The Fifth Sunday in Lent

“How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” (Psalm 82:2-4 ESV)

The psalmist, Asaph, is having a few words with God. I suspect he is not alone and remains in the company of those who wonder why there is so much wickedness around and that there is no accountability, no justice.

Whether it is about war crimes or parties, I have heard quite a bit of anguish and frustration recently about rule breakers and the constant tactic of simply denying everything. I recalled some years ago of the discovery of a video of Kim Philby (one of the Cam[1]bridge Spy Ring) giving a lecture to intelligence operatives and the concluding advice was that they were never to confess to anything no matter the evidence shown – never confess.

In much of the realpolitick of government, international relations, espionage, and judicial systems we might expect a reluctance to reveal things and when innocent a reticence to say false things such as a confession but to avoid accountability and justice all together, especially by those in power causes resentment and revolutions and also railing at God. The idea of never confess[1]ing strikes at the heart of all relationships in a harmful and damaging way. The reason is obvious – we all sense it – we don’t want the consequences of confessing and we don’t want to be brought to justice – and that means that the relationship – whatever it is – is secondary to me and my well-being.

The beginning of the Divine Service and the season of Lent help people live in the light of a relationship with God by doing the very thing we can be so afraid of doing – confess. And that is especially for those who say that they know Jesus – have fellowship with God through him – go to church (even if occasionally). In the first letter of John we read …

If we say we have fellowship with [God] while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practise the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:6-9 ESV)

A criticism of Christianity at this point is that people might confess to God in church but nothing changes in their behaviour in the world and Asaph’s cries remind us that this is not a new criticism. Where are you, God?

Do something! Lent also reminds us that God has done something in the person of Jesus and the cross. We see the consequences of sins – which we fear – in what happened to Jesus but there is also in what happened to Jesus God’s forgiveness and God’s love – and that drives away fear.

None of this is easy – it wasn’t for Jesus. And confessing can be hard for us because we know that if we are genuine we are expected to use the comfort, strength, and power of God’s forgiveness to do what we can to make amends to those we have wronged. That is why confession of sins is never a word only event because once absolved we are now empowered to act righteously – do the right thing – towards those we have wronged. To split word and deed is never a good thing.

We might cry out like Asaph to God about the wicked. What happens if an Asaph is crying out to God about us? God isn’t ignoring all Asaphs and he does act – word and deed united – forgiveness and new life through the cross. At the cross both the non Christians who be[1]come followers of Jesus and the disciples of Jesus can confess and when absolved do what they can to silence Asaph’s cry.                                                                                    GS