Summary: Fifth sermon in a series on the Lord’s Prayer based on a booklet by Partners in Ministry.


June 26, 2005

St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church

The Rev. M. Anthony Seel, Jr.

Matthew 6:12

"Confession of our Sin"

Hazel Motes was ten when he talked his way into a carnival sideshow tent and saw a naked woman slithering around “in a box lined with black cloth.” He felt embarrassment and shame, and when his mother later asked him “What you seen?” he didn’t answer. She asked him again, and again he didn’t answer. Flannery O’Connor, in her novel Wise Blood describes the rest of the scene in this way:

She hit him across the legs with a stick, but he was like part of the

tree. “Jesus died to redeem you,” she said.

“I never ast him,” he muttered.

She didn’t hit him again but she stood looking at him, shut-mouthed,

and he forgot the guilt of the tent for the nameless unplaced guilt that

was in him.

The next day, Hazel Motes filled the bottoms of his shoes with stones and small rocks and then he put them on. He wore them on a mile walk through the woods, thinking to do so would assuage his guilt, but it didn’t. Hazel Motes, whose father and grandfather were tent preachers in the South, doesn’t believe in Jesus or sin, or any need for confession or repentance. Yet the central problem of his life is that he never learned how to properly deal with his guilt.

Our focus this morning from the Lord’s Prayer is located in Matthew 6, verse 12. In teaching His followers how to pray, Jesus continues in the Lord’s Prayer, saying,

"and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors."

As our booklet tells us,

In the parallel passage of Luke 11:4 the word sins is used to replace

the word "debts." Our offenses against God are to be considered a

debt that is owed. The trouble is that we have no way to pay our

sin debt. That is why we are totally dependent on the forgiveness

of God. [p. 23]

Our debt to God is the price of our sins, and it is God’s free gift to pay the price for our sins on the cross and offer us forgiveness.

Anglican priest and writer Kenneth Leech reminds us about the high price of our sins when he says,

To be in a state of sin is to be separated - from God, from others

and from oneself. Through sin the face of God is obscured…. And

this sin is all pervasive. [True Prayer, p. 126]

Martin Luther helps us to understand the gravity of not recognizing sin in our lives, saying, "Ignorance of sin of necessity brings in its train ignorance of God, of Christ, of the Holy Spirit, and of all things" {quoted in Leach, p. 127]. As Luther so strongly suggests, sin clouds our understanding of everything.

In the words of theologian L. Gregory Jones,

The "deepest truth" about ourselves is neither that we are self-

sufficient nor that [we] are weak, needy and fallible; it is that

are created for communion with God, with one another, and

with the whole Creation. We need God and others both to

discover who and whose we are and also because it is only

through our life together that we can fulfill our destiny for

communion in God’s Kingdom.

Yet human beings have persistently rejected and continue to

reject that communion. [Embodying Forgiveness, p. 61]

This is our sin. We reject the communion with God that God offers us because we do not love God with our whole heart, strength and mind. We reject the communion that we can share with others because we do not love our neighbor as ourselves. Furthermore, we are often reluctant to acknowledge and deal with the sin in us that separates us from God, others and ourselves.

The Lord’s Prayer teaches us that confession of sin needs to be one of the central elements of our prayers. To this end, we look at the phrase in verse 12 of Matthew, chapter 6:

"and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors."

According to our series booklet, three truths are embedded in Matthew 6:12

1. The first is that we must make daily confession of our sins to God.

Something interesting was uttered in the presidential proclamation for the second National Day of Prayer, and it hasn’t been said since. In 1953, in his National Day of Prayer proclamation, President Eisenhower used the word "sin." Psychiatrist Karl Menninger reports that Eisenhower "borrowed the words for his proclamation from a call issued in 1863 by Abraham Lincoln" (Whatever Happened to Sin? p. 17]. In his 1953 proclamation, Eisenhower said,

It is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence

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