Christ Lutheran Church - Marshfield, WI

5th Chief Part

Baptism is not just a singular event in the life of the Christian.  Baptism is a way of life.  Luther put it this way, “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent’ (Mt 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.”

That is the life of baptism: a life of repentance.  Repentance is hearing the word of God and believing what it says, namely, that we are sinners in need of God’s grace and that God has supplied that grace through Jesus Christ.  And in your baptism, this grace is made yours.

 Repentance is so closely tied to faith that it is impossible to separate them.  This is not something to check off the to-do list and be done with.  Rather it is the ongoing, everyday action of the Christian.  “Daily pick up your cross, daily die to sin,” as Jesus and Paul would state.
But how do we live the baptized life?  How do we daily pick up our cross and die to sin?  The 5th Chief Part of the Catechism teaches us how:  Confession & Absolution.

I would argue that Confession & Absolution is the Church’s best kept secret at this moment in the life of the Church.  In our day, a psychological and therapeutic methodology has destroyed any attempts at fostering Pastoral Care.  Pastors are not mere counselors, though I would also argue that Pastors should have good amounts of training in counseling, but that is another topic.

Rather, Confession & Absolution are what all Christians, but pastors especially, have been sent out to do.  Focusing on just Pastors here, Jesus expects them to do this work (Luke 24, John 20).  The pastor’s role, our catechism states, is to “forgive the sins of repentant sinners but to withhold forgiveness from the unrepentant as long as they do not repent.” Through the law comes knowledge of sin (think 10 commandments) and through the proclaimed Gospel, Jesus Christ forgives that sin.

We do Confession & Absolution in our services every week.  It is a good and wholesome practice and one that should be done!  The sins you have on your mind and confess with your mouths during service are literally forgiven when I turn to you and announce “I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
From now on, just call me “Absolution Man!” After all, that is why God has put me here. 
But more directly, when the Small Catechism speaks about Confession and Absolution it has this in mind: Private Confession and Absolution.

Did you know that you can walk into my office any time and day of the week, and tell me how you have blown it before God and your fellow man, and you will hear from me that Christ forgives you of your sin?  Any sin, no matter how big or ugly.  You can come confess to me and in the name of Jesus Christ I will forgive you.  What is pronounced in the Absolution is as good as if Jesus Christ our Lord dealt with us himself.

And the blessing is this: What is confessed does not get repeated.  Pastor Bahn and I took oaths before God not to repeat the sins that we hear confessed to us.  No one, not my wife, not my kids, and not my friend pastors, NO ONE hears the sins that I hear confessed!   I am merely the ears and mouth of God for you.  That’s my place in God’s plan.

Many might say that it sounds like a Roman Catholic thing to do, but it is the Christian thing to do.  Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water!

Now, Roman Catholics demand that people go, we as Lutherans do not, we can only encourage.  Roman Catholics also say that penance should be done, otherwise your forgiveness is void, but Lutherans have no time for that kind of nonsense.  Repentance is this: confessing your sins and receiving absolution.  People who are regenerated by faith and forgiveness from the Holy Spirit will make amends on their own.  

Confession and Absolution is a gift, not torture.  The times that I have done it are scary at first, admitting specific sins to someone else.  But there is no greater relief then when you hear that sweet forgiveness from Christ.  In fact, I have been able to deal with my sins better once I have confessed them and have been absolved of them.

The invitation is always there, as your Pastor this is the gift that I give to you from Christ your Lord: Confession & Absolution.

Pastor Andrew

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