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When Your House is Called Good

Mar 22, 2021 | Church Rhythms | 1 comment

orange and black butterfly graffiti
Every Sunday, our church family has said a form of the following words as part of our weekly corporate confession:

We confess that we have sinned against you,
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done, and what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart.
We have not loved our neighbor as ourselves.
The Book of Common Prayer 2019

Oftentimes, when I reach this part of the confession, I yearn for silence, a pause before rushing to the next line, “We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.” What would the Holy Spirit unearth if we as a faithful, penitent community knelt uncomfortably in this silence to allow him to bring to our corporate consciousness the sins that we as the Church have committed this past week, months, or years?

We have dismissed those unlike us.
We have used our power to abuse the vulnerable.
We have sexually exploited our brothers, sisters, and children.
We have quarreled over words, and cursed others with our tongues.
We have sharpened our pens like arrows in order to prove our points.
We have honored the polished, and scorned the poor.
We have shunned the orphan to protect our families.
We have withheld healing from those who don’t adhere to our theology.
We have elevated honesty above integrity.
We have replaced prophecy for platitudes.
We have done all this in Jesus’ name. 

We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.

This Lent, I have been mourning how the Church has sinned in what it has done and left undone. Sometimes the fractures and fissures of our faith feel like caverns that could never be filled.  I hear the Apostle Paul’s words echo in my head, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24) 

Holy Lord, who will deliver us when the wretched body is the Body of Christ? 

A friend recently recommended the book, “A Church Called Tov: Forming a Goodness Culture That Resists Abuses of Power and Promotes Healing” (McKnight/Barringer). While I have not read it (it’s in the mail), the title has lodged in my heart. A church called “good.” This is what I long for: for the followers of Christ — the Church — to reflect the goodness of Jesus, the mercy of the Father, and the healing power of the Holy Spirit. 

Later that evening, I meditated on Psalm 65. Combining the psalm’s themes with the book’s title, the lyrics and melody of “When Your House is Called Good” fell into place. This song has become my prayer for the Church as I reflect on the depth of the Lord’s goodness in contrast to what sometimes feels like a dearth of goodness in his people. 

Make no mistake, the Church will always find itself on its knees in confession. There will always be thoughts, words and deeds that have sinned against the Lord and those made in his image. There will always be that which we have done, and left undone. These truths are not meant to excuse or mitigate the Church’s sin. Grace does not excuse sin. On the contrary, C.S. Lewis’ “Essay on Forgiveness” (Macmillian Publishing Company, Inc., N.Y, 1960) unpacks how forgiveness and grace are necessary because there are no excuses for sin in the presence of a holy God. The abhorrence of our sin should cause the Church to collapse daily to our knees to acknowledge, “without [his] grace, there is no health in us” (BCP 2019). And perhaps, through this practice, the Church’s hypocrisy will be transformed into humility, vitriol into virtue, and cacophony into communion. Then, maybe then, God’s house will be called good.

 

“When Your House is Called Good”
by Elise Massa


O God who hears our prayer,
to you all flesh will come.
When sin seems to prevail,
you ransom us with love.
The hope of all the earth
o’er the seas and forest wood:
The dead will find rebirth
when your house is called good.

 As children of the dust,
we walk among the thorn.
Our earthly treasures rust;
our broken spirits mourn.
The glory of your grace
we have barely understood.
What joy we will embrace
when your house is called good.

Wherever you abide,
abundance overflows.
The rivers run with wine;
a desert harvest grows.
When will we taste shalom?
When will all be as it should?
We’ll finally feel at home
when your house is called good.

About the Author
Elise Massa
serves as a Regional Director for United Adoration in Pittsburgh, PA. She serves her local church as the Assistant Director of Music and Worship Arts for Church of the Ascension.

Elise discovered art’s redemptive power for the Kingdom of God after her conversion in 1999. Her road to worship arts ministry includes training in theater and voice, earning a B.A. in Speech and Hearing Sciences from Indiana University-Bloomington, studying abroad in music and worship with Youth With a Mission (YWAM), and working alongside youth and families with special needs.

Passionate about empowering God’s people to worship with their own voice and story, she is co-founder (with Stacey Regan) of the Ascension Songwriters Collaborative. She is inspired by the lives of St. Teresa of Ávila, Mahalia Jackson, Monet, Makoto Fujimura, John Donne, and Maya Angelou.

 

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Debra K Kornfield

So beautiful, Elise. Thank you.

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