The Shape of Confession

An important element of Presbyterian and Reformed  identity is our writing of, and deference to, confessions. The Presbyterian Church in Canada has three confessions that define our faith and theology – they are the Westminster Confession, the Declaration Concerning Church and Nation, and Living Faith.

One of the things you quickly discover in looking at these documents is that their meaning is determined as much by the shape of the confession as by the content of it. What do I mean by this? Simply that the order in which ideas are presented is as important as what the confession actually says about those ideas. For example, in looking at the Westminster Confession and Living Faith we notice that Westminster begins with Scripture while Living Faith begins with God – and we might ask why this difference. Can we begin talking about God before we have said something definitive about the scriptures that reveal God? What does it say about our theology that we can begin talking about God before exploring the nature of the scriptures?

There are all kinds of questions that arise when we look at the shape of a confession. Another more important question might be, why do neither Westminster nor Living Faith begin with Jesus, who is the living Word, and the one in whom we see God fully? Continue reading

Advertisements

“may I have a word” — confession and correction #sermon

Has anyone every pulled you aside and said: “You know, what you are doing is really not a great idea.”

Has anyone ever pulled you aside and said: “You know, you better stop and think about what you’re saying.”

When someone pulls you aside it’s generally because they care about you – they want to put the brakes on something you’re doing or saying before you get carried away. They care about you, and so instead of speaking to you publicly in a way that might make you look back or shame you – they gently pull you aside to have private word with you. Continue reading

one another…

There’s a great phrase used in the New Testament – a phrase that speaks to the heart of our faith – to the heart of our identity. Here it is: One another. One another. Now that you hear it, it’ll probably strike you as familiar.

            Love one another.

            Wash one another’s feet.

            Greet one another with a holy kiss.

            Let us stop passing judgment on one another.

This little phrase speaks beautifully of the mutuality inherent in our life of faith. It demonstrates beautifully that within the Body of Christ each person must be intentionally engaged with the other – on a two way street. It’s not that only one person acts or speaks or teaches or whatever – rather as one is engaged with the other, that other is equally engaged with the one. Thus we read about the first Christians in the book of Acts, Chapter 4: “Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul.” — And so the list goes on as we scan through the New Testament writings:

            Bear with one another.

            Be devoted to one another.

            Instruct one another.

            Build one another up.

All of which brings us to today’s passage in James, in which the Apostle says: “Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” 

Continue reading