Sunday, March 9, 2014

Confessions of a Lenten Heart

"I said, 'I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,' and You forgave the iniquity of my sin" (Ps. 32:5).

Ash Wednesday brings with it a renewed emphasis on confession, and that spirit endures through all of Lent.

It may be helpful to distinguish three types of confession toward God: corporate, individual, and personal.  I'll say just a word about each one.

Corporate - Most Lutheran Divine Services begin with corporate confession.  The congregation makes confession together as one body.  But at the same time, members have in mind and heart their own individual sins.  Corporate confession is always followed by corporate absolution, that is, the Word of forgiveness spoken by the pastor to all and to each.

Individual - This confession takes place in private between one person and the pastor.  It usually makes mention of one or more sins that are troubling the person.  It needn't take more than several minutes.  It is sealed in holy confidentiality.  It gives great spiritual relief and refreshment!  Ask your pastor to say more about individual confession and absolution, including an easy-to-use order the two of you may follow.

Personal - Perhaps also called "daily confession," this type goes on at all times in the Christian heart.  You may use the Lord's Prayer (Fifth Petition), other prayers, psalms, or hymns.  This is where I teach my congregation to practice saying the Fourteen Words:

"God, be merciful to me, a sinner."
 
"Take heart, child, your sins are forgiven."
 
Seven and seven, these fourteen words represent a deep form of personal confession and absolution.  They come from Luke 18:13 and Matthew 9:2.
 
The Lord of Lent help, bless, and strengthen us through the gift of confession and absolution!