We at BJS have created a new column where we hope to review at least one program from Issues, Etc. each week. Our hope in doing this is to help people to understand what types of programs are available on Issues, Etc. and perhaps to generate interest in the show by new listeners. We also hope to make it easier for you to introduce Issues, Etc. to friends or members of your church; you can print these out and hand them to people who might be interested in the topic. Listen to the show to learn more about this topic, or go to the On Demand page on Issues Etc for other programs.
Confession and Absolution, Pastor’s Roundtable – Issues, Etc. 16th April, 2009
Pr. Wilken did a great job of opening up the segment by reminding us that Jesus talked about confessing and forgiving sins right after His resurrection when He gathered with His disciples (John 20). The question for modern Lutheranism is “why has Confession and Absolution fallen into disuse?”
Included in the Pastor Roundtable were Pastors Robert Niehus, Randy Asburry and Brothers of the John the Steadfast regular contributor Charles Henrickson.
The pastors focused in, (after Pr. Wilken quoted from John 20), on Article XI of the Augsburg Confession. Pr. Henrickson made a great point that Confession and Absolution is doctrine and practice and that the two are linked.
What did Confession and Absolution look like at the time when Article XI was written? Pr. Asburry described to us a wood cut of Luther kneeling at the communion rail and talking into the ear of his father confessor. He went on to say that the liturgy for Private Confession and Absolution, then as it is now, is nothing different than what we see in Luther’s Small Catechism
Pr. Niehus aptly pointed out that the life of a Christian is a life of confession, because we must acknowledge daily before God that He is God and we are not.
As regarding the enumeration of sins, Pr. Asburry called us again to the Small Catechism. We should confess in Private Confession and Absolution the sins that we know and feel in our hearts. We are guilty of all sins and we must confess to God that we are guilty of all sin, but in Private Confession we look at our specific lives and vocations and confess the specific ways in which we have violated God’s Law in the 10 Commandments.
Pr. Henrickson said that in confession “we are being honest with ourselves” and agreeing with God that we are sinful and need His forgiveness. It is not only the Augsburg Confession that tells us this, Holy Scripture also calls us to confess in 1 John 1 and in the Lord’s Prayer.
Pr. Niehus believes that Private Confession is not in wide practice, but the people that come have broken hearts and consciences and contrary to the compulsion to confess that was/is present in the Roman church, these people are feeling the weight of the Law and are longing for the Gospel that is spoken in the stead of Christ through the Pastor.
Pr. Asburry related some experiences in which a parishioner may come in for counsel, but the best way that he can help them is by encouraging them to Private Confession and Absolution.
So why is this wonderful gift given to the Lord’s Church in such disuse that one would find it in only a handful of Lutheran parishes? Pr. Henrickson has some thoughts:
- It is foreign to people and it seems Roman Catholic. In this case the pastor must teach on it first.
- There is also fear on the part of a parishioner that it would change the relationship with their pastor. He won’t be their buddy anymore if he knows their dirty laundry.
Pr. Asburry said that we should not worry about what our pastor will think of us. Our pastors know we are sinners. They are too. In going to Private Confession and Absolution, it is like going to the doctor. We are sin sick and need healing!
Pr. Wilken went on to make the claim that Confession and Absolution actually bonds the confessor and the penitent together and this is actually the natural way things should be.
Pr. Henrickson also stated that “his ear is like a graveyard” when it comes to confession and that if he were to divulge what he has heard he would forfeit his office.
I heartily recommend this Pastor’s Roundtable to all, especially to my fellow Brothers. Not only should we go, as it is good, right and salutary for us, but we should see it as our duty to encourage our fellow Christians and families to make use of this wonderful gift and the freedom from sin and its guilt and shame that the Gospel in Private Absolution provides.