I was working with a group on racial reconciliation, and I felt frustrated. I mostly listened, but then every time I spoke, the words coming out of my mouth were all wrong. And I’m a type-A, liberal, PC, white woman. I don’t like to be wrong. I like to “get it” and secretly roll my eyes at other wrong people.
It is a subtle shift that we make in our liturgy and preaching. But it’s an important one. We do terrible things and we must confess our action. But we are good. We are made in the image of God. And in Jesus Christ, we are forgiven people.
A Presbyterian minister told me a story about his first year at a certain congregation. His predecessor had abolished the general confession of sins from the Sunday liturgy, and one of the first things this new pastor did was try to reinstate it. But resistance to the proposed change was fierce.
In an issue of the magazine devoted to themes of spiritual renewal, we would underscore the significance of Pope John Paul II’s dramatic effort to renew and purify the Roman Catholic Church through repentance. In celebrating mass on March 12, the first Sunday of Lent, John Paul took the unprecedented step of publicly confessing the sins of the church.
Academic circles sometimes include a giant who publishes relatively little despite the pleading of students and colleagues. Such a figure was Robert Bertram, whom longtime colleague Edward Schroeder calls, in his grateful foreword, “the most unpublished Lutheran theologian of the twentieth century.”