Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Upon This Your Confession

In the Divine Service, after the congregation confesses sin, the pastor says, "Upon this your confession, I ... forgive you all your sins ...." 

There were times Pastor would be teaching, making the point that what instigates God's forgiveness is not our confessing but His love and mercy.  Pastor would ask, "Do you think God forgives you because you say you're sorry?"  You could tell from the way he asked the question that the answer was supposed to be, "Duuuuh.  NO!"  But it didn't seem like a no-brainer to me.  "Yeah," I would think or say sheepishly, "that was kinda sorta the impression I had."  Of course, I knew that God forgives sin for Jesus' sake.  But doesn't it depend on our being sorry too?

Oh, he would talk again and again about how my repentance doesn't cajole God into being forgiving.  And I do believe him.  (Do you detect a subtle "but ..." in there somewhere?)

Last night when he was talking about such things again, the liturgy came to mind.  "Upon this your confession ...."  That's what we hear, week after week.  I had tried to make sense of it for myself.  But last night, I finally asked.  And now I can finally say, "Duh!  Of course!!"

"Upon WHAT confession?"  In the confession we first confess that we are poor, miserable sinners who have offended God and deserved His punishment.  We are sorry for our sins.  But then what?  We beg "of Your boundless mercy and for the sake of the holy, innocent, bitter sufferings and death of Your beloved Son Jesus Christ" that God would forgive.  And THEN Pastor says, "Upon this your confession ...." 

What confession is the basis for the absolution he's about to bestow?  Not "I'm a sinner and I'm sorry."  But the pastor forgives on the basis of the truth [that is, the confession] that God is merciful because of Jesus' death on on the cross.

Wow!  So all along, the liturgy has been saying just what Pastor had been explaining.  How 'bout that?


  1. I love the way your brain works. You notice so much, and think about what it means. I can't tell you how many times a comment is made (like this post) and my reaction is, "huh, I never thought about that". Your questioning helps enlighten the rest of us.

  2. Well, Sandy, although I thought about it, I couldn't resolve it. It sure does help when he can show me that "upon your confession" is "I have the authority to absolve you because of what you just said about Jesus' death. Not because you said it, but because of the truth that God chose to save you in that way."