From the Pastor . . .

Private Absolution

Private Absolution? Me? Tell the Pastor my sins? Ack! I can't do that!

Many Lutheran think that way. Private Absolution is not "in our Lutheran DNA." This gift hasn't been taught or used by many in our modern age. But our Lutheran Confessions speak highly of it and encourage its use by all. Consider the following quotes:

"Our churches teach that private Absolution should be retained in the churches . . ." (Augusburg Confession, Article XII)

"It is well known that we have made clear and praised the benefit of Absolution and the Power of the Keys." (Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article XI)

"Confession and Absolution should by no means be abolished in the Church.  . . .  It should not be despised, but greatly and highly esteemed, along with all other offices of the Christian Church." (Smalcald Articles, Part III, Article VIII)

"When I urge you to go to Confession, I am doing nothing else than urging you to be a Christian." (Large Catechism)

Some think: Well, we have general absolution at the beginning of every Divine Service, so I don't need to do anything else. In one sense, that's true. The forgiveness received in the absolution there, in the preaching of the Gospel, and in the Supper, is the same forgiveness received in Private Absolution.

But let me challenge you for a moment: what do you confess in those few moments of silence in confession? Have you actually taken the time to examine yourself? Is your mind not quite awake or cluttered with other thoughts? Are there sins weighing heavy on your mind that you're glad to keep to yourself? Might taking some extra time in reflection and then dumping them on the Lord in Private Absolution actually help? The Church across the centuries has unanimously answered that question: yes! (Some church fathers actually likened this to "vomiting up your sins" to get the sin-sickness out and receive the healing medicine of the Lord's forgiveness!)

We have been offering Private Absolution for some time early on Sunday mornings, but I know that is not a good time for many of you. Logistically, not having our own building makes finding a good time very difficult.

So, during the month of September, consider having me come over to your house for Private Absolution. This can be our "Absolution month!" I can give you some questions to help you with self-examination ahead of time, or you can confess what is weighing heavy on your heart. There is no need to enumerate every sin - this is simply an opportunity for you to hear the forgiveness of the Lord spoken to you, directly and personally, by name. You, child of God, you - I am not talking to anyone else - you are forgiven!

This is also a good things for families to do. Not together, of course! But one at a time. It is a wonderful opportunity to teach your children, not only to receive this gift themselves and thus break the cycle of it not being "in our Lutheran DNA," and for them to see the example of their parents desiring to receive absolution. That's powerful, and they won't soon forget it. And you might even find that you treasure hearing those words as much as the reformers did!

Still got questions? Call or e-mail me. Remember, your Pastor is sworn not to ever, for any reason, reveal any sin confessed to him in this way. What is forgiven is forgiven and gone - as far as the east is from the west (Ps 103:12). So, think about it!

His servant and yours,

Pastor Douthwaite

Missouri Synod
114 Kingsley Road SW, Vienna, VA  22180
Rev. James Douthwaite, Pastor
Saint Athanasius Lutheran Church