Today I have written enough for a full-length post that could stand alone in and of itself. I don’t normally do this when I am linking to material from other people’s blogs, but the issue of confession and how it is done in the Lutheran church is one that lands pretty heavily with me, particularly in light of what we are talking about right now in my church.
My church is currently in the middle of a sermon series entitled “Taking Responsibility for Your Life”, which is all about…well, exactly what it sounds like. This week the message dealt with the issue of when it is time to stop praying and start doing the very thing that you have been praying about.
Today I would like to direct your attention to a couple of posts from blogger Pat Kyle of New Reformation Press which deal with this issue, specifically as it relates to confession of sin. Kyle is a Lutheran giving the Lutheran take on confession–which, believe it or not, actually makes sense to me. His posts are entitled “How the Confession of My Sins Kept Me in the Church”. (Part 1) (Part 2)
Part 1 deals with corporate confession of sin during the church service. This is how the Lutheran church service begins:
Pastor: In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Pastor: If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
Congregation: But if we confess our sins, God, who is faithful and just, will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
After a period of silence, the Pastor continued: Let us then confess our sins to God our Father.
Congregation: Most merciful God, we confess that we are by nature sinful and unclean. We have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We justly deserve your present and eternal punishment. For the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us. Forgive us, renew us, and lead us, so that we may delight in your will and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Holy Name.
Pastor: Almighty God has given his Son to die for you and for His sake forgives you all of your sins. As a called and ordained servant of the Word, I therefore forgive you all of your sins in the name of the Father, and of the, the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Imagine a church service where this is the very first thing that happens, right out of the chute. No announcements. No words of welcome. No popular song, funny skit, or video to lead off the service. Instead, you just jump into this thing right from the giddy-up. Now imagine a room with a few hundred–perhaps even a thousand or a couple of thousand–people reciting this thing in perfect unison. Imagine how powerful that would be.
And how Gospel-centered. We evangelicals talk a good game when it comes to the idea of confession–“confess your sins, one to another” and “God is faithful and just to forgive us” and other such buzzwords–but our practice of confession is anything but Gospel-centered. Any confession of the “big sins” (sex outside of marriage, drinking, drugs, stealing, etc.) is a sure ticket to ostracization from the community of believers. We talk about grace, but our talk of grace is always watered down with warnings about “cheap grace” and possible abuses. Continue reading “Pat Kyle: A Lutheran Take on Confession”