If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:8-9
I graduated from seminary thirty years ago and was installed in my first parish. Saturday mornings were designated for private confessions. I waited two months, and no one came. When I asked my elders why I had not received any people in confession, they replied, “Pastor, people are watching to see whose car is parked in front of the church. Most people believe the owner of the car is in church confessing a big sin and nobody wants everybody to know they’ve got a big sin.” I arranged scheduled confessions from that point on.
Recently, at the beginning of Lent, the Archdiocese in Washington purchased advertisement time on the radio and posted signs on buses and subways. They also sent out 100,000 brochures to promote a program called, “The Light is On for You.” The program is designed to attract people to return to the confessional concept. Every church member was given a step-by-step instructions card, and the church was open every Wednesday night for those who couldn’t make regular confession times. I hope they have better luck than I did.
For a number of reasons, getting people to make private confession is a difficult proposition. Ours is an age where some churches do their best to avoid any mention of sin, guilt, confession, or absolution. With our free-wheeling immorality, there are some folks who think absolution from a pastor or priest is totally ineffectual and unnecessary. Others believe confession is an antiquated relic from the middle ages. Of course, there are always many who feel God has no right to convict their consciences of anything.
Even so, our Savior came into this world to save us from our sins and the condemnation of transgressions. To minimize those sins by pretending they are inconsequential is lessening the sacrifice the Savior made for us. If we say we have no sin, then we deceive ourselves. We need to remember what the Psalmist said, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalm 51:17)
Maybe Luther said it as well as any when he wrote in the Small Catechism, “What sins should we confess? Before God we should plead guilty of all sins, even those we are not aware of, as we do in the Lord's Prayer; but before the pastor we should confess only those sins which we know and feel in our hearts.” Then, having made our confession, we should rejoice and believe the Savior who tells us, "I have come to save you from your sins. You are forgiven."
THE PRAYER: Dear Heavenly Father, I confess to you all my sins and iniquities. Humbly, I ask forgiveness, and rejoice that because of Jesus, forgiveness is complete. I give thanks for what He has done. Amen.
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