Have you ever wondered why we do what we do during worship? What’s up with the passing the peace? Why do we have a community confession? Maybe you’ve wondered if there’s more to the offering besides collecting gifts for the church. If you’ve been asking, if you’ve been curious, if you’ve been wondering, this is the blog series for you!
Now here’s my super short caveat:
1. These posts are based on the book of Evangelical Lutheran Worship (ELW), on my understanding of our tradition as Lutherans, and the ways scripture has influenced our practices.
2. And worship is super contextual. That means that every context may have different practices for their worship time, different understandings of the whys behind what happens, and that’s okay!
3. Also, even if you worship in the same context I do, your understanding or feeling might be different. And that’s okay too!
So here is part 2 of Ask the Pastor – Worship Stuff: Confession & Forgiveness!
Confession & Forgiveness
Early on in most of our Sunday services we find ourselves in a public confession. Together as a community we confess that we have sinned against God and one another in what we have done and what we have not done.
Private Vs. Public
As Lutherans, although private confession is still encouraged for those who seek it, this is often the one time where we declare out loud that we have failed. Why confess?
Well to put it simply – because it’s true. In our tradition, we believe that we are simultaneously sinner and saint, broken and saved, in need of forgiveness and forgiven. During this part of our worship, we find ourselves declaring this truth. And we don’t declare it alone.
It’s in community together that we share failures. And it’s in community together that we receive the word of forgiveness that Jesus gave to us before we could ask. Not because we deserve it, but as a gift.
For some, having the confession and forgiveness at the beginning of worship prepares us for the rest of the service together. It prepares our hearts for this time of prayer and song and Word. And it does.
For those who feel they need a fresh slate going into the sacrament, it might be a helpful way to feel newly forgiven before receiving Christ’s body and blood at communion. I understand that feeling. I also know that sometimes between the confession and communion I’ve already sinned at least once or twice in my thought, word, or deed! Thank God that Jesus is there in that bread and that wine with the means of grace once again.
In our church we don’t always have the confession and forgiveness as part of our worship service. Sometimes in its place we find a Thanksgiving for Baptism. Sometimes this is during our children’s worship service as a close reminder of God’s promises. During the season of Easter each Sunday we give thanks for the living water of baptism in place of the confession. Not that there isn’t still time of forgiveness or repentance in these services, but because in our baptism we are promised forgiveness too. And sometimes it’s good to simply give thanks for the forgiveness we’ve already received. To remember our baptismal promises. To remember our place together as children of God.
For me, the confession and forgiveness is a moment to remember some of the reasons I am grateful to be in church in the first place. Because I need that forgiveness too, for the things done or left undone. I find myself thankful each week, whether it be at the baptismal font or at the altar as we hear a word of forgiveness, grace, and God’s promises.
I hope you find grace in these small moments together too.
What does confession and forgiveness or thanksgiving of baptism mean for you in worship? Do you prefer one over the other? How do you prepare yourself for a time of prayer, song, Word, and Sacrament? How has God’s grace shone on you this week?