Self Examination and Confession
Through the prophet Amos, the Lord uses the image of a plumb line to describe His coming judgment of Israel (Amos 7:1-9). At its simplest, a plumb line is simply a weight at the end of a string that hangs straight down as a test of vertical for a wall or column or post. Because of the weight, the plumb line is referenced only to gravity and not to other structures or influences. Scripture, prayer, and community provide a similar reference in our lives as Christians. The question becomes what do we do when we realize that our lives are “out of plumb”?
Similar to building a wall, the sooner we recognize it, the less dramatic the correction. This is why we have confession in both Morning and Evening Prayer as the Prayer Book gently walks us through the spiritual examination of our lives and our submission to the power and grace of God to return us to plumb.
Following an opening passage or passages from Scripture, we are invited to confession with the words: “Dearly beloved, the Scriptures teach us to acknowledge our many sins and offenses, not concealing them from our heavenly Father, but confessing them with humble and obedient hearts that we may obtain forgiveness by his infinite goodness and mercy.” We are invited to allow the words of Scripture and the working of the Holy Spirit to reveal those areas where we are out of plumb and bring them before God.
We continue with the words of confession: “Almighty and most merciful Father, we have erred and strayed from your ways like lost sheep. we have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts. We have offended against your holy laws. We have left undone those things which we ought to have done, and we have done those things which we ought not to have done; and apart from your grace, there is no health in us.” I usually pause after this last line and reflect on the ways in which the areas of my life not touched by God’s grace are crooked and falling down while the areas that are submitted to His grace are being rebuilt and transformed.
Finally, we receive the assurance of our absolution in the words: “The Almighty and merciful Lord grant you absolution and remission of all your sins, true repentance, amendment of life, and the grace and consolation of his Holy Spirit.” Remission of sins, repentance, amendment of life, and the experience of grace and peace are the reminder that as we bring our lives before God to be fully examined according to the Truth unreferenced to anything else, the love of the Father through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, in the power of the Holy Spirit transforms us from crooked and deformed into His image.