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The Grammys and the celebration of confession
 

How do you confess when you’ve done something wrong or when life is amiss?

Some confess in private prayer — keeping their business between themselves and the Almighty. Others might confide to a close friend — the friend who loves you enough to not judge according to your worst deeds.

Some people make confession an event — reciting their deeds to a counselor, clergy person, or accountability group. Every now and then, someone confesses to the masses…

and we love it.

 

“Who can relate?”

There are many reasons we enjoy music. We like the sound of the music. We enjoy the musical hooks. We really respond to a song when it evokes something within us, when it draws emotions out of us.

In today’s culture, the emotions are incited by the sound of the music, but they’re also drawn out by the lyrical content of a song. We love the music we do because we identify with the content. The music that truly resonates with us is music that speaks for our souls.

We celebrate the music we love in awards like the Grammys. The crop of nominated songs and albums for 2018’s top Grammys suggests something surprising about the shape of our souls: We’re longing to confess a thing or two.

JAY-Z’s “4:44” was nominated for album of the year. The album opens with “Killing Jay Z”, through which the artist expresses a wish to change: he’s tired of the person he was (“Jay Z”), and seeks to become something new (“JAY-Z”). The album’s title track is a list of regrets and a plea for forgiveness ; JAY-Z says “I apologize” at least seven times.

The listener gets a sense that JAY-Z is regretful for some past actions and hopeful that healing and newness will come through admission of past wrongs.

Kendrick Lamar also uses an album to lay bare his internal struggles. His album, “DAMN.”, pits one track against the next in exploring Kendrick’s issues: “PRIDE.” vs. “HUMBLE.” “LUST.” vs. “LOVE.” “GOD.” vs. the self (represented in “DUCKWORTH.”). Kendrick confesses he is a man at odds with himself, struggling to find a good sense of identity.

Similarly, Lorde’s “Melodrama” portrays the artist as someone who is uneasy about the consequences of her current actions. She challenges her own behavior — wondering in musical prose if partying and substance abuse have meaning. She concludes the album with “Perfect Places,” which expresses a longing to go to a place or enter a state she has not yet found in the melodrama of her current life.

Several of the year’s biggest singles act as artists’ confessions. Julia Michaels' “Issues” bares the soul of someone admitting her imperfections before another person. Logic’s “1-800-273-8255” is a confession of hurt and a plea for help.

 

“Where you been? Where you at? What's on your mind?”

There is a connection between confession and emotional healing. Perhaps that is part of what draws us to these confessional songs: We get a sense of the artists’ healing through confession and we hope to encounter some of that catharsis, too.

In a world where we feel pressured to put our best selves on display, perhaps we’re also finding a yearning for spaces where we can therapeutically confess.

Merciful God,
we confess that we have not loved you with our whole heart.
We have failed to be an obedient church.
We have not done your will,
we have broken your law,
we have rebelled against your love,
we have not loved our neighbors,
and we have not heard the cry of the needy.
Forgive us, we pray.
Free us for joyful obedience,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
United Methodist Prayer of Confession

Churches regularly practice confession. Sometimes, confession is practiced in rote ways — where words are supplied for a congregation to reflect on and recite. Other times, churches seek to personally confide in one another for confession – revealing personal struggles and regrets.

In all cases, confession begins as a conversation with ourselves. Practicing confession demands that we take an honest look at ourselves and identify the instances and actions where we’ve caused harm. This internal conversation begins a process of realignment to our best intentions. Confession to others then amps up the process of realignment, for we are accountable to someone else.

But confession gives us something else. It’s what JAY-Z opened himself up to in his recorded confessions — it’s what he was pleading for. Confession leads us towards experiencing the joy of forgiveness.

As James 5:16 states, “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed.”

Do you have a community of confession? Share with us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. If you’re unable to think of a community for confession and the idea of a church sounds inviting to you, check out our Find-a-Church feature and we’ll try to get you plugged in to a community near you. 


Ryan Dunn, Minister of Online Engagement for Rethink Church (a part of United Methodist Communications)

[Posted January 23, 2018]

 
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