We used a prayer of confession yesterday in worship that comes straight out of The Covenant Hymnal. I should probably mention that we do not, as a rule, include a prayer of confession in the order of worship. Confession might be part of the monthly Communion liturgy, or a regular feature of Lent, but it isn’t a weekly element of worship in our church. Sometimes I wish we did, but we don’t.
We added it this week, because the preaching text was Isaiah 6:1-8, in which the prophet Isaiah had a vision of God in his temple, and Isaiah’s reaction to this experience is to cry out, “Woe is me! For I am a man of unclean lips…” A seraph touches Isaiah’s lips with a burning coal from the altar, and the passage concludes with God asking “Whom shall we send, and who will go for us?” Isaiah answers, “Here am I! Send me!” Pastor Ryan wanted to draw a parallel between our order of worship and Isaiah’s worship vision, which moves from praise/adoration to confession, then forgiveness, and finally commissioning. It was good worship, and many people commented on how well it flowed, how meaningful it was to them, and how all the elements worked together.
But there was one line in that prayer, #909 in the hymnal, that stuck with me through both services, and I’m still grappling with it as I prepare an early Thanksgiving feast for my son (who will not be with us on Thursday, when we travel to his grandmother’s house).
“O Lord, we have conserved the bounty of your love as though it could be exhausted, and we have wasted the bounty of your universe as though its resources were imperishable.”
We have conserved the bounty of your love as though it could be exhausted. Conserved, saved, put away in a dark cupboard like jam and jelly … hoarded. And I realized, to my dismay, that this was true. I have been trying to hoard God.
Just like those folks wandering in the desert who thought they’d better collect a little extra manna “just in case, you know, we run out or something,” I try to save a little extra experience of God’s love for some time when I don’t feel so loved. And just like those folks wandering in the desert, I find that whatever I thought I was saving cannot be held in reserve. God isn’t something you save for a rainy day. God is here and now.
When the Apostle Paul was feeling sorry for himself, God told him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). There is no need to hoard that grace. It is sufficient.
How do you hoard God? What will it take to let go, and depend on that all-sufficient grace he so willingly offers?