This was especially true when it came to the observation of the sacraments: the Lord’s Supper and Baptism. For the sacraments, there was a set form, with written prayers and set procedures. The ritual for the Lord’s Supper and Baptism were taken from the old Methodist Episcopal Church from which my former denomination broke rank in the late 18th century. The Methodist Episcopal Church, in turn, borrowed their ritual from the Book of Common Prayer of the Anglican Church from which it came.
After all these years, I still know much of the liturgy by heart, especially the order for the Lord’s Supper. After inviting communicants to the altar rail to partake of communion (in my former denomination, we used to kneel to receive the Lord’s Supper), the minister led the congregation in a prayer of general confession:
Almighty God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Maker of all things, Judge of all men, we acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness, which we from time to time most grievously have committed, by thought, word and deed, against thy Divine Majesty, provoking most justly thy wrath and indignation against us. We do earnestly repent, and are heartily sorry for these our misdoings; the remembrance of them is grievous unto us. Have mercy upon us, have mercy upon us, most merciful Father; for thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, forgive us all that is past; and grant that we may ever hereafter serve and please thee in newness of life, to the honor and glory of thy name, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Today, I was thinking about particular sins I’ve committed, and the thought crossed my mind: “the remembrance of them is grievous unto us.” That’s exactly how I feel. I’m grieved by the things I’ve done. Needless to say, I can’t change the past, nevertheless, I still remember. Even knowing God’s forgiveness through faith in Jesus Christ, I find that “forgive and forget” is impossible to do. We can forgive others and receive God’s forgiveness, but the mind still retains its memory. It’s when my mind pulls up the memory of my sins that I’m grieved.
Not only does the memory of my sins grieve me, but the memory humbles me. When I want to lash out with condemnation against someone else, it is the memory of my own sin which either stops me completely or tempers my response. It’s the memory of my own sin which helps me understand fellow sinners, even of the grossest sort. I don’t condone their sin, but I understand that, but for God’s grace, I could do the exact same thing. It is the memory of my own sin which helps me to realize that, apart from Christ, I am a vile sinner deserving eternal condemnation.
Obviously, one can take this kind of thing too far. Nevertheless, I think brief remembrances of our own sins can be a useful corrective against self-righteousness and pride. As awful as abortion is, as shameful as homosexuality of any kind is, I just can’t get as worked up over it as some of my fellow conservative evangelicals. Is abortion a sin? Definitely. Abortion is murder. Is homosexuality a sin? Absolutely. It is an abomination in the sight of God. But the remembrance of my own sins reminds me that I’m not far removed from the homosexual or the one who condones abortion. Homosexuality and abortion are symptoms of a fatal affliction that I also have: sin.
The memory of my own sins informs me that the “pro-choice” individual and the homosexual do not need my hatred and condemnation; they need the Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior from sin. They need Jesus like I do.