue and people and ethnicity” (Revelation 4:9). We agree in today’s first question that we’ll be part of such a diverse and global community. We acknowledge (“By the grace given you, will you remain faithful members of Christ’s holy Church”) that this is not something we can keep doing ourselves, individually. We need God’s grace– God’s love and mercy in action in our lives and the lives of others– to keep us united in such a broad-flung diversity of people. So our pledge in the second question is more than “we’ll do our best to stay united.” Instead, it’s “we know we can’t do this in our own power, and we’ll trust God’s more than sufficient grace to make our unity real and lasting.”
What helps you remain a faithful member of Oak Grove? Of God’s church? When have you seen God’s Grace change your life? In other’s lives? What keeps us united as Christians?
REPRESENT – The idea captured in this verb (“serve as Christ’s representative, or, more simply, represent Christ) comes from the domain of diplomacy (as in an official representative of state). The Urban Dictionary’s top definition may say it better: “Go and be a good example to the others of your group or in your position.” We might very well paraphrase this less as a question (”Will you… serve as Christ’s representatives in the world?”) and more as a charge (Disciple of Jesus, represent, yo!) Show up. Speak for Jesus. Act for Jesus. Be what Jesus has taught you to be with that multinational, multicultural, multilingual, multiethnic, multi-everything people he calls his church.
How do you represent God in this world? Do you need to tell people your Christian to represent God? Will people see God in how your represent God? What service is God calling you to do? What makes you feel like a Disciple of Christ?