Monday, December 22, 2008

*sigh of relief*

Well, the semester is over now. I took my four finals, turned in one last paper, and—miraculously—didn't die in the process. I did let you all down on the blog posts, and for that I apologize. Time to get back to our regularly scheduled program.

One interesting thing that came up in Church's Worship this semester is the practice of private confession. Now, most Lutherans are familiar with corporate confession, which is usually said at the start of every Sunday worship service. Corporate confession is held in contrast to private confession, which tends to be associated with Roman Catholics and those tiny confession booths. I think many Lutherans (myself included) think of private confession as one of those things we threw out during the Reformation. While the practice of requiring private confession before someone could receive the Eucharist would certainly be problematic for Lutherans, private confession itself is actually a valuable form of pastoral care. You may be surprised to discover that there is an order for private confession in both the ELW (the new red hymnal) and the old LBW.

I think the advantage of private confession over public confession is simply how personal it is. When you say the words of confession in a group, Sunday after Sunday, it can begin to feel like you're going through the motions. I can practically recite the order for confession from memory; and if you've got it memorized, you can use that time to see who else has arrived at church that Sunday (not that I'd ever do something like that...). In any case, corporate confession, while it certainly has many advantages, runs the risk of not actually being a confession of sins. If a person chooses to make private confession of sins, however, there is no chance of their mind wandering to other things. And for a person who is deeply troubled about something, they may need to use their own words to describe exactly what it is they need to be forgiven. To then hear a word of forgiveness touches that person much more deeply than when the pastor speaks it to the whole congregation.

I'm not by any means saying that corporate confession is a bad thing; simply that it runs the same risk of all liturgy—the words can lose their meaning. Private confession can act as a counter-balance to corporate confession. I'm just pointing out the advantages of private confession because it seems to be so little known in the Lutheran church. And now you know.

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