Friday, February 22, 2013

Just practicing. . .

As any Lutheran Pastor knows only too well, those who come to private confession are few and far between.  I attempt to aid this by requiring private confession before a first communion and confirmation.  Someone will dump on me here because it is law, and it is, but sometimes the law is good when it leads us to grace.  That is the purpose of this rule.

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.
"You sure?"
"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.


Janis Williams said...

I so appreciate having the opportunity of Confession/Absolution. I appreciate my pastor who is willing to practice it (no pun intended). I appreciate my pastor who believes Scripture and what it says about the Keys.

Confession is not telling a man how bad you've been; it's confessing (saying he same thing in Greek) to Christ you repent of how bad you've been. The previous post with the St. John Chrysostom quote about being ashamed of our sin and not our repentence was absolute gold.

People have the Law built into them; that's one reason I was a Calvinist for so long. What is not built in is repentance. It is Christ's gift to us.

The Lutheran church has confession quite right. Forgiveness at the end; the absolution. No Law continued by penance. This is a blessed gift to the Church, and yes, I wish more people took advantage of it. The relief, freedom and the peace that come from having the man who stands in the place of Christ for us as he pronounces we are clean because of Christ is pure Gospel.

David Gray said...

I don't know how you can be any sort of decent Calvinist without embracing repentance.

Janis Williams said...

Oh, dear. I didn't mean I didn't have repentance! I meant I didn't have the tangible absolution of that which I confessed. At least not in the Calvinist churches I attended.

Repentance is a gift to all true Christians. I just never encountered absolution there. (Although I know some Calvinist churches do pronounce a general absolution after corporate confession in their service

Joe Herl said...

The hardest thing for me is calling the pastor to make an appointment for confession. I do it because I know I need it. But I hate to bother him, because I know how busy he is.

It would be great if pastors could have a set hour each week when they will always be available to hear confessions. Late Saturday afternoon would be good, perhaps before or after Vespers. Sure, the traffic might be minimal, but I can't think of anything that would better convey the importance of confession.

Dixie said...

I am right there with you, Joe. For me time is a most precious resource. I hate bothering my priest to schedule a confession because I know how busy he is and how much time he puts into the parish. But I must go so I must ask him for his time. He does offer scheduled confessions but only twice a year on Holy Monday and Tuesday. I know he probably doesn't mind carving out the time but I still hate to ask. It would be easier if he scheduled a fixed day and time each week or month. But that could end up being a waste of his time which might be worse.

Pastor Peters said...

I hear you. I once did just that but sat so often alone reading devotionally I got out of the habit. I will work on this and hope others will, too...

David Gray said...

>> At least not in the Calvinist churches I attended.

That is sad. Calvin offered absolution in his services in Strasbourg. I think a great many Calvinists would have serious problems with the real John Calvin.