Thursday, May 10, 2018
Educated people got rid of that a long time ago. . .
Some was confusion. Are we going back to the old style announcement for Communion as it was typical some 75 years ago in our Synod when a confessional service would be held on Friday or Saturday before the quarterly observance of the Lord's Supper. No. That is not it. It is not that this is a bad idea but since we have a weekly Eucharist (as the Augustana presumes), it would be a bit more work for the pastors and for the people.
Some was consternation. Is not the general confession before the Divine Service not enough, not complete, not salutary? No. That is not it. Though it must be said that the general confession on Sunday morning is NOT an exact substitute for individual (private) confession. Nearly all the people who go to individual confession are also there on Sunday for the general confession. Not the same.
Some was more conflicted. We are NOT Roman Catholics! We Lutherans do NOT require private confession! Well, it does not take long to pull open a Small Catechism or to reach into a few articles from the Concordia to show that Lutherans, not Roman Catholics, still hold to, esteem highly, and practice regularly individual confession (though we focus on the powerful part -- the absolution!). And no, we do not require it. But that is like saying you do not need to eat every day or sleep 8 hours. No, you can eat every other day and sleep 4 hours a night but the healthiest path is to eat moderately and regularly daily and to sleep 7-8 hours per night. No, we do not require it but a health faith benefits from individual confession and a weak faith is made stronger by it.
Some was curious. Educated people in our church got rid of that 50 or 60 years ago. Now this is the response I found most interesting. In other words, individual confession was for the ignorant or the stupid or, at least, the uneducated. Once we got smarter, we ditched that relic of the past, that mystical and superstitious practice, that medieval anachronism. Ya, you betcha. We are soooo much smarter than the people who went before us, especially those dullards who retained individual confession in the catechism and in our Lutheran Confessions. We grew up and we are not children any longer -- we do not act or speak like a child and, well, individual confession is childish. Wow.
Mind you, the announcement was not different from one that had run in bulletins and newsletters for so many years I cannot count. It was not a suggestion that somebody might benefit from it nor was it an urgency to confess now. It simply stated the hours when individual confession was always available as well as by appointment with one of the pastors. But that is the point. Sin is still a hot button issue. Repentance is still a four letter word. And the whole idea that anybody might want to or might actually benefit from confession with the mouth into the ear of the pastor the sins that trouble their hearts, minds, and consciences is still mighty controversial amongst us educated Lutherans. And it always will be. For behind it all is less a problem with confession and absolution than it is a sin problem. We don't know what to do with it all but we presume that we can handle it and what we cannot handle can be handled by a quick prayer. Furthermore, we presume that the problem of sin is simply stopping it and not learning to love the Lord's Law and desiring to keep it with all our soul, body, mind, and strength.
Confession and absolution are not that controversial. Scripture is pretty clear on this (John 20 and Matthew 16 & 18). What remains controversial is sin. Owning it. Repenting of it. Believing that Christ forgives it not because of who we are or what we have done. Rejoicing that it is forgiven, as far from us as the east is from the west. Living the new life that love's the Law and seeks to keep it, walking in the ways of the Father within the footsteps of Jesus. That is the part that remains stuck in our craw. Bring up individual confession and absolution and you bring up the problem of sin. And sin is better left unspoken. . . at least that is the default position of the heart. Only the Holy Spirit can change that. Reasoning with people can help but most of all the power to change the minds of us Lutherans fearful to be Lutheran comes from the faithful preaching of the Law and the Gospel for in this preaching (and teaching) the Spirit IS at work.