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A Sermon on Confession
by Archpriest Andrwe Harrison

I was asked to write out a sermon that I preached on Sunday March 29th. It was the Fourth Sunday of Great Lent (St. John of the Ladder)the Gospel was Matt.4: 29-5:12

In the name of the Father Son and Holy Spirit!

I was shocked to read this week about the killings in Arkansas. How could an 11 and 13 year old kill their classmates? According to the news reports, many people are suggesting the need to change the law about child crime. According to them, children should be tried as adults. Capital punishment and jail seem to be the only way we solve social problems in our country.

I believe the solution does not lie in putting children into jail. The solution is in teaching what is right and wrong. Our modern society supports situational ethics, which may be teaching our children that in some situations it is right to kill. Situational ethics is defined as ethical requirements, which would be right in one situation and wrong in another. We need to be teaching children that an act is right or wrong no matter what the situation is. Killing is wrong even during war. We need to teach the idea of sin. As far as I know there is no biblical injunction as to when a child is to be held responsible for what he does. The Church has chosen age seven as the time when children are prepared for their first confession.

Yesterday I spoke to five of our children who were preparing for their first confession. I asked them, "what do you think a sin is?" I received several interesting responses. "Something you do wrong". "Something God does not want you to do". I asked, " how do you know when something is right or wrong?". They said, 'it tells you in the Ten Commandments". All of the children said, you should not steal, lie or kill.

The children express rightly what we as adults think about sin. During lent we are required by church law to have a private confession. Before we come we are supposed to examine ourselves. We usually look at the commandments and say, "well I have tried to follow the commandments and maybe I have broken a few but not really the bad ones".

We would change our view of confession and sin if we examined ourselves according to the New Testament commandments. What are the New Testament commandments? If you listened closely to today's Gospel you would have heard them. They are called the Beatitudes. They tell us what we should do instead of what we should not do. They are clear requirements and are not situation ethics. Anytime we don't do them we are committing a sin.

To fully prepare for confession we should not only examine ourselves according to the Ten Commandments but we should examine ourselves according to the New Testament commandments, the Beatitudes

Here are some questions we should ask ourselves when we examine our conscience

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

Do I feel accepted by God when I feel most unacceptable to myself?

Do I feel the need for God? Have I turned my life over to him?

Do I know that I do not have to earn His love for me with wealth, status, or piety?

Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted.

Do I feel the empty places in my life?

Do I let others know I am hurting?

Do I share my grief?

Can I weep like Jesus did when his friend Lazaras died?

Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth.

Do I know that I don't have to be the strong one all of the time?

Do I know that I don't have to be a "master of the universe"?

Do I leave the control of my life up to God?

Can I be tender and gentle with people?

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled.

Do I want to know God?

Do I want to know his will for my life?

Do I want God to help in my decision making?

Can I accept His filling of my life? Do I trust his word?

Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy.

Do I enter into the feelings of someone who is hurting, lonely or distressed?

Am I sensitive to the suffering of others?

Am I willing to bare anothers burdens?

Can I listen to them?

Am I able to accept the care and concern that others give me?

Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God.

Am I transparent?

Do I have anything to hide?

Am I open and honest with God and others?

Do I pretend to be what I am not?

Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God.

Do I open channels of communication for others and myself?

Do I deal with anger and disagreements immediately?

Do I let them fester?

Do I encourage others to work out their differences?

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven

Do I know what I am living for?

Am I afraid to suffer, take the heat, stand up for what is right, and take critcism?

Am I self-righteous or do I pity myself?

Self-acceptance, empathy, gentleness, spirituality, sensitivity, transparency, peacefulness and endurance - by developing these qualities we can begin to call ourselves Christians. For Christ had all of these.

Let us pray! O Lord we remember Saint John of the Ladder. By your divine revelation through him we learned about spiritual prayer and the Ladder of Divine accent. May we find and enter our quiet place so that the qualities described in the Beatitudes will be rungs in our ladder of divine accent.

O Lord, as we experience your Holy Passion we give thanks for your love for us. May we show our love for you by entering into a new way of living so that we can be truly blessed. Amen.

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