For some strange reason many Lutherans have never heard that Private Confession is encouraged in our Lutheran Tradition! Why is this? Well there are likely many reasons. Certainly we Pastors have not always done a good job of teaching important resources available to believers. And Pastors themselves may have never availed themselves of the benefits of Private Confession. Then there is the feeling that Private Confession is “too Catholic!” And finally, there is the matter in current culture of minimizing sin. And there are probably many other reasons.
But please know, Private Confession is believed, taught, and confessed in our Lutheran Confessions, and notably so in Luther’s Small Catechism. On occasion it is even called a Sacrament, even though it is more often considered an extension of the implications of Holy Baptism.
It is not a case that we cannot go directly to our Heavenly Father in prayer and confess our sins to him and ask for his promised forgiveness. In every circumstance, we are privileged to go directly to the Father in Jesus’ name, for Christ our Lord is the one mediator between God and man (cf. 1 Tim. 2:5).
But as we discussed last week, our Father chooses to speak through the voice of his ambassadors. We can actually hear the words of forgiveness spoken by our Lord through his Church and especially through the Church’s appointed leaders carrying on in the Apostolic tradition and witness. We can hear the words, “Your sins are forgiven.”
It can be a great relief to a troubled conscious to hear this voice individually! It also can provide a heightened sense of contrition and deepened sense of humility when we allow a trusted believer, bound by confidentiality, to listen in to our confession to God. That same believer not only can speak the absolution (word of forgiveness) authorized by God, but he can share further Scriptural promises to build confidence in God’s mercy. So what a treasure this is! And I will continue to speak more of this in the weeks to follow.
Since You Asked…
Why do we celebrate Holy Communion nearly every Sunday?
The celebration of the meal we call Holy Communion has consistently been the chief act of Christian worship since the age of the Apostles. The Lutheran Reformation did not break with this tradition of 1,500 years. In fact the Augsburg Confession (our principal statement of faith) declares Holy Communion to be the chief act of worship for Lutherans on Sundays and festivals (Art. 26). (from “Manual on the Liturgy” companion to the LBW, from Augsburg Pub.)
You might think of Holy Communion as spiritual bread and drink for our journey (pilgrimage), for our Lord’s Body and Blood is true nutrition indeed!