I love that at Decatur we have two worship services. We have our traditional, weekly, Sunday worship experience and we have our monthly, intergenerational, Messy Church worship experience. I am also excited that our April Messy Easter event coincides with our Lenten services, and we will have the whole parish with us.
One of my favorite things about Messy Church is that we share a meal together. Joel and Sandy lead our dinner team. They plan the menus and cook just about everything. Then there are other dedicated volunteers to help setup, serve, and clean. Then we sit around shared tables, pass the serving dishes and share a meal. We share and talk and laugh.
There is nothing better than sharing a meal with the people you care about. It is what we do around the holidays, many will do this on a birthday. If you were to ask me what my favorite things are, at the top of the list would be cooking and sharing a meal with friends.
There is a reason churches love to do potlucks. You bring your favorite dish to share with people you care about. As you do this, perhaps people will ask who made this pie, who made those potatoes? Then you can take some pride when you Pyrex dish is empty as you carry it home. More than food, there is joy shared about the tables
I remember working on a sermon several years ago, and in one of my commentaries the author was advocating that churches needed a budget for feasting. That even before the church paid the electric bill, the church should fund the ministry of feasting. The author argued that the pastor needed a budget just for feasting so she could entertain and share the goodness of God around the table with others.
The thing about feasting is that it is a sign of the kingdom of God. Feasting is a sign that God loves us and is a sign for God’s ultimate plan for all of creation. We participate in this in a different way each month when we receive Holy Communion together. When God’s people come together to share in Holy Communion, we talk about the meal before us and the great feast to come. The closing prayer in our communion liturgy says:
By your Spirit make us one with Christ,
one with each other,
and one in ministry to all the world,
until Christ comes in final victory
and we feast at his heavenly banquet.
This feasting is a sign of God’s hospitality and benevolence. It is a sign that God has good things planned for you now and in the future. Not only is it a sign of what God desires for you, this idea of feasting is also a metaphor for how God wants you to live a full life. This is a way of talking that says that God wants you to experience goodness now. What we will find, though, is that there is a price of admission to this goodness. For us to really be able to experience the goodness that God desires, we need to pay the admission price. There is something you can do to help you experience the goodness that God desires for you. And this is what I want to look at today.
If you have your Bible, I want to invite you to turn with me to Isaiah 55:1-7. In this passage, we hear again about this feasting work of God, about how God has great things planned for you. Then we hear about the price of admission, and what you need to do to arrive to this feasting, this goodness.
All of you who are thirsty, come to the water!
Whoever has no money, come, buy food and eat!
Without money, at no cost, buy wine and milk!
2 Why spend money for what isn’t food,
and your earnings for what doesn’t satisfy?
Listen carefully to me and eat what is good;
enjoy the richest of feasts.
3 Listen and come to me;
listen, and you will live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
my faithful loyalty to David.
4 Look, I made him a witness to the peoples,
a prince and commander of peoples.
5 Look, you will call a nation you don’t know,
a nation you don’t know will run to you
because of the Lord your God, the holy one of Israel, who has glorified you.
Here, we find that God is offering a good life to all who are in need. God says, if you are thirsty, I’ll give you water. If you have no money, you get to come too. In fact, even if you have money, it’s no good here. Just listen and come and enjoy the richest of feasts. Enjoy the goodness of life; all that God desires for you.
This is a wonderful invitation, but we don’t do a good job at joining the feast. There are things that keep us away. You sin, and you do things that keep you away from the closeness of God. It’s like your neighbor is having a huge party, a huge feast, and you have been invited, but you don’t go. You don’t go, because you are too busy or you have something else to do or you feel as if they don’t really want you there. In a similar way, God wants you there, but your sin keeps you from experiencing this goodness that God really desires from you.
That’s where our price of admission comes into play. And this just so happens to be another tool that gets us closer to Jesus. If you remember we are exploring how to get closer to Jesus during this time leading up to Easter, and God gives us another tool to make it to this feast; God gives us another tool to obtain this good life. This tool is repentance and confession.
When you hear about confession, perhaps you get a few ideas in your head. One, you might think of a suspect being interrogated by the police. The detectives are asking their questions just waiting for whatever information the suspect may offer. If you watch TV dramas, this usually leads to a confession, at least on TV. The other image of confession that you may have is of a Catholic priest sitting in a booth hearing congregants tell him how they have sinned. Catholics consider confession a sacrament, so it is very important for them to come to their priest to confess how they have failed in life; to confess the things that keep them from God.
Now, you might look at that as an odd practice. I know that many protestants view confession as something that doesn’t really have a place in their faith life. I hear things about my sins being between me and God. But in the midst of this, I think wehave lost the idea that there is power in confession. In fact, confession is something that can actually bring us closer to God.
Let’s look back at Isaiah 55:6-7. Just after God tells us about the great feast; the good life that awaits us, we find these words:
Seek the Lord when he can still be found;
call him while he is yet near.
7 Let the wicked abandon their ways
and the sinful their schemes.
Let them return to the Lord so that he may have mercy on them,
to our God, because he is generous with forgiveness.
How do you get closer to God? How do you experience this goodness that God has for you? You seek the Lord, and you turn from your sins and your wicked ways and return to the Lord. You confess the way you have wronged others to the Lord. You confess the way you have wronged yourself to the Lord. You confess how you have strayed from what God desires in your life to the Lord. Confess and Repent for how you have drifted or turned from God.
You can’t control everything in your life. You can’t control the things in your past that have kept you from God, but you can control how you confess and how you repent. And this is really the first step of recovery, this is really the first step of participating in the glorious feast that God desires for you.
Here’s the thing about confessing, God desires forgiveness. Throughout the Bible we get glimpses of God’s forgiveness. Time and again we read stories of how God forgives and how God is ready to forgive you. We find a letter in the Bible written by this guy named John that really captures how God want to forgive you when you confess. This can be found in 1 John 1:5-9
5 This is the message that we have heard from him and announce to you: “God is light and there is no darkness in him at all.” 6 If we claim, “We have fellowship with him,” and live in the darkness, we are lying and do not act truthfully. 7 But if we live in the light in the same way as he is in the light, we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from every sin. 8 If we claim, “We don’t have any sin,” we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from everything we’ve done wrong.
You see, this confession, brings God’s forgiveness. It allows you to experience a cleansing of everything you have done wrong. It brings you closer to God and to others and allows you to experience all the goodness that God desires for you.
If you have been in any type of 12 step program, AA, NA, Al-Anon, Celebrate Recovery, you are familiar with this type of stuff. There is often this misplaced stereotype that the 12 steps are only for people in active addiction. But here is the thing; I believe that the 12 steps can provide Christians a roadmap for how to confess and how to return to God. I didn’t know what the 12 steps were before I studied them. So today, I want to share them with you. And I want to invite you to take them with you and think about them as a pathway for your confession.
1. We admitted we were powerless over our addictions and compulsive behaviors, that our lives had become unmanageable.
2. We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3. We made a decision to turn our wills and our lives over to the care of God.
4. We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
5. We admitted to God and another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
6. We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
7. We humbly asked Him to remove all our shortcomings.
8. We made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
9. We made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others
10. We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admit it.
11. We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, praying only for the knowledge of His will and power to carry it out.
12. Having had a spiritual awaking as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others and to practice these principals in all of our affairs.
Now, I now that this is a lot. I know that if this is your first time seeing all of these steps, that it may seem overwhelming. But I want you to know that confession is (as they say) good for the soul. Confession opens you up for all of the goodness that God has for you. And confession, true confession is more than just saying “I’m sorry.” This is why I want to give you these tools, these 12 steps to help you think about confession in a very personal way in your life.
I also want you to know that I will be around all day. If you want to talk with someone about this, or if you want to confess to someone else, I am here for you. I am here to hear your confession. I am here to help you walk back closer to God.
Whatever the case, I pray that you will use this tool of confession to draw closer to God. As we continue to make our preparations for Easter, I pray that you will draw nearer and nearer to God, and allow this tool of confession to help lead you in this path. As step 11 says: We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, praying only for the knowledge of His will and power to carry it out.
As you confess and draw near, I pray that you improve this conscious contact with God, and allow God to pour goodness into you live, and allow God to welcome you to the feast.
Decatur United Methodist Church
Our hope is that these messages will be relevant in your life and encourage you in faith.