By: Rev Ed Schneider
Me-Ah-Col-Pah-Schmolpa. What in the world does that mean?
Okay, so it’s a bit unorthodox and shortly you will also discover it is intentionally misspelled. Hopefully, it will become abundantly clear in just a moment as to why I have chosen to start in this way.
On occasion I have been known to share a story about my family to help illustrate an important point. I have written about my daughters and even had the courage (some say stupidity) to make fun of my wife’s unique behavior regarding dancing and singing in public. Well, Me-Ah-Col-Pah-Schmolpa is another attempt at bringing light to one of my wife’s completely odd and quirky attitudes (in her mind perfectly normal) about not having any interest in football.
I know you just gasped loudly. I can hear every good sports fan, almost by reflex, shouting out loud, “No! No! It can’t be.” Alas, my friends, it is unfortunately true. Other than her beloved New York teams, and then only infrequently, she shows a lack of any interest in the great American fascination with the game of football. I am telling you with all sincerity, I have tried over and over again to get her interested in any level of pigskin follies and without failure at the end of each and every attempt all she ever says to me is “football – Schmootball”.
Many of you know by now that Mrs. Schneider is from New York. I have recently discovered that whenever anyone from the greater New York area starts any word with the prefix “schm” it means they find the word they are combining it with to be useless as well as carrying an ample amount of disdain. So, where does that leave us relative to our title for the day?
There is a Latin phrase called “mea colpa”, which is so badly misspelled above, that has the general meaning of expressing an intimate sense of “personal fault.“ In other words anyone expressing a “mea colpa” is testifying quite openly, “I am guilty.”
We evangelical preacher-folk speak about the joy of the resurrection and the divine empowerment of God’s Holy Spirit. There is certainly no doubt that it is wonderful to experience the boldness and empowering effects of God’s resurrection. However, if any of us lose the humility of our own history before the throne of grace, we are in danger of lessening a relationship with our all-powerful God.
Some of us have forgotten the value that comes from remembering what Christ had to sacrifice for each one of us so that we might benefit by the resurrection. How many of us could possibly understand and accept the benefits of the resurrection of Jesus unless or until we profoundly humble ourselves before God? Without the commitment of Christ to willingly sacrifice himself, there would be no resurrection to celebrate. That is where the Latin phrase “mea colpa” comes into play to God through prayer.
Some of us have all but thrown away one of the symbols of our humility toward Christ’s sacrifice – the confession. With each confession we testify that we are not worthy of Christ’s gracious gift of sacrifice on our behalf. What I am suggesting is that you may be missing one of the most intimate opportunities available to connect with God.
There is a need to frequently remember that God’s grace is an unmerited gift, and because of that, all of us would be better served to confess what and how we have fallen short in the Divine’s eyes. It is never good enough to just say “we have all fallen short.” It is essential for each believer to be a little more specific.
The personal honesty and trust that is required in complete openness when we confess our transgressions testifies to our understanding in a gracious and saving God.
If we truly believe the Creator will love us in spite of our faults and failings, then we ought to be practically demonstrating that faith boldly. When you have done something that has disappointed God’s plan for your life, then be a grown-up Christian soul and tell him about it. When you humbly confess the specific “what” and “how “of any sinful activity, you receive the real and tangible evidence of God’s gift of mercy and grace. Beloved, this is no small thing!
In contrast, if you do not practice your proclaimed faith in a gracious God, then symbolically you have said “mea colpa-Schmolpa”. Without taking the confession seriously you deny the importance of the process of being humble before the Lord. By finding no real importance in confessing your faults to God, you are telling Him that whatever you did wrong is of no importance. By thinking this way, you are quite literally saying that Christ’s sacrifice wasn’t necessary and is of no real importance in the grand scheme of things.
Please don’t tell me that there are any sincere Christian souls who come to believe that they haven’t fallen short in “eyes of God” when we fail at loving one another or tithing or mission support or church attendance – or even being the best spouse or parent you could be. If someone actually has to come to believe this nonsense, then God has a right to assume you must also think you are perfect. If you are perfect, why would you need Christ? In fact, you wouldn’t.
I am not suggesting you continually feel guilty. I am certainly not suggesting you hang your head in shame every minute of the day. Living a life filled with guilt is simply counterproductive to the plan God has of reconciling humanity. God enables us to live life joyfully, abundantly, and with a sense of purpose that most of the rest of the world can only hope to experience. We proclaim because Christ paid the ultimate price for our failings, we no longer have to live in fear of what the Bible refers to as “God’s judgment”. However if any of us have come to the erroneous conclusion that there is no purpose or value in a personal and remarkably intimate confession before God, then we are just plain wrong.
Taking personal confession seriously says to God that we will never be guilty of thinking “mea colpa-schmolpa.” We can instead find the divine value in humbly expressing our personal faults with the blessed reassurance that forgiveness is always available. That, beloved, is one of the great truths of our faith. Peace.