Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. Psalm 32:1&2
It is called the Office of the Keys but we know it better as Confession and Absolution. Week after week, whether spoken or sung, our services have always begin with the confession of sins. With the same voices repeating the same words every Sunday often from memory, we might wonder what kind of power does confession of sins have. If we take the time to think about the words we are speaking, the reality of our condition may strike us. We confess to God that we have sinned against Him. We admit that we haven’t loved God or our neighbors with all our whole heart. Even more, the Scriptures tell us that we justly deserve punishment for what we have done, both now and in eternity.
Not only are we confessing ourselves to be sinners before God, but we are also confessing before one another. It’s no mistake that these words are spoken or sung in unison by the whole congregation. Every week we admit to our Christian brothers and sisters that we, too, are sinful; we have failed God, we have also failed them. When the reality of our sins confronts us so powerfully, and when we confess out loud the truth of our condition, it grounds us in our need for forgiveness. Brought low by our sinfulness, all we have left at our disposal is to trust in the mercy of God. Nothing else can save us; nothing else can take away our sin.
Therefore, we must not forget that confession has two parts. If we stop with a confession of sins but never hear back from God, then we miss the entire point of confession! As Luther’s Small Catechism says: “Confession has two parts. First, that we confess our sins, and second, that we receive absolution, that is, forgiveness, from the pastor as from God Himself, not doubting, but firmly believing that by it our sins are forgiven before God in heaven.” Confession must always lead to absolution, which is the forgiveness of our sins.
Thus, we come to another staple of every Sunday service, the moment when the pastor tells the you and the congregation that your sins are forgiven. When we hear these words, they are not just the words of the pastor; they are the words of God Himself spoken for you. Whatever wrongs we had committed, in thought, word or actions, everything we have done against God and neighbor and self is forgiven before God in heaven. Every week it is the same; every week we hear those very words for us. Each and every week it is true: as surely as we confess our sins before God and one another, He forgives our sins.
The words of Psalm 32 are a weekly reality for us: “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, in whose spirit there is no deceit.” Lent, the season of repentance in preparation for Easter, is here but we do not despair as we repent and confess our sins before God. Rather, we rejoice because we are truly blessed by the atoning sacrifice of our Lord, granting us the forgiveness of all our sins.
Blessings to you all this Lenten season!