1 John 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
These words are part of a traditional Lutheran worship service during the time we call “brief order for confession and forgiveness”. It’s when we publicly confess our sins to the Lord and hear a declaration of forgiveness by the pastor.
If you know me, you know I’m not much of a traditionalist, but that doesn’t mean I don’t value traditional things. A year ago we started a Sunday evening contemporary worship service at the church I lead in suburban Dallas – to go along with the two traditional services in the morning. One of the key questions we’re continually wrestling with related to this new worship service is, “What are the traditional elements we want to retain in this contemporary format?”
For instance, Lutherans tend to place a high value on Holy Communion. There was never any question the new service would include weekly communion. A reciting of the Lord’s Prayer is included in that portion of the service as well. One of the things I love most about this prayer is how Christians from different traditions often know this prayer. It’s one we can usually say together by heart, which expresses the unity Jesus prayed for in John 17.
More recently we decided to include a weekly confession and forgiveness portion to the contemporary service. I’ve been to literally hundreds of contemporary worship services over the years in many different kinds of churches, but I struggle to remember any (including Lutheran) that included a corporate confession/forgiveness element. There’s something cathartic about confessing my sins and receiving absolution (another word for forgiveness).
The English word “absolution” comes from the Latin word “absolutus” which means “set free”. When I confess my sins to the Lord I am putting down the burden that comes from my sin – the guilt, the shame, the sense of failure and brokenness. When I’m forgiven in Jesus’ name, by his marvelous grace, I’m released from the bondage that comes from sin. I’m… set free. Read those verses above again and then let’s pray:
Gracious God, you know how we continually fall short of your dreams and expectations for us, yet you love us anyway. You meet us in the place of our failures and lift us up to new life. This morning we thank you again for your tender mercies which are new every morning. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.