While Ezra was praying and making confession, weeping and prostrating himself before the House of God, a very great crowd of Israelites gathered about him, men, women, and children; the people were weeping bitterly.
The people had failed again in spite of their return. Time and time again they went back to the foreign gods and to the ways of the nations around them who did not worship the Lord.
Ezra finds himself frustrated and tired of the constant failures of his people. In spite of all that God had done they continued to be disobedient by ignoring the commands of the Lord. Out of this frustration he, like many leaders of the people before him, bows down to the Lord and seeks restoration for the people.
As the leader confesses the people’s hearts are stirred and they grieve over their disobedience and vow to return to the precepts of the Lord.
As I leader I don’t remember a time when I have confessed sins on behalf of the community. I have apologized, clarified, and tried to make right, but never confessed. In fact, before reading this part of Ezra today I was weary of institutional acts of repentance and questioned their efficacy in bringing about change.
As I read today I became open to the possibility that a leaders’ confession and intercession for his/her people could make a difference. That if leaders modeled grief over our living off the mark, if we mourn how often we fail in living into our calling, and made that grief public before God and the community the Spirit of God might just begin to convict the hearts and true communal repentance could indeed be possible.
May we who are leaders of faith communities be open to a leadership that is centered not just on proclamation but also on confession. May we grieve openly and intercede on behalf of God’s people daily as we seek for our continual growth in grace as God’s people.