Tag Archives: Litany of Penitence

“Git ‘er done!” (or not)

"Git 'er Done!" (or not) [CaD Jud 1] Wayfarer

The Benjamites, however, did not drive out the Jebusites, who were living in Jerusalem; to this day the Jebusites live there with the Benjamites.
Judges 1:21 (NIV)

As we approached the end of my sophomore year in high school, my English teacher called me up to his desk. He had his grade book on his desk in which he wrote down the grades of all the assignments for every student in class for that semester.

“Your grade this semester is right on the line between an A and a B,” he said. He then pointed to a blank box on the grade book. “You never turned in your third book report this semester.”

He was right. I didn’t really learn the joy of reading until late college and after. I was a terrible reader when I was younger. I didn’t like reading.

“You’re right,” I told my teacher. “I didn’t do it.”

“That’s all you have to say?” he asked.

I had only been a follower of Jesus for just over a year at this point, but I knew what Jesus expected of me was honesty.

“I could stand here and make up an excuse like ‘the dog ate my paper,” but the truth is that I simply procrastinated the assignment and didn’t get it done. I’m sorry. If that means that I get a B instead of an A, then I get that you have to give me a B. I understand that’s the consequence of my not doing it.”

Looking back, that was kind of a small step forward in a larger spiritual journey for me, the journey of honesty, transparency, and confession. A journey I’m still on, for the record. I’m further down the road on that one, but I definitely haven’t arrived.

Today’s chapter kicks off the book of Judges which comes right after the book of Joshua which we just finished. It’s a continuation of the story, so it feels right to keep going. The Hebrew tribes conquered the Promised Land, divided the land, and settled into their allotted territories. Joshua is dead.

But the assignment isn’t finished.

Joshua’s conquest took control of the largest and most strategic cities and peoples living in the region. The Hebrew tribes were dominant in the area, but the inhabitants still remained in smaller areas, cities, and villages. It was now up to each tribe to finish the task and drive the remaining inhabitants from their tribal lands.

The author of Judges begins the story with a record of which tribes succeeded at this assignment, and which did not. Judah and Manasseh were the two largest tribes with the largest fighting forces. They had some early successes, but their campaign stalled.

Whenever I’m reading a chapter of the Great Story and I notice repetition, I always try to pay attention. Here’s what I noticed today:

  • “but they were unable to drive the people from the plains”
  • “The Benjamites, however, did not drive out the Jebusites…”
  • “But Manasseh did not drive out the people of…”
  • “…they pressed the Canaanites into forced labor but never drove them out completely.”
  • “Nor did Ephraim drive out the Canaanites living in Gezer…”
  • “Neither did Zebulun drive out the Canaanites living in Kitron…”
  • “Nor did Asher drive out those living in Akko…”

There are even more, but you get the picture. The tribes failed to complete the assignment, and that’s exactly what the author of Judges wants me to know because everything else I’m going to read in the subsequent stories is the consequence of this very fact.

There is a formal liturgy used by both Catholic and Protestant institutions called the Litany of Penitence. I occasionally use it in my personal time with God. It opens with this line:

I confess to you and to my brothers, and to the whole communion of saints in heaven and on earth, that I have sinned by my own fault in thought, word, and deed; by what I have done, and what I have left undone.

In a moment of spiritual synchronicity, I also read James 4 in the quiet this morning, in which James tells followers of Jesus:

“If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.”

Some mornings, Holy Spirit makes the lesson quite clear. Procrastination comes easy for me. Part of it is the way I’m wired to go with life’s flow. There is a part of it, however, that is much more than that; Its willfulness, laziness, and a nasty habit of not finishing what I started. Unlike Larry the Cable Guy, I often fail to “git ‘er done.”

Ironically, my high school English teacher gave me an A for that semester, and that’s why I still remember the story. That teacher (who was, ironically, Jewish) has always been a reminder to me of a gracious and forgiving God who says, “if you confess your sins, I am faithful and just, and will forgive your sins and cleanse you from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

In the quiet this morning, I once again confess that I’ve still got a ways to go in both honestly owning my own shortcomings, and faithfully finishing tasks on my list.

And so, I enter another day in the journey. Time to get to work on the task list.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Confession is Good for the Soul

David Entrusts a Letter to Uriah - Miserere, p...
David Entrusts a Letter to Uriah – Miserere, psalm 51 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 51

Create in me a clean heart, O God.

    Renew a loyal spirit within me.
Do not banish me from your presence,
    and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me.
Psalm 51:10-11 (NLT)

Songs are often best understood in the context of the time and place they were written. It is critical to understand the context of today’s psalm. It was written by David who had just been dramatically confronted with his own wrongdoing by the prophet, Nathan. If you’ve never read the story, or if it’s been a long time since you read it, I encourage you to take a few minutes to read it in 2 Samuel 11-12.

Today’s song is a song of penitence; it expresses regret for wrongdoing and sin. It is easy for me to get cranking through my day. Like David before he was confronted by Nathan, I can easily be distracted by a myriad of thoughts and tasks. I give little thought to the ways I’ve been hurtful to God and others in the course of my day. When I stop for a moment to think about it, however, I am struck at just how far I am from where I want to be. Psalm 51 suddenly becomes very personal. I find my heart crying out like David in confession and a plea for forgiveness.

The old saying is that confession is good for the soul. I believe it to be true. Confession is spiritual chiropractic. It recognizes where we are spiritually out of alignment with God and in need of proper adjustment. It puts us back in place and makes way for spiritual health and all of its benefits.

As I have prayed my way through the Divine Hours by Phyllis Tickle, I ran across her use of an ancient litany of the church: The Litany of Penitence. It has done my soul good to make it a regular part of my morning quiet time because as I read through it I am regularly reminded of how much I need confession, repentance, mercy, grace, and forgiveness. While the Litany was originally written to be part of a responsive reading between priest and congregation, here is a variation I often make person prayer to God:

Most holy and merciful Father:

I confess to you and to my brothers and sisters, and to the whole communion of saints in heaven and on earth, that I have sinned by my own fault in thought, word, and deed; by what I have done, and by what I have left undone.

I have not loved you with my whole heart, and mind, and strength. I have not loved my neighbors as myself. I have not forgiven others, as I have been forgiven.

Have mercy on me, Lord.

I have been deaf to your call to serve, as Christ served us. I have not been true to the mind of Christ. I have grieved your Holy Spirit.

Have mercy on me, Lord.

I confess to you, Lord, all my past unfaithfulness: the pride, hypocrisy, and impatience of my life,

I confess to you, Lord.

My self-indulgent appetites and ways, and my exploitation of other people,

I confess to you, Lord.

My anger at my own frustration, and my envy of those more fortunate than me,

I confess to you, Lord.

My intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts, and my dishonesty in daily life and work,

I confess to you, Lord.

My negligence in prayer and worship, and my failure to commend the faith that is in me,

I confess to you, Lord.

Accept my repentance, Lord, for the wrongs I have done: for my blindness to human need and suffering, and my indifference to injustice and cruelty,

Accept my repentance, Lord.

For all false judgments, for uncharitable thoughts toward my neighbors, and for my prejudice and contempt toward those who differ from me,

Accept my repentance, Lord.

For my waste and pollution of your creation, and my lack of concern for those who come after me,

Accept my repentance, Lord.

Restore me, good Lord, and let your anger depart from me;

Favorably hear me, for your mercy is great.

Accomplish in me the work of your salvation,

That I may show forth your glory in the world.

By the cross and passion of your Son our Lord,

Bring me with all your saints to the joy of his resurrection.