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The Reconiliation of a Penitent

Bishop Hughes talks about the rite of confession and forgiveness in our Book of Common Prayer, and how it can be a means letting go of grudges and wounds and going forth changed and blessed. (Time:4:05.)

Video Transcript

This is Bishop Hughes in the Diocese of Newark, and I want to talk with you today about forgiveness.

So often when we hear that word we automatically think of the other person. That someone has done something wrong to us and now we must forgive them, however hard that might be. And today I want you to think with me about this in a different way. To think about our own need for forgiveness. A need that we hear proclaimed in scripture, from the very beginning of the book in Genesis, to the end of the book and the Revelation. That we hear from God and from God's people, that we need to turn consistently to God. That we need to seek God's forgiveness and seek God's presence.

There is a wonderful gift that we receive in the Episcopal Church, and most particularly in the Book of Common Prayer. And it is found on page 447, the Reconciliation of a Penitent. I say very often that these are the least used pages in the entire prayer book, which is a shame, because these are some of the most needed pages in the entire prayer book. Especially in the time we're in.

This rite, a simple rite of confession and forgiveness is one that is usually done with a priest or a bishop, done with an ordained person, but it can be done with a layperson. You need to have a priest or a bishop to pronounce absolution, but a layperson could declare forgiveness of sins at the end. And it's important to know that's what's going to come at the end. That when we confess our sins we can count on the fact that God is going to forgive us in the end.

But that confession piece is an important thing, and I love the way there's two versions of this rite. I love the way both of them start. One starts saying "Bless me, I am a sinner." The other one says "Pray for me, a sinner." Bless me or pray for me – to start our confession with those words, knowing that ultimately the most important thing that is going to happen is that someone is going to bless us in the end, that God will bless us. And that someone is going to pray for us. And God's spirit is always at prayer for us. And when we're going to name those things, those wrongdoings that we've done, to others, to ourselves, both people we know and people that we do not know, that when we are blessed and forgiven, prayed for at the end, we can let go of those things.

And for many of us it takes multiple times that we've got to confess our sins, routinely, regularly, and in doing that we become changed. We don't walk around carrying the grudges. We don't walk around carrying the wounds. We don't walk around carrying the hurt. But through prayer, and absolution, and blessing, we become changed.

It's a different way to think about forgiveness, our need to be forgiven. It's a powerful way to walk through the world. As people who are blessed. Prayed for. Absolved. Forgiven. Beloved of God.

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