Yesterday, I shared the words of the Confession used across many denominations as a part of the Liturgy of the church. Liturgy, by the way, literally means “Work of the People.” It is the work we do in worship together. In that confession, we confessed to the “things I have done and the things I have left undone.” A pretty broad-sweeping confession that seems to cover all the bases, even if it does assume that at some point you put some greater thought into exactly what those things are, done and undone.
During the days I spent confessing in the aforementioned rhythmless, didactic worship, I confessed to a lot of things that were not on my list of “dids and did nots.” Each week brought a new list of things that the pastor thought, because of my zip code and my sheer presence in a house of worship in affluent suburbia, I must be guilty of. I agree that sin is communal as well as personal, systemic as well as individual. Derek Webb covers it when he sings “I repent of living like I deserve anything.” And yet, God lavishes God’s love upon us, forgiving us all our sins, the things which we have done and those we have left undone. Sufficient words to cover it all. If you are called to be more specific, the Episcopalians have a special Rite of Reconciliation and the Lutherans have private confession. I am sure other denominations provide similar avenues if you really need to talk specifics.
But, truthfully, it’s not the list of things I’ve done that really get me. It’s those things I’ve left undone, the opportunity cost of bad priorities or sheer obliviousness to the world around me. In a world where, as Frederick Beuchner reminds us, deep need is everywhere, there’s a lot to be done. I want to serve at the co-op, tutor failing students, hold the bereaved parent, lead the Girl Scout troop, teach my own kids, and still have time for family dinner every night where we gather and remember our day together, thanking God for our many blessings and asking for God’s help for those who are sick and suffering who we simply didn’t get around to helping that day. I want to open each day in meditative prayer and close it in the same way. I want to teach Sunday school, worship, sing in the choir, and go to bible study. I want to serve in Haiti, in Africa, in downtown Atlanta, in Buford and Norcross, and Suwanee.
If I am God’s hands in the world, I want to be the octopus, 10 times over. It’s a sickness, really. And, if you notice, it’s also all about what I want. I’m not really content to stick to what God calls me to do. Discernment is hard work. It is so often left undone.