My First Time — An experience of Private Confession and Absolution

absolvedI was scared. I wasn’t sure what I would say. Could I really be honest? I wanted to do it but wasn’t sure if I was ready. You may have heard of it, but thought it wasn’t for you. You probably feel like there isn’t anything that really troubles your conscience enough to warrant it. You probably think the confession and absolution in during the divine service is enough, don’t worry it is. For some people that isn’t enough. That general confession of sins isn’t enough to ease a troubled mind. I don’t know about you but the moment of silence for reflection of my sins that the pastor gives me before the absolution is hardly enough time to reflect on the past weeks’ sins. Usually I just think about the sins that really trouble me, those are the sins that need to be named, confessed, and repented of privately with your pastor. Private confession is private, but at the same time screams out loud the sins that your sinful flesh likes to hide.

My first experience with private confession and absolution was a long time coming. I knew the sin that was troubling me but I was scared to confess it and say it out loud to my pastor. My respect for him and his opinion of me delayed my asking him if I could “stop by for a chat”. When I arrived I couldn’t even ask him, my old Adam was fighting back. I beat around the bush by asking general questions about private confession and absolution. After a few minutes he asked me if I had something I needed to confess. I reluctantly said yes and followed him into the sanctuary. My pastor went through the Individual Confession and Absolution on page 292 of The Lutheran Service Book with me and the moment came to confess the sin that was causing me such pain. I remember the wide range of emotions running through my body. I was scared, worried, and apprehensive. At the same time ready to confess and even more ready to hear of the forgiveness I have in Jesus Christ.

In The Lutheran Service Book after a general admission of sin, you have this; which was nerve wrecking then and still is today:

“What troubles me particularly is that…”

Here is my chance to confess that sin aloud, to repent and be forgiven. I won’t give you the details but I’m sure you can imagine confessing your favorite sin, the sin you deem most damning. It wasn’t easy and to be truthful my old Adam fought it the entire time. After the confession, a great sense of relief and emotion came over me. But the real relief and emotion was yet to come, the absolution.

“Do you believe that my forgiveness is God’s forgiveness?”

“Yes.”

“In the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ I forgive you all yours sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Go in Peace. Amen.”

After finishing the confession and absolution my pastor and I read a few psalms and headed to his office to candidly discuss this sin and ways to help resist it; also understanding this is an uphill battle. My sinful flesh doesn’t want to stop. The devil is constantly in my ear telling me to not confess and continue with my favorite sin. After confessing my sin out loud, I had little trouble talking to my pastor about it. They are forgiven and my pastor has never brought them up since. When your pastor hears your sin, it is forgiven and forgotten; just like Jesus Christ forgives your sin and it no longer stains you. Not guilty is our claim to our Father in heaven because of our savior Jesus Christ.

After my first time, I understood the great gift we have in private confession and absolution. We must cling to it. Just as we cling to our baptism, cling to the sacrament of the altar and cling to the Word of God. These are gifts from God to strengthen our faith and show us the great mercy God has for us all. Brothers and sisters in Christ, consider your sin in light of the Ten Commandments. Consider your confession of your sins on Sunday morning. If I am honest with myself I could go “have a chat” with my pastor every week. Consider asking your pastor to speak about private confession and absolution not as a once and a while thing, but as something that we should do continually throughout life. The gift of private confession and absolution should never be taken for granted as it points us back to the perfect confession of Jesus Christ and the absolution he won for us all.

 

About Nathan Redman

Nathan Redman was baptized into Christ at Bethel Lutheran Church (ELCA) Wahpeton, North Dakota on June 17th 1979. He and his wife, Bernice and their two children, Elsie and Porter are members of Redeemer Lutheran Church (LCMS) in St. Cloud, Minnesota. Nathan works for a family owned Pepsi distributor in St. Cloud. In his spare time he enjoys watching Doctor Who, listening to Frank Sinatra and drinking single malt Scotch. Nathan considers it a privilege to write for Steadfast Lutherans.

Comments

My First Time — An experience of Private Confession and Absolution — 7 Comments

  1. Bravo. I have been through private confession exactly 1 time. It removed years of burden. While I can’t say that I am looking forward to the next time, I am grateful my pastor offers it. (It will be my first with him.) In typical “guy” fashion, we don’t like to go to the doctor, don’t want to hear the bad news (you need to lose weight, change your diet, take this medication etc…) I believe we also approach confession in the same manner. For me, acceptance of my need was the important thing. Hearing the absolution and believing the Words of Christ, delivered to me by a called and ordained servant, by His command and in His stead, made all the difference to me. “Handling it on your own” is no different than works righteousness. For those of you who consider it, talk to your pastor about it and do it!

    Thank you for the wonderful article.

  2. While I do not do so weekly, I have taken the Lord’s advantage offered in the Sacrament of Absolution with my pastor many times.

    Each time there was immediate relief of anxiety, and followed by the Blessed Eucharist, complete peace.

    However . . . we are called to confess our sins daily. The Pastor might not be available . . . is my “confession” on my own, before the Lord, “efficacious”? Is there an absolution pronounced? Is it valid?

    Can I be sure? Yes, yes, and yes.

    By the moment I repent and confess what I am, and know that Christ on the Cross covered it. So I need not worry about my most private of private confession and absolution being efficacious. It is. That is never “work-righteousness.”

    But I will avail myself of the efficacy of the Holy Ministry at whatever opportunity presented as well. I know well the absolutions offered by Holy Writ . . .

    But hearing it spoken to me . . . priceless. Your Pastor is given the task to cleanse your soul – for God’s sake, make use of such a blessing.

    Pax tecum – jb

  3. I have gone every week now for four years. It is a grace I would not give up and my way of preparing for the reception of the Lord’s Supper. I cannot say enough wonderful about this treasure. I have found it helps me to resist temptation as well, since I know that if I give in I’ll have to confess it. The voice of Christ through His minister granting absolution silences all the accusations of the evil one. It is part of keeping our baptismal garment spotless and abiding in the light. It grants us peace and assurance. Last night I dreamed that I wrote in gold letters on a wall: “God’s gift of the Sacrament of Absolution is a very great treasure!”

  4. @jb #2
    I know well the absolutions offered by Holy Writ . . .
    But hearing it spoken to me . . . priceless.

    We learned about individual absolution in confirmation, with the rest of the Small Catechism. And never heard another word about it….
    Communion was offered quarterly (in German and English service) in those days, and those catechized in German (most of the congregation) might go to a group confession previous to the day.

    Moving to the present, those Pastors who have learned the value of individual absolution for themselves will speak of it from the pulpit, with baptism and the sacrament of the altar. And they are likely to publish office hours for that (or any other reason you need them). Other Pastors will say, “Of course, it’s a good thing, and anyone may see me for it, any time.” Somehow, that is not as encouraging.

  5. Great stuff! We can all gripe that the modern church doesn’t encourage private C&A the way that it should. But there is nothing that prevents a Christian who understands the value of this sacrament from calling up her pastor and setting up a time for confession. In my experience, even pastors who don’t regularly hear confession will gladly do so when asked.

    Bravo to Nathan Redman for availing himself of Christ’s wonderful gift and sharing his experience. It requires a great deal of courage for any sinner to do this.

  6. @Matt Jamison #6

    I’m not sure I deserve a “Bravo” – My sinful flesh causes me to not go in and talk to my pastor as much as I should. I’d rather shoot the breeze with him about worldly things instead of confess my sins. It’s something we all have to work on throughout life, fighting our flesh is not an easy thing, thankfully Christ’s flesh is perfect for us all.

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