Moses was told to take off his shoes because he was standing on holy ground. Even so, we must cast away our sins to stand in the presence of God, as the Psalmist reminds us, “Who shall stand in his holy place? He that has clean hands and a pure heart” (Psalm 24).
The Didache (a 1st century Christian writing) admonishes the early Christians, “Assemble on the Day of the Lord, break bread and celebrate the Eucharist, but first confess your sins.”
The Apostle John declares. “If we confess our sins he who is faithful and just will forgive our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
to say what is true, a disclosure of one’s sins
Corporate (or General) Confession
In the Confession of Sins, we are taught to admit, or confess, sin and the guilt of sin. We are saying “amen,” or “yes, yes, this is true” to God’s righteous judgment against our sin. This is some of the hardest schooling that the liturgy will do because the natural man, the sinful nature, does not want to give up control. Together we, with the Invocation and the Confession of Sins, deny ourselves, and trust in Christ.
As Christians, our lives are to be lives of continual repentance as God promises eternal forgiveness. So we come in penitence and faith and confess our sins.
Psalm 51:1-4, 14
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. …Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
But if we confess our sins, God, who is faithful and just, will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Silence for reflection on God’s Word and for self-examination.
Let us then confess our sins to God our Father.
Most merciful God, we confess that we are by nature sinful and unclean. We have sinned against You in thought, word and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone. We have not loved You with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We justly deserve Your present and eternal punishment. For the sake of Your Son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us. Forgive us, renew us, and lead us so that we may delight in Your will and walk in Your ways to the glory of Your holy name. Amen.
The expression, “we are by nature sinful and unclean,” comes from Article II:1 of the Augsburg Confession, and is unique to Lutheranism in its structuring of the preparatory rites. The statements made in this prayer of confession are summary of Romans 7:14 – 8:14.
I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.
[Jesus] breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you withhold forgiveness from anyone, it is withheld.”
The Absolution is the announcement of forgiveness to the penitent sinner. Our Lord declares through the mouth of his servant, the pastor, that by his grace and mercy our sins are forgiven. The Absolution speaks God’s Word into our ears in a most personal way. Through these Gospel words we receive the salvation earned by Christ upon the cross of Calvary, every sin covered by his blessed death.
to forgive, to set free from the consequences of guilt
Almighty God in His mercy has given His Son to die for you and for His sake forgives you all your sins. As a called and ordained servant of Word I announce the grace of God to all of you, and in the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Heavenly peace and joy in the soul replaces the trembling and anguished conscience previously burdened by sin. With clean hands and a pure heart we are now prepared to stand before the holy presence of God (Psalm 24).
Luke 22:17, 18
1 Corinthians 11:24
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