Every September, the little town closest to where I grew up in North Carolina has this festival called Mule Days. It happens over a long weekend; there’s no school on Friday; and everyone sort of hangs out in and around this small town. There’s a parade and rodeo and backyard football games, but what really makes it special is that people get to ride their horses everywhere through town, which gives it a neat 19th-century feel. I used to look forward to this every year.
So I’m there as a 14-year-old kid. I’m a high school freshman. My best friend and I are walking around one side of town — because that’s what we did, we’d just walk around — but then we wanted to get to the other side of town. And so we start walking that direction until an older kid from our high school and one of his friends pulls up beside us and asks if we want a ride. We say Yes, and so we climb into the back of this car and he eases all the way down Main Street and pulls into the Burger King parking lot. And this is good. This is where my buddy and I had been wanting to go, but I don’t get out of the car. I just sit there, and we’re talking and carrying on. And then another guy from high school pulls in beside us driving his Camaro. And he’s got a few people in his car, and he’s talking to our driver, and they’re talking about how fast their cars are, and I could have gotten out of the car.
But I just sit there.
And the next thing I know we’re peeling out the parking lot, out of the town limits, speeding down a winding country road, and the Camaro is behind us. And then the Camaro passes us, and we pass the Camaro, and I realize at about this moment that I’m part of some kind of Need for Speed illegal street race. We were seriously flying, and I don’t really care at this point about the legality issues, I’m fearing for my life, and I’m begging the driver to stop, to take us back to town, to get me out of this — because the short ride I intended has taken me further than I want to go.
Which is like sin.
Sin will always take you further than you want to go. And what we get to do right now, at this part of the service, is get out. That’s my exhortation to you. Get out of the car. Right now, get out.
Prayer of Confession
Father, your eyes see all the children of man. You see us and you know us. You know who we are and where we are, and you know when we climb into the backs of cars in which we do not belong. Too many times we have turned a blind eye to your mercy. We have shunned the way of escape, and we have indulged ourselves in the chaos of which Jesus died to set us free. And for that, we repent. We repent of double sins — first, we repent for the ways we have sinned, and second, we repent for the sin of trying to make peace with sin, of trying to rationalize our wickedness. And we ask, Father, for you to forgive us. Have mercy on us, and remind us now that however deep we may have fallen, your grace is deeper; that however far we may have gone, there is no place where your love cannot reach. So reach us now, please. According to the riches of your grace in Christ Jesus, bring to our minds and hearts what needs to be there now, and lead us in repentance, I pray, as we confess our sins to you in silence. . . .