Questioning Confession and Priestly Underwear – Exodus 28
I’m squirming on the velvet-padded kneeler, sweating from the wool stockings my private school makes us wear. I make the sign of the cross, whisper, “Bless me Father, for I have sinned,” and venture a guess on how long it’s been since my last confession. Then slowly I start naming my offenses.
“I lied to my mom twice. I stole a piece of candy from my brother. I-I-I…”
I’m stammering, searching my conscience for anything else I need to confess. And I’m tempted to make something up, but I’d just have to confess that, too, so I stop. But I know there’s more I’d like to say.
The priest has his back to me. And it adds to my discomfort. I’m accustomed to the confessional where he is in one compartment, and I’m in the other, and there’s a nice solid barrier between us. But today our fourth-grade class lined up on this side of the sanctuary, the side where a small room serves as the place to do penance, and I can’t escape.
“Is that all?” the priest asks me quietly.
“I think so,” I reply. “But I have a question.”
I can barely believe what I’m about to ask, but before I can bite my tongue, I hit him with this:
“Why do I need to confess my sins to you? Why can’t I just confess them to God myself?”
He doesn’t answer me, and I’m not sure I’d understand him if he did, but I take his silence to mean I’d said something wrong. So when he tells me my penance is to say three Hail Mary’s, I say four, just in case.
I’m reading today’s passage in Exodus 28 with the same confusion I felt years ago as a Catholic schoolgirl. That’s not my religious affiliation anymore, not since I started bumming rides to my best friend’s Baptist church a few years later, and certainly the world of Moses seems strange and distant and foreign to me as well. But I stick around in these verses long enough to ask some more hard questions:
What’s the point of this passage? What relevance does it have to my life today? Can’t I just ignore what Aaron and his sons were wearing and deal with more contemporary things? I mean, seriously? How do priestly underpants point to Christ?
I’m sitting in the awkward silence of these honest questions, getting good and uncomfortable with myself for asking them, and I wonder if the Holy Spirit will ignore me, too. But He doesn’t. In fact, unlike the mute man of the cloth, He’s pretty quick to reply.
After digging through some footnotes in my Bible, I learn the practical purpose behind this priestly apparel, like the bejeweled breastpiece that serves as a constant reminder of the twelve sons of Israel. The Urim and Thummim that help the high priest make decisions. And the tinkling bells that track his movements inside the Holy Place.
It’s not long before I gain a new appreciation for the lengths to which God went to dwell with his people under the priesthood system. And I realize because God is so holy, these elaborate details were necessary if sinful human beings were to have fellowship with Him.
But the little schoolgirl inside of me isn’t completely satisfied with these insights.
So I close my eyes and look to Calvary, where Jesus, who is the Great High Priest, isn’t bearing any gems on his shoulders, just the cross and the weight of my sins. He’s not wearing a beautiful ephod or a fine linen turban, just a crown of thorns and nails in His hands. His clothes have been stripped away, and he hangs in naked shame.
And instantly I am stilled as I remember none of us are good enough to draw near to God, no matter who we are or what we’re wearing. But through Christ and the extravagant price he paid on the cross, we can come to Him and find perfect forgiveness and complete cleansing for our sins.
“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.” (John 7:37)
Megan Oldfield is a writer, stay-at-home mom, and chronic user of the word, “Dude.” She earned a degree in television and film writing at Syracuse University, and while she once was a Web designer and television producer, she now homeschools and drives a mini-van, two things she swore she’d never do. Megan lives dangerously close to Hershey’s Chocolate World in rural Pennsylvania, along with her husband and three kids, and when she’s not feeding them or folding their laundry, she’s stringing words together about family, faith, marriage, and motherhood at her personal blog, RaineyDays.org.