Friday, February 22, 2013
Just practicing. . .
Anyway, back to my story...
I had scheduled the youth for this private confession so that they would be alone and not be intimidated by the prospect of another hearing them or someone watching them. But once this schedule was breached and another youth ended up in the pew in the back as I came from the prayer altar in the sacristy having heard another youth's first confession. I went through the schedule in my head thinking I had screwed it up. Finally, I went to talk to him...
"Can I help you?"
"No," he said.
"No, Pastor. I'm not ready yet. Just practicing." he said.
Just practicing. Now there is a thought. A rather noble one at that. This kid wanted to get it right and thought a dry run would not hurt. He had come to the right room and was surrounded by signs and symbols to put him in the right frame of mind. He was practicing.
While I wish that more Lutherans got to the actual private confession, just practicing is not bad. In fact, it is a great beginning. Confession is not routine. The words we speak do not have to be spontaneous. The truth is that the form in the hymnal orchestrates the whole conversation rather carefully, That is, until you get to the part where "what troubles me most is..."
Another week and he was back. The practicing was behind him. He was ready. He spoke well the formal words prompted by the hymnal. When it came time to fill in the blank ("what troubles me most is...") he found the words to say what he wanted to say... what he needed to say. Some counsel from Scripture, the absolution, and some prayers... and he was on his way.
"How was it?"
"It was okay," he said. "Well, it was really pretty good. I might even do it again."
Ahhhh.... the sound of victory in the tents of the righteous. The practicing helped. The confession was good -- perhaps even therapeutic. The absolution was pointed and personal -- that is the whole point, after all. Just as we take ownership of sin by naming it out loud, so are we made owners of grace by being named out loud in the voice of the Father Confessor. It is the unmistakable grasp of grace that sometimes seems too distant without the personal confession and the personal absolution.
Yes, indeed. That is exactly how it should be. I wish more of our folks practiced.