The Gospel reading this week is Luke 18:9-14, the parable of the praying Pharisee and tax-collector, which ends with Jesus’ warning to those who think themselves righteous: ‘all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.’
Last time this passage came up in the lectionary I preached on the perennial danger for religious types of self-righteousness. But I’m still too close to the self-loathing that is a symptom of depression to be able to preach on that now. Instead, I want to think about the ways in which parables like this can be misused to make us believe ourselves to be less than God’s beloved.
Prayers of Confession can do the same thing, when people who are already vulnerable are reminded that ‘there is nothing good in us’.
People bring many different types of vulnerability to church. For many of the vulnerable, the ‘sin’ we need to confess is not pride and self-righteousness, but the acceptance of our own oppression. So, this is a Prayer of Confession particularly for people with mental illnesses, for women, for GLBTIQ people, for people who face discrimination because of race or religion or disability.
Prayer of Confession
Loving and gracious God,
we confess that sometimes we reject your love and grace,
believing that we are unworthy.
Forgive us for trying so hard to be humble,
that we refuse to rejoice in the gifts you have given us,
and the ways in which we are fearfully and wonderfully made.
Forgive us for not trusting that we, too are part of your creation,
that when you look at all that you have made and call it ‘good’,
that includes us.
Forgive us for not allowing you to free us from our burdens,
and release us from all that imprisons us,
including the burdens and chains that we lay on ourselves.
We ask all this in the name of your Son,
who came to bring freedom to the oppressed,
and to show us in his life and death how very much you love us.
Assurance of Forgiveness
Hear the voice of the God who formed you:
“Do not fear. I have redeemed you.
I have called you by name. You are mine”.
Rejoice – our sins are forgiven.
Thanks be to God.