And the Lord said, “What have you done? Listen; your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground!
I was taking another look at the verses I wrote about earlier this week, and was struck by a few more thoughts I wanted to share. As I said then, the passage is structured liturgically. The story of Cain and Abel follows the flow of liturgy that God’s people have used for the duration of their existence. (It’s usually something like this: Call to Worship–>Call to Confession–>Passing the Peace–>Word–>Sacrament–>Benediction)
I pointed out that the blood-soaked soil “crying out” was the first instance of lament in the Bible, and it appears in the “Call to Confession” section of this odd liturgy-story, and it shows us how the world bears the weight of our own sin. Looking at it again, though, I see it means much more than just that.
God calls us to confession through the world
First, this shows us where the voice of this Confession call is usually found: the world around us. How many of us, looking out at the brokenness of our cities, towns, and nations feel a need to “confess” and “repent”? Perhaps we should.
Seeing the sin, violence, and injustice in the world should turn our hearts to ponder how we play a role in it, encourage it, perpetuate it, ignore it, or support systems that do so. God calls us to confession through the world’s cries. If we ever take note of anything that is not in line with God’s Kingdom vision for the world, this is, in and of itself, a Call to Confession for God’s people.
The cry of the world is our Call to Confession. The world needs Christians to press into Confession and Repentance. Repeatedly, constantly, and intentionally. As individuals and as well as communities.
God calls us to confession for the world
Second, this shows us a reason for Confession. In this story what draws God to call Cain to confess? It wasn’t the mere fact Cain had sinned. God was not meticulously watching Cain, just waiting to pounce on him for doing a sin. Sin was not the reason God called Cain to confess.
It was the cry of the bleeding ground.
God himself responds to earth’s cries by shedding his own blood into that very same soil, bearing the violence of Cain in his own body and then descending into the earth soaked with his blood. From there he calls out to his Church from within the crying world around us, inviting us, calling us to Confession and reconciliation.
God calls his People to confess as a response to the world’s cry, whose voice he himself has joined, in order to equip the Church to respond to those very cries. Confession of Sin, therefore, is not about our individual moral “self-development”, it’s about preparing us as an offering to the world. God sees a world in need and then turns to his people to call them to Confession.
We are the bearers of God’s salvation to the world and communities around us, and Confession is an integral part of this for several reasons.
It facilitates our participation in this mission, removing whatever obstacles stand between us following our King. It lets us know our God all the more intimately, and to know this One that we extend to others. And it allows God to declare over us our identity as the forgiven children of God.
Confession is missional; it is our participation in the mission of God. The Call to Confession is a call in the desert to seek the baptismal water of God’s forgiveness that we might in turn water the earth with it.
So may it be our joy to cry out these words to our God, on behalf of the world around us: Lord have mercy; Christ have mercy.
Read more in this Lent series, “The Weeping Word“