We bought our new home in Bowling Green knowing that it would require a full kitchen renovation. What we did not know what how much work a kitchen renovation really was. More than just taking out cabinets and replacing them with new, we took the entire thing down to the studs and sub-floor, rewired every light, switch, and outlet, moved some plumbing, and even expanded a walkway. Rather than putting lipstick on the pig that was our old kitchen, we worked with intention and care to turn it into one of the finest pork roasts you could ever imagine. Straining metaphor aside, such is the work of the Christian faith, according to Paul’s often quoted twelfth chapter of the Letter to the Romans.
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God– what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
The word translated as “renewing” can also be rendered as “renovation” as in a “complete change for the better.” Like it was for our kitchen, the goal of our faith journey in Christ isn’t a simple cosmetic upgrade, but rather that we take a full accounting of our sins, strip everything of our old self away, and with God’s help, work toward a new mind that is one with the will of God. To be sure, painting cabinets and upgrading a light fixture will make things look nice, and it is a whole lot easier, but the real work of renovation comes when we are willing to dig deep and uncover the hidden mess that lay beneath the surface.
One way to do that, though one that I have found to be rarely used in the Episcopal congregations I have served (so rare, I have never had anyone ask me for it), is the sacramental rite of reconciliation of a penitent. Found in the Prayer Book beginning on page 447, this rite invites us to name aloud “all serious sins troubling the conscience,” that is, to move beyond the surface to bring to light those things that we would rather not name. To take on the work of what is commonly called confession, is difficult, and it can take a while to really get at what God is trying to help us let go, but it is always fruitful as it brings us closer yet to a renovated mind that is able to discern the will of God.
It is often said of confession in the Episcopal Church that “all may, none must, some should,” but I wonder if Paul would have us maybe more carefully consider if we fall in that category of some who should.