Weak confession gives weak absolution

Our Lord speaks through His prophet Ezekiel saying, “The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.” As is given in the Scriptures, so we are given to confess in the Church. The Scriptures are that deep well of salvation from which all of our confession is drawn. Why then, if this Scripture declares that the son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father for the son, do we have such watered down confessions in our Divine Services, at least in the Lutheran Service Book Divine Services I, II,  IV, and as an option in V? Why do we say, 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. Amen” Why do we have such a watered down, let’s all confess to making some mistakes this past week, confessions of our sin. We cannot bear the sins of our neighbor, as St. Paul says in Galatians 6, “For each will have to bear his own load.” (Galatians 6:5).  The only one that can bear our sins is Christ, (john 1:29), not one else. No single person can confess our sins for us, and in addition to this, no one can receive the forgiveness of sins on our behalf. We confess our own sins, we receive personal absolution from our Lord Christ. Why then does the Church, the unblemished, spotless, pure Bride of Christ, continue to confess such diluted and anti biblical confessions?

It is the answer to every question about why the Church does what she does. It is because of sin. It is because of that Old Adam that doesn’t think he’s that bad of a guy, at least not as bad or worse than the fellow sitting a few pew ahead of him on Sunday morning. The Church doesn’t want to hear that law that says, “You have no other options. You have not only made mistakes this week, but you have acted in unbelief toward God and fervent hatred toward your neighbor. You are not a good person, but a sinner who needs Christ. Sure, you don’t shoot people in the head, but you care about yourself more than the physical needs of your neighbor. Sure, you haven’t gone and slept with that new Administrative assistant at work, but your fingers have secretly tickled your laptop for other women that Christ has not given you to love and honor.” Repent, says the Law to you. You can’t hear the law for your neighbor nor can your neighbor hear the law for you. Why? Because you both struggle with different sins and have different ways in which the devil tempts you. You have different failures and different burdens. You both sin, but you both have mastered the art in diverse ways. Therefore you cannot confess your neighbor’s sins to God because they are not yours to confess. When the law kills you you don’t have the option to confess your neighbor’s sins, but only to lay there and receive the mercy of your Savior.  When you water down that confession, you adulterate the absolution that Christ freely gives. Weaken the sin and you thin the Savior’s blood that flows over you.

Because the Church has weakened her confession of her sin, so the world goes with her. We would like to believe that we are just crumbling to the pressures of this world and that is the reason why we have such silly confessions of our sin. However, what is the biggest charge against the Church is her hypocrisy. Whenever the Church is accused of hypocrisy, she immediately says, “No. I’m a sinner just like anybody else.” What ridiculous filth. This is not the confession of a Saint, but the politicking of a gouty unbeliever. The Saint confesses, “Yes, indeed. I am a hypocrite. I hate you for accusing me of being a hypocrite. Forgive me, for that is my only solution to the absolute problem of my hypocrisy.” When the Church weakens her confession, she weakens the worlds perception of it’s depravity.  Because the Church eliminates sin, dilutes her confession, the world goes along and sees itself as the savior of mankind. The Secular Humanists and New Atheists don’t see a church that is confessing her depravity, but instead a church that mumbles the little hiccups she’s had this past week.  What a weak Savior we present to the world because of our scrawny confession of sin.

So what should we do. Let us hear the rest of Ezekiel’s words that say, “But if a wicked person turns away from all his sins that he has committed and keeps all my statutes and does what is just and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. 22 None of the transgressions that he has committed shall be remembered against him; for the righteousness that he has done he shall live. 23 Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?” (Ezekiel 18:21-23).  Let us preach the Law and the Gospel to every individual sinner. Let every sinner hear the Law and die and receive the Gospel that gives life.  Should we have corporate confession and absolution in the Service. Sure, why not. However, it must not overshadow the sinner personal confession of sin and personal reception of absolution. This is what corporate confession and absolution has done. Because we do not verbalize our sin, we do not hear personal absolution. Because of this, we have diluted our confession of sin and made absolution nothing but a generic hallmark greeting card from Christ. Yes, all your sin is forgiven, but I have no clue what that sin is says the pastor.  Confess big sins because Jesus offers even bigger absolution. Let we the Church do this and preach to the world around us the same message. Though your sin be great, Jesus is a greater savior.

About Pastor Chris Hull

Chris Hull is the Senior Pastor of Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tomball,Texas. He was married to Allison Desiree Monk on June 3rd, 2006. They have been blessed with four boys, Lochlann Richard Patrick, Eamonn Julius Luther, Tiernann Thomas Walther, and Jamesonn Frederick Flacius. Pastor Hull graduated from Concordia University in River Forest, Il in 2006. He received his Master of Divinity from Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana, 2010. He is currently in the STM program at CTSFW.


Weak confession gives weak absolution — 46 Comments

  1. “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. Amen”

    I’m not sure what you want here. Would the above meet with your approval if it said “I confess…” “I have sinned…” “I have done/not done…” “I have not loved…” “I deserve…” ? “Forgive me…” ?

    Or is it your intention to say that “God knows, but I (as Pastor) need to know, too.”?

    If so, I could ask other questions, but I’ll see where the list goes with this first.

  2. While I do agree that personal confession to God should be a regular habit, didn’t Jesus structure the petition for forgiveness in the Lord’s Prayer as both brief and general in the corporate setting?

  3. Needless.


    Oh, and we aren’t saved by feeling guilty.

    Which seems to be the lament of this piece.

    We don’t feel guilty enough.

    If only we felt guiltier, we might feel save-der.

  4. Dear BJS,
    What Seminary came up with this thinking? This sounds “kind of Romanist?” Like it or not, we have the Corporate Confession with Absolution.

    So stress Personal or Private Confession. Yes, that is good.

  5. Consider what Jesus says. When Simon the Pharisee got his holier-than-thou panties in a wad over what this woman was doing, Jesus insulted him by pointing out how much a better host this prostitute was than he was. He was a guest in this Pharisees’ home, yet Simon had not washed his feet, had not kissed him, had not anointed his head. Yet this woman did what she did. But the real question is why. Why did she do what she did? Because she believed that he forgave her; and because of that faith, she loved Jesus. “Her sins,” Jesus says, “which are many, have been forgiven, because she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.” Then to this prostitute, Jesus says, “Your sins have been forgiven…Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
    –Chad Bird, excerpt: “Everything I Know About Worship I Learned from a Whore” Posted 2/15/15

    @Robert #3
    Oh, and we aren’t saved by feeling guilty.

    No, we’re saved by being forgiven.

    The Pharisee’s problem was that he didn’t think he needed forgiveness. Most of us think our sins are little ones, not worth bothering the Pastor for personal absolution.
    Could it be we’re wrong?
    It’s true we can examine ourselves before corporate absolution but how often is that examination hasty and incomplete?

  6. Weak confession gives weak absolution? I guess it comes down to whether this a monergistic sacrament or synergistic work. I thought it was the former, but Pr. Hull seems to say the latter, unless I’m missing something.

    Help me you collared ones, which is it? If the corporate confession I make is only 99% earnest, do I still obtain 100% forgiveness? What about 50%? 25%? Just how much repentance do I need to muster for forgiveness to “take”?

    (Man, this yoke may not be so easy, nor burden light after all!)

  7. So, what is suggested instead, in a corporate setting? We all stand there and audibly list everything we can remember and then pray we remembered it all? Won’t even go to the issue of confidentiality here…. as what you get in private confession.

    If what you’re wanting is the level of self-inspection as at a private confession, then perhaps we need to mandate a longer “moment” of silence during that point of service? I realize it sounds like a catch all but what do you suggest takes its place?

  8. I’ve reread this article 3 times but remain baffled.  Please try again.  What is a weak absolution?

    … as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. Ps 103

  9. Rev. Hull made the point that our confession (corporate) is weak and cited examples as LSB Divine service I, II, iV, and optionally V. I don’t believe he is asking that we enumerate our sins as some have suggested. But looking at the cited confessions, I note that the confessions all state that we are sinful and unclean, and that we deserve present and eternal punishment. But that’s where it ends.

    Note that Divine Service III and the other option for V include the statement that “we are heartily sorry for them and repent of them.” That seems to be a stronger confession along with repentance which is more than just acknowledging that we were bad and deserve to be sent to our room.

  10. This is a good article on the unintended consequences of adding a Corporate Confession & Absolution to Divine Service. Was this an innovation of the 19th or the 20th century? I forget.

    Corporate Confession is no big deal in itself and having one would be no problem if people did, in fact, avail themselves of Individual Confession. But most Lutherans do not. Perhaps the *only* time most Lutherans do confess their sins is in the Divine Service with the rather generic (and perhaps too easy on ourselves) Common Confession.

    Ever asked yourself why the Common Absolution doesn’t cause you to weep, and tremble, and want to shout for joy? Go to Individual Confession, name your sins – not generically, specifically – not “adultery” but confess instead exactly what you did, and why on earth you did it, and how on earth you try to justify it even now … let God’s Law have it’s brutal breath-taking way with you, let it become the ministry of death in your own lips … become your own worst enemy, drown yourself mercilessly … hold the sinner in you to the hell-fire of God’s holy word.

    Then hear the Absolution the pastor speaks to you.

    Then come back and have a clue what this article is about.

  11. @helen #6
    Dear Helen,
    I do get it…but:
    01) When a pastor speaks absolution, it IS NOT WEAK. Yeh, even Pastor Becker, whilst still a pastor speaks absolution, albeit, he has a problem with what is true sin.

    02) Where is Matt Mills when we need him? Our Liturgy uses corporate confession, and it must and should remain.

    03) Whether we corporate confess, personal (up at the rail face to face), ot private; the confession is given, the absolution is just as strong, albeit, the setting may impart more goodness to the repentant.

    If you have strong sins on your heart, taking them to the pastor in private confession is some of the strongest medicine we have.

    Now as I have always said, you may “fool the pastor with false confession”, you CANNOT fool the Lord.

  12. “Because we do not verbalize our sin, we do not hear personal absolution. Because of this, we have diluted our confession of sin and made absolution nothing but a generic hallmark greeting card from Christ. Yes, all your sin is forgiven, but I have no clue what that sin is says the pastor. Confess big sins because Jesus offers even bigger absolution. Let we the Church do this and preach to the world around us the same message.” He specifically voices the fact that we don’t enumerate individual sins, thus feeling their weight. I didn’t read anything that made me think the ommission of “heartily sorry for them” being the problem. I will re-read again to ensure I’m not misinformed. But it seems to be making us feel guilty, for not feeling guilty enough to tell pastor every week all the sins we can recall. Brings up an interesting point, where do pastors and their families to for private c and a? All our guys are a good two hours away in this circuit. And if your husband IS the circuit counselor…[email protected]Rev. James Kusko #10

  13. So we get rid of it. Then what? Now pastor NEEDS to devote a day or two so that people can give confession (and many won’t)? Where do the pastors and their families go? (Bearing in mind not all Lutheran churches are in close proximity to each other in many circuits).

    “Because we do not verbalize our sin, we do not hear personal absolution. Because of this, we have diluted our confession of sin and made absolution nothing but a generic hallmark greeting card from Christ. Yes, all your sin is forgiven, but I have no clue what that sin is says the pastor. Confess big sins because Jesus offers even bigger absolution.” It does not seem the author’s issue is the ommission of the words “but are heartily sorry for them” but rather that we do not go to pastor for private confession. And last I heard if you’ve broken one commandment, you’ve broken them all. There are no “little” or “big” sins. As a former Catholic, that smacks of venial and mortal classifications of sin.

  14. @Veronica Krogen #13
    Dear Veronica,
    Part of confession and absolution is “also” good psychology. It is good to place sins out there, and discuss, and hear that they are forgiven.

    Yet, we still get that when our contrite heart goes to God in secret as well, we know they are forgiven. Trust me, in corporate confession, you can bring them to the Lord in His house, and receive absolution.

    Yes, it is good to find a father / confessor; we Lutherans don’t do this very well across the board, we need to do better. We don’t offer opportunities for this.

    All confession is good, all absolution is good; yet private confession and absolution “may” offer more help for a troubled soul. Often it does.

  15. @Veronica Krogen #14
    Dear Veronica,
    You are astute and know we need to do better.

    I often write in the bulletin and on the web site, “private confession is available.”

    We need to teach more about it, Luther had oh so much to say.

    Perhaps we all start pastors in Lent. Offer it often before or after the special penitential services of Lent.

    When I say personal confession, I invite people to the rail at special times and lay on a hand and absolve. You would be surprised how many come up. Of course, we do not force people to do this, we offer and teach to use it.

    Perhaps each circuit could designate a confessor each month to offer times for the Circuit. It is hard for a congregational member to come to their own pastor, perhaps they will go to another. And remember, you do not have to name all sin, see Luther on that.

    Just some ideas.

  16. Totally agree on many of your points. We need to do these things. I’m saying it is unkind and unfair to totally dismiss the corporate format. My husband also offers private confession upon request. I can count on one hand the number who have availed themselves of this in 10 years (who have told me about it, he has NOT, so perhaps the number is much higher). It comes up in bible study and sermons so they are aware it exists. Does the corporate form discourage or enable their absence? Perhaps. But we need it.

    I still need answers as to how a pastor’s family would obtain this. I don’t find it realistic to think I’d Fo to my husband or his co-workers (pastors in his circuit).

  17. @Veronica Krogen #17
    Dear Veronica,
    Yes, finding that father / confessor; not easy. At the upcoming NID convention, I do believe a “chaplain” for this is offered.

    Hmmm, perhaps this is a good idea. This is what a retired emeritus pastor could readily do, offer this for an area. The Circuit could offer a small compensation for his travel and time.

    Perhaps in your case, a travel pastor can come, setup shop at a Church and be ready to hear any and all confessions, at designated times.

  18. @Pastor Prentice #18
    Hey, a circuit rider. Just think, if he traveled on a motorcycle with saddlebags, he would be a saddlebag preacher! But seriously, this idea seems valid. Even pastors need pastors (after all, Luther had a pastor-Johann Bugenhagen). However, the pastors would need to be able to travel these distances and some retired emeritus pastors might not be able to. Perhaps some of those who are ordained but have their name on the call list could help with this? Just a thought.

  19. http://bookofconcord.org/exhortationConfession.php

    15] So notice then, that Confession, as I have often said, consists of two parts. The first is my own work and action, when I lament my sins and desire comfort and refreshment for my soul. The other part is a work that God does when He declares me free of my sin through His Word placed in the mouth of a man. It is this splendid, noble, thing that makes Confession so lovely, so comforting. 16] It used to be that we emphasized it only as our work; all that we were then concerned about was whether our act of confession was pure and perfect in every detail. We paid no attention to the second and most necessary part of Confession, nor did we proclaim it. We acted just as if Confession were nothing but a good work by which payment was to be made to God, so that if the confession was inadequate and not exactly correct in every detail, then the Absolution would not be valid and the sin unforgiven. 17] By this the people were driven to the point where everyone had to despair of making so pure a Confession (an obvious impossibility) and where no one could feel at ease in his conscience or have confidence in his Absolution. So they not only rendered the precious Confession useless to us but also made it a bitter burden (Matthew 23:4) causing noticeable spiritual harm and ruin.

    18] In our view of Confession, therefore, we should sharply separate its two parts far from each other. We should place slight value on our part in it. But we should hold in high and great esteem God’s Word in the Absolution part of Confession. We should not proceed as if we intended to perform and offer Him a splendid work, but simply to accept and receive something from Him. You dare not come saying how good or how bad you are. 19] If you are a Christian, I in any case, know well enough that you are. If you are not, I know that even better. But what you must see to is that you lament your problem and that you let yourself be helped to acquire a cheerful heart and conscience.

  20. Divine Service III and its statement “I am heartily sorry for them and sincerely repent of them” isn’t the greatest wording either. How “heartily” do I need to be? Absolution isn’t based on my level of heartiness, it’s based on Christ’s promise and my trust in that promise, that trust being given to me by Christ. As Dr. Nagel taught, adverbs are the enemy of the Gospel.

  21. @Scott Diekmann #23
    Dear Scott,
    In reality, we need to come up with some wording, because:

    01) I truly s..k in your presence < does not work in a corporate setting.
    02) I am a stinking rotten piece of s..t < does not fit the setting.

    Perhaps the pastor should simply say:

    P: Are you all rotten sinners?
    C: Yes.
    P: Then receive …

    Yes, the Lord can work past the words we present in life, we cannot show our contrite
    heart. He knows it, whatever the words we use.

    Matt Mills – step in, you have liturgy knowledge.

  22. This entire thread, in my humble estimation, is precisely why Missouri is failing so spectacularly on almost every level . . .

    If we are confused about the absolution of sins . . .

    Even expletives cannot apply. Maybe . . .

    Just one more flipping by-law! Yeah!!! That’ll do it!!!

  23. “The Roman Catholic Church has no such general Confessional Service for the entire congregation, for she assumes that her members will engage in Private Confession and Absolution, and their failure to do so is regarded as sin. She looks upon a general confession of the whole congregation as a make-shift, which will, in time, cause Private Confession to fall more and more into disuse.”

    F. R. Webber, Studies in the Liturgy, p. 18 (Ashby Printing Company, Erie, Pennsylvania, 1938).

  24. Missouri is failing so spectacularly on almost every level jb #25

    Really?  Ever visit parish schools?   Ever observe the tremendous work getting done at local congregations?

    “…The vast majority of the LCMS membership agrees with the direction of our church body.  President Harrison wants to have at least 85% of the LCMS members on the same page.  

    “This leaves about 7 to 8% on the extreme right in our Synod and another 7 to 8% on the extreme left in our Synod.  This will never change.   There will always be those who are on the fringes of any human organization.  The good news is that an 85% majority makes it possible to stay the course.”   – Pr Likeness, ALPB Forum 1-30-2015

  25. @John Rixe #27
    President Harrison wants to have at least 85% of the LCMS members on the same page.

    “President Harrison wants to have…” is not the same as saying “85% of us are there already”.
    If we were, it wouldn’t take 10 years (and counting) to get 85% together…..

  26. Here’s the exact quote: “It is possible to unify 85% of the Synod in doctrine, practice and mission, I’m convinced.” – Pr Harrison

    I’m pretty sure he’s not excluding laymen.

  27. #11 diesirae

    Ditto Diesirae.

    2 weeks ago at PC&A I confessed 2 minor sins. Two little white lies. Little sins that could and would be absolved at the Divine Service. Great, but I would of missed the mini sermonette my Pastor spoke to me right after he absolved me at PC&A.

    This 3 year old Lutheran gets it.

  28. By ‘weak’ I’m going to guess is meant, ‘weakly impressive’.

    That is, the forgiveness–though genuine and effective–is not, perhaps, as strongly or deeply impressed on the mind/heart of the penitent in all its power and significance. Instead it may be taken as another come see, come saw thing.

    Or, perhaps rather, the magnitude/consequences of the underlying sin are not exposed or taught in the best way.

    But these are guesses.

  29. @diesirae #11
    Thank you for your forthright comments. Lutherans have not been taught how to go to private confession and absolution. I don’t remember it ever being discussed in my confirmation classes back in the early ’60’s. I’ve never even heard it referenced in a sermon. I do believe that in the last 20 years or so some of the younger pastors are trying to put more of an emphasis on it. I know a few very confessional pastors like Pastors Rossow, Bender and Eckhardt who will make it public in the bulletins, etc. but most do not make mention of it at all. I think this is because the pastors themselves do not go to PC&A. Pastors, if you want people to go to private confession and absolution, announce specific times in the bulletin for such a purpose. Putting the burden on your people to make appointments is an exercise that will surely fail. Have specific times allowed for this in your work week and make sure these times are listed in the bulletins and newsletters.

    In Christ,

  30. John Rixe : Here’s the exact quote: “It is possible to unify 85% of the Synod in doctrine, practice and mission, I’m convinced.” – Pr Harrison
    I’m pretty sure he’s not excluding laymen.

    Agreed, not excluding, since – as you pointed out – laymen (and laywomen) are the members of the congregations that are members of the Synod. However, there is no practical way to gauge the level of agreement among the two million laypersons in LCMS congregations; frankly, we are much more likely to be all over the map than the actual members of the Synod. The point is for the Synod itself – consisting of pastors, commissioned ministers, and congregations – to be thoroughly unified in its doctrine and practice.

  31. I am one of those confused by this article. What exactly is the problem? What is somehow “weak,” “watered down,” or “diluted,” let alone “anti-Biblical,” about the words of corporate confession in LSB?

    Is it merely the use of first person plural pronouns, rather than first person singular? Just because I say “we” and “our,” rather than “I” and “my,” does not entail that I am somehow confessing my neighbor’s sins instead of my own. Besides the Lord’s Prayer, as pointed out by J. Dean, I am reminded of Nehemiah’s prayer (1:4-11) in which he included himself in “confessing the sins of the people of Israel.” His example suggests that each of us can and should confess the collective sins of our family, our congregation, our community, our nation, and even our world – not just the ones of which we are personally guilty. Only three verses prior to stating that “each will have to bear his own load,” as quoted by Pastor Hull, Paul urged the Galatians to “bear one another’s burdens,” precisely in the context of someone being “caught in any transgression.”

    As for the pastor having no clue as to what specific sins he is forgiving, the Apology is (repeatedly) very clear that this is not a problem at all. XI(IV):6(63): “But as to the recollection and enumeration of sins in confession, our ministers do not ensnare the souls of men, by requiring them to specify all their sins.” XI(IV):8(65) “We therefore maintain, that God did not command that our sins should be enumerated and specified.” XII(VI):102-105(5-8): “But in our Confession we have already stated our view, that God does not command the enumeration of sins. For their declaration, – as every judge must hear the cases and offences, before he pronounces judgment, so must our sins be enumerated, etc., – is not applicable to the case. Absolution is simply the command to acquit, and not a new court of inquiry into sin; for God is the judge. He committed to the Apostles no judicial authority, but the execution of grace, to absolve those who desire it. And, indeed, they release and absolve from sins which are not remembered. Absolution is therefore a voice of the Gospel, through which we receive consolation, and it is no judgment or law.”

    We thus desire the grace and mercy of God for all sinners, not just for ourselves; and of course, the Word of Absolution – the promise of the forgiveness of sins in Christ – is objectively pronounced for all people, even those who refuse to believe and trust it, and thus never subjectively receive its benefits. It is the Law that is conditional, not the Gospel; as Apology IV(III):345(224) states: “In temporal matters and worldly courts, there are found mercy and justice. Justice is made certain by the law and by judgment; mercy is precarious. With God, however, it is otherwise, because grace and mercy are promised by an indubitable Word, and the Gospel is that Word.”

  32. @Diane #35
    Dear Diane,
    Wow, you were missing out. Private confession was always part and parcel of Lutheranism, and it still is. Not just the men you list, but many of us all.

    Now I will agree with you, there was a Lutheran backlash a bit from older people, mainly because of the good theology of Lutheranism.

    Catholics went to the box, it was viewed as works righteousness by many. We go to confession because we desire. Sort of the pendulum swing a bit too far.

    Yes, teaching can be ramped up a bit.

    In fact, I just came back from St. John’s mens retreat, and you know what the topic was?

    Yep, Confession and Absolution.

  33. @Jon Alan Schmidt #37

    Therefore it would be wicked to remove private absolution from the Church.


    I’m guessing, the post was meant to catechize this point.

    And, why not toss in: Neither do they understand what the remission of sins or the power of the keys is, if there are any who despise private absolution.

    Despise: to regard as negligible, worthless, or distasteful


  34. @Gregjgrose #39
    Where exactly did I say anything to suggest that I despise private absolution – i.e., regard it as negligible, worthless, or distasteful – let alone advocate removing it from the church? Just because private confession and absolution is (very) good does not entail that corporate confession and absolution is bad. Typical of Lutheran doctrine and practice, this is a both/and, not an either/or.

  35. @Pastor David L. Prentice Jr. #38
    Dear Pastor Prentice,
    Yes, I should have listed you too because I liked what you said in #16 – ‘private confession is available’. The baby boomers really didn’t get good catechesis on this very important part of Luther’s catechism. I was a freshman at Concordia, Chicago aka Concordia Teachers College, River Forest in 1967. I had two roommates – one from the Chicago area and one from California and I was from New York State. Private confession & absolution was never talked about. It just wasn’t done. I’m glad things are changing a little. I still think pastors are reluctant to discuss it for fear of sounding too Roman Catholic.

    In Christ,

  36. Dear BJS,
    Last night in Ash Wednesday Service, the flock all confessed, paused before as I (in private words to God); I then Absolved them all.

    Yes, they will sin again, but at the Words of Absolution and in the Body and Blood ingested, sins were DOUBLY forgiven you “might” say.

    Nothing weak there. God spoke through means and the Sacraments. Solid!

  37. @Pastor David L. Prentice Jr. #43

    Right, nothing weak about what I confessed in corporate confession last night either.

    In the early 2000’s the liturgical magazine ‘Gottesdienst’ had an article about private confession and absolution and it seemed to imply that private confession and absolution was a ‘better way’ than what was done on Sunday morning. I think it was Pastor Cwirla from California who wrote a very strong rebuttal to the article in a subsequent issue. Is this post by Pastor Hull implying the same thing? I don’t know.

    In Christ,

  38. Dear BJS,
    The more I think about this, as I access my ministry, nothing wrong with starting out, “Most merciful God”.

    Perhaps was should make sure we have kneelers and pads available (more) as we throw (OK, gently prostrate) ourselves down before the Lord of Lords, begging His forgiveness.

    And low and behold, we get it. WORSHIP 101. Forgiven, then fed His Word, fed His Body.

    Oh my. Nothing weak from the Lord of Hosts. We have entered into His Presence and receive His Grace given.

    To a lousy bunch of so and sos.

    Perhaps Pastor Hull, you were getting to, “no words can express what we should say.” But we do the best we can, because in reality, we stand speechless in His Presence. We need these, some words to get started.

    And then we hear the most blessed words said aloud, “You are forgiven.”

  39. Dear BJS,
    In fact, even the title “weak confession gives weak absolution.”

    In fact, every confession is weak, trivial, garbage, low, not good enough. How dare we even begin to think our confession is anything but weak?

    Yet, the Absolution is beyond words as it comes from the Lord of Grace, who speaks through the pastor, it is a solid rock of forgiveness.

    Of course, fool God, He knows the heart, it will come back to you later.

    I better stop thinking about this. Just keep putting it to practice.

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