We are a fractured people living in a fractured world. All too often we gather on Sunday to worship against the backdrop of division—something happening in our church, our community, or our nation that is dividing us. Sometimes these divisions appear on the evening news or our Facebook feed, but even when they don’t rise to prominence, even when they are so commonplace they barely raise an eyebrow, we need to find words to come before God and confess. We need to confess not only how we have personally contributed to these divisions, but also the ways in which the church, our nation, and the systems all around us are complicit. But we also need to hear the good news: that there is another way, that our God is a reconciling God, that in Christ we are all made one. Then we must commit to doing what we can to break down barriers and work towards unity. I wish we only needed to do this once. Sadly, this is a practice we may need to do more often in our churches. But sometimes it is hard to know what to say, so we are grateful for this resource prepared by Jenni Breems.
Prayer of Confession
Inclusive God, Three in One and One in Three,
your Word gives us a grand picture of your people,
gathered from every category we can imagine,
praising you together in heaven.
But our daily reality often falls short of what you desire.
Sung Refrain: “There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism. There is one God, who is Father of all” (see p. 38 for music).
We confess that the Christian church,
which is called from the entire human family,
is fractured by divisions of race, language, and nationality.
We confess that Christ’s work of breaking down barriers
is carried out imperfectly.
We who have been reconciled to God
often fail to seek reconciliation with one another.
We confess that we do not demonstrate
the unity of the people of God
in the ways that we love one another.
We do not always practice or pursue opportunities for community.
Often we seek first our own interests
instead of giving ourselves joyfully for others.
Many times, we allow ourselves to become so busy doing our own work
that we give your greater work a lesser priority.
We confess that we do not know not know
how to bear the burdens of those who are different from us.
Because we do not know, we fail to build up,
encourage, sympathize with, or serve with them.
We confess that our political and social systems often magnify our differences.
We recognize that these systems disproportionately hinder justice
for the marginalized and people of color.
We confess our pride that elevates our own thoughts,
actions, practices, and cultures above those of other people.
Lord, teach us humility as we work together.
We confess our sense of contentment with the status quo.
Move us to seek out friendships with those we perceive as different from ourselves.
May those friendships become the basis for action that grows out of love.
Unifying Spirit, these confessions go deep.
They are hard.
They upset our ideas about our own identities.
Remind us that our true identity is found only in you.
You love people from every language, nationality, and people.
As your image bearers, teach us to love.
And all God’s people said: Amen.
Assurance of Pardon
Brothers and sisters, hear these words of assurance:
God is light, and in God there is no darkness at all.
If we walk in the light, as God is in the light, we have fellowship with one another,
and the blood of Jesus, God’s Son, cleanses us from all sin.
Christ is our peace; those who are divided he has made one.
He has broken down the barriers of separation by his death
and has built us up into one body with God.
To all who repent and believe he has promised reconciliation.
So live as people reconciled. Amen.
Affirmation: The Unity of the Body
We believe in one holy,
universal Christian church,
the communion of saints
called from the entire human family.
We believe that Christ’s work of reconciliation
is made manifest in the church
as the community of believers
who have been reconciled
with God and with one another.
We believe that this unity of the people of God
must be manifested and be active
in a variety of ways:
in that we love one another;
that we experience, practice, and pursue
community with one another;
that we are obligated to give ourselves willingly
and joyfully to be of benefit
and blessing to one another;
that we share one faith,
have one calling,
are of one soul and one mind;
have one God and Father,
are filled with one Spirit,
are baptized with one baptism,
eat of one bread
and drink of one cup,
confess one name,
are obedient to one Lord,
work for one cause,
and share one hope.
We believe that together we come to know
the height and the breadth
and the depth of the love of Christ;
together are built up
to the stature of Christ,
to the new humanity;
together know and bear
one another’s burdens,
thereby fulfilling the law of Christ
that we need one another
and upbuild one another,
admonishing and comforting one another;
that we suffer with one another
for the sake of righteousness;
together serve God in this world;
and together fight against all
which may threaten or hinder this unity.
—Excerpted from The Belhar Confession LUYH 259