While we were gone, we visited some friends in another city. My friend is a new Lutheran and deeply appreciative of all that has been given to her in the pure gospel and good theology. It was an incredibly pleasure to meet her in person and talk and worship together, a great gift from God for both of us.
I have found that new Lutherans are such an incredible source of inspiration and joy as they cling to Jesus with all that is in them. My friend will not go one single Sunday without receiving the Lord's Supper. She will not go one single Saturday without going to Confession and Absolution. She wants grace and more grace and all she can receive after decades of starvation.
She invited me to go with her to Private Confession and Absolution, as I had said to her before that this never seems to come up in any sermons with any of my pastors and I'd never been availed myself of the practice, though I have frequently read about it in Luther and how incredibly important the practice was for him.
On occasion, over the years, I have also palpated the words for this in the catechism and in the hymnal and felt that this would be a good thing. At times, pastors in other congregations who are my friends will talk about their own "Father's confessors", and their practice of going to Confession and Absolution. It always moved me deeply to think that these shepherds have this practice for themselves.
So, I was ready and since we had talked about this in generalities before, I had actually hoped that something like this might transpire. In my old age, I am not as easily terrified as when younger, so I looked forward to it, as long as the pastor was ok with it. The pastor asked me some things about my home congregation and my own pastor, and we established some rapport. etc. We followed LSB, p. 292. I cried a little bit, but oh well.
What do I think of it now? I think it is wholesome to spend some time thinking about, talking about, and confessing your own sins, since we much more readily want to rehash everybody else's. It is good to spend some time on the commandments and the penitential psalms. Secondly, it was a blessing to actually have someone who will be dedicated to listening to you. This is really quite a gift. We talk so much, but there is so much hot air and so much inconsequential noise that we don't often get to the bottom of things. And then there is the most important thing, the absolution, this time with your own name in the same sentence as God's.
It's not that I don't know that God forgives, and forgives even me, and I don't have peace as a result of this knowing, but God has given me the gift of a shepherd and a brother who will personally deliver this message to me. This is something special that God also wants me to have. And this is what Jesus sent out the apostles especially for: to forgive sins. (John 20) We keep forgetting this.
I can see that this is also good for the pastor. He will get to know his people this way and be able to preach more appropriately.
Issues, etc. has some interviews on the subject. John Pless of Concordia Seminary, Ft. Wayne, also has posted a related paper titled: "Your pastor is not your therapist." Here is another paper on the subject. Here is a good personal story on the subject. I stole the gorgeous Rembrandt from the last link.
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