A Penitential Line

by Andrew Stephens-Rennie

I admit that I am not the most patient of people. I admit that at times, when things don’t go my way, I can be less than full of grace. I also know that I expect others to be patient with me. I know that I expect others to demonstrate the grace I cannot.

I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.

This month I have had the privilege of time away from my office. Part of it, of course, has to do with the overtime I’ve put in. Part of it has to do with some much needed rest and vacation. At the end of November, as I was preparing for my last sermon of the year (and the first of advent), I had it in my mind that this would be a month of waiting. Of preparation. A month of meditation and centering and focus.

It has not been as such. There have been many good things about this month, so far. There have been many great times of reconnecting with friends and reading books, and watching a tv series I’d always meant to watch. But I have not been vigilant.

I have not been open as open as I’d hoped I’d be, to the surprising places hope is being born this month. I may have committed myself (publicly, in fact) to these things, yet these are things with which I’m finding myself struggle this year.

I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.

I haven’t run anyone over in the mall parking lot (perhaps due to avoiding the place). I haven’t been purposefully mean, and yet there is much I have neglected. For all these things I need forgiveness – for the things I have done, and the things I have left undone.

This week, in the liturgy at my local Anglican church, several words were missing from the confession in our service booklet. This week, we failed to say “we are truly sorry and we humbly repent.” The prayer of confession that we pray together each week goes like this:

Most merciful God,
we confess that we have sinned against you
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done
and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart;
we have not loved our neighbours as ourselves.
We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.
For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,
have mercy on us and forgive us,
that we may delight in your will,
and walk in your ways,
to the glory of your name. Amen.

Yet this week, that incredibly important line was absent. This week I stumbled over the words – or rather their absence. Something felt missing. The absence of this pentitential line actually sent me off to reflect on its absence this month. There is much that I might do with this precious time off. There is much time that has been given to me, in order to pay attention to the advent of God’s kingdom. there is much that has been given to me as we await the coming of God’s son.

And yet, this week, it feels as though I’ve failed to receive that gift. I’ve had my hands too full with other things, with busy-work and with errands. Many things that I have filled myself with, and in so doing, failed to be truly present. Yet I want to be more intentional. I want to ask better questions.

I want to soak in the ongoing stories of John the Baptist and Jesus of Nazareth, and as I do so, I want to throw open my heart and mind and soul, with all of my strength. I want to be ready. I want to be prepared. Most of all, I want to immerse myself in Jesus’ story anew.

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Andrew Stephens-Rennie
Andrew is a writer, dreamer and organizer with a keen interest in developing leaders in faith, compassion and justice.

He currently serves as the Director of Missional Renewal for the Anglican Diocese of Kootenay on the unceded territories of the Sinixt, Syilx, and Ktunaxa nations. He previously served as the Director of Ministry Innovation at Christ Church Cathedral in Vancouver, BC.

Andrew is cofounder and contributing editor at www.empireremixed.com, and co-editor of "A Sort of Homecoming: Essays Honoring the Academic and Community Work of Brian Walsh" with Marcia Boniferro and Amanda Jagt.

One Response to “A Penitential Line”

  1. Confession « Rumblings

    […] post by Andrew Stephens-Rennie over at Empire Remixed has got me thinking about confession. ┬áMy sense […]


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