St. Augustine has taught us that, “The confession of evil works is the first beginning of good works.” So confession of sins begins what ends with the voice of God speaking absolution through the mouth of the pastor. So our confession before the world begins with what is wrong, disorderd by sin, and distorted by death and then comes what God has done to forgive sin, restore His order, and bestow life that death cannot still.
The confession of evil is not the end. But it must be the beginning. Under the guidance of the Spirit we have been given eyes to see without the glare of the world or self to distort what is seen. And in this vision we see that all is not well, sin is not a minor problem, and death is not natural. In this vision we see that we are by the corruption of our nature sinful and unclean. In this vision we see that death has held us captive against the will of the Father but because of our own rebellious wills. In this vision we see that there is nothing we can do to repair what is broken or restore what is fallen. Instead the only thing we can do is confess the evil. But not only the evil. We also confess the good that God has done, the mercy He has shown, and the grace in which we stand even now. The Lord has done all things well and chief among them is what He has done to save and redeem His fallen creation.
The confession of evil admits that our good works cannot balance the evil we have thought, said, and done, and yet we rejoice that God even sees our good works through the great work of Christ and by His mercy rejoices in them. Though they have no power to redeem us, they do have the power to glorify God and to mark us as those whom He has redeemed. They also have the power to address our neighbor with the love that we ourselves have received from God. God may not need them but our neighbors do and it has pleased God to give us this holy calling of love from our baptism.
It is for this we live now -- for the glory of God and for service to neighbor. We have been created anew in Christ Jesus for good works and it all begins with the humble confession of the evil we have thought, said, and done, and the evils in the world around us that stand in opposition to the eternal good the Father has made known by the Spirit in His Son, Jesus Christ.
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