I 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?”
“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.