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Pastor's Notes from The Scribe (June 2015)

posted Jun 5, 2015, 7:00 AM by Russell D. Hampton   [ updated Jun 5, 2015, 7:09 AM ]

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us” ~ 1 John 1:5-10

Each week, we begin our liturgies with the “Brief Order for Confession and Forgiveness” (unless it is a Sunday emphasizing new life in baptism, like Baptism of our Lord or Easter Sunday; then we use the “Thanksgiving for Baptism”).  We stand before God and one another to acknowledge our sinful nature and our need for God’s mercy, forgiveness, and grace.  We confess that sin holds us strongly in its grasp.  We confess that we sin in “thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone.”  We confess that we have not given whole, loving hearts to God and have not followed Christ command to love our neighbors as ourselves.

But then… this part of the liturgy concludes with words of divine grace.  We hear that Christ died for us and for our sins.  We hear that through Christ’s death, we have been forgiven of all these sins.  This act of confession and forgiveness prepares our hearts and minds so that we can be reconciled to one another, worship together as the Body of Christ, hear God’s grace declared to us, and come to the table of Jesus Christ to be fed and nourished with this same forgiveness.

The Brief Order for Confession and Forgiveness is not a necessary part of the liturgy.  Yet, it is a part of the liturgy in which we participate for the majority of the Sundays in the church year.  So, why do we participate in this brief order if it is not necessary?

I hope you caught an important word in paragraph two of these notes – prepare.  God’s grace and mercy is not contingent upon our joining together to say words of repentance and confession.  Yes, Jesus does call his followers to turn to God in repentance and to receive God’s mercy and grace.  However, that mercy and grace is not based upon a ritual work or act.  The brief order prepares us as we lay ourselves at the feet of God’s mercy and grace to hear those words declared to us: Jesus died for your sins and, through his work, you are forgiven by the grace and love of God.

God’s love for this world through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ unfolds for us as we celebrate worship each week. Open a Lutheran Book of Worship and pray through the liturgy to remember how this love of God is enacted through Jesus Christ.  You will note familiar phrases like: “Worthy is Christ, the lamb who was slain, whose blood set us free to be people of God” or “Alleluia! Lord to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life” or “Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world; have mercy on us.”   

The “Brief Order for Confession and Forgiveness” prepares our bodies, hearts, and minds to hear the unfolding of God’s mercy and love over and over again as we worship together.  Although it is not a necessary aspect, I do believe it is an important part of the liturgy as we grow in our faith, both individually and corporately.

In Christ ~ Pastor Maureen