Wednesday, January 9, 2008

What About Confession & Forgiveness


What About…Individual Confession & Forgiveness
Confession and Absolution

What is confession?
Answer: Confession consists of two parts. One is that we confess our sins.
The other is that we receive absolution or forgiveness from the confessor as from God himself, by no means doubting but firmly believing that our sins are thereby forgiven before God in heaven.

What sins should we confess?
Answer: Before God we should acknowledge that we are guilty of all manner of sins, even those of which we are not aware, as we do in the Lord’s Prayer. Before the confessor, however, we should confess only those sins of which we have knowledge and which trouble us.

What are such sins?
Answer: Reflect on your condition in the light of the Ten Commandments: whether you are a father or mother, a son or daughter, a master or servant; whether you have been disobedient, unfaithful, lazy, ill-tempered, or quarrelsome; whether you have harmed anyone by word or deed; and whether you have stolen, neglected, or wasted anything, or done other evil.

Here are the 10 Commandments:
The First
“You shall have no other gods.”
What does this mean?
Answer: We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.
Ask: Have I feared, loved, and trusted God above all things?

The Second
“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.”
What does this mean?
Answer: We should fear and love God, and so we should not use his name to curse, swear, practice magic, lie, or deceive, but in every time of need call upon him, pray to him, praise him, and give him thanks.
Ask: Have I misused or abused God’s name in anyway. Have I rightly called upon him, prayed to him and praised and thanked him?


The Third
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.”
What does this mean?
Answer: We should fear and love God, and so we should not despise his Word and the preaching of the same, but deem it holy and gladly hear and learn it.
Ask: Have I regarded holy things as holy things? Have I listened and learnt the Word of God?

The Fourth
“Honor your father and your mother.”
What does this mean?
Answer: We should fear and love God, and so we should not despise our parents and superiors, nor provoke them to anger, but honor, serve, obey, love, and esteem them.
Ask: Have I honored, served, loved, and obeyed my parents and others in authority over me?

The Fifth
“You shall not kill.”
What does this mean?
Answer: We should fear and love God, and so we should not endanger our neighbor’s life, nor cause him any harm, but help and befriend him in every necessity of life.
Ask: Have I endangered my neighbor’s life in any way? Have I stolen abundant life from them in any way? Have I participated in or been an accomplice in the taking of human life from the point of conception to natural death? Have I helped and befriended my neighbor as I ought?

The Sixth
“You shall not commit adultery.”
What does this mean?
Answer: We should fear and love God, and so we should lead a chaste and pure life in word and deed, each one loving and honoring his wife or her husband.
Ask: Have I led a chaste and pure life? Have I honored my marriage vows? Have I honored my call to singleness? Have I viewed graphic or pornographic material? Have I loved and respected my spouse?

The Seventh
“You shall not steal.”
What does this mean?
Answer: We should fear and love God, and so we should not rob our neighbor of his money or property, nor bring them into our possession by dishonest trade or by dealing in shoddy wares, but help him to improve and protect his income and property.
Ask: Have I robbed my neighbor of anything? Have I been involved in any dishonest or shoddy financial practice? Have I stolen from the Lord through neglecting to give back to him in Christian stewardship?

The Eighth
“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”
What does this mean?
Answer: We should fear and love God, and so we should not tell lies about our neighbor, nor betray, slander, or defame him, but should apologize for him, speak well of him, and interpret charitably all that he does.
Ask: Have I lied about my neighbor? Have I spoken well about my neighbor and put the best construction on all s/he has said or done?

The Ninth
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house.”
What does this mean?
Answer: We should fear and love God, and so we should not seek by craftiness to gain possession of our neighbor’s inheritance or home, nor to obtain them under pretext of legal right, but be of service and help to him so that he may keep what is his.

The Tenth
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant, or his maidservant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”
What does this mean?
Answer: We should fear and love God, and so we should not abduct, estrange, or entice away our neighbor’s wife, servants, or cattle, but encourage them to remain and discharge their duty to him.
Ask: Have I been crafty in seeking what is my neighbor’s? Have I been of service to my neighbor? Have I encouraged those who are under his/her charge to remain faithful?

Please give me a brief form of confession.

Penitent [P]: “Dear [Brother or Sister], please hear my confession and declare that my sins are forgiven for God’s sake.”

Confessor [C] “Proceed.”

[P] “I, a poor sinner, confess before God that I am guilty of all sins. In particular I confess in your presence that, ….For all this I am sorry and pray for grace. I mean to do better.”

(If, however, anyone does not feel that his conscience is burdened by such or by greater sins, he should not worry, nor should he search for and invent other sins, for this would turn confession into torture; he should simply mention one or two sins of which he is aware. For example, “In particular I confess that I once cursed. On one occasion I also spoke indecently. And I neglected this or that,” etc. Let this suffice. If you have knowledge of no sin at all (which is quite unlikely), you should mention none in particular, but receive forgiveness upon the general confession which you make to God in the presence of the confessor.)

[C] “God be merciful to you and strengthen your faith. Amen. Do you believe that this forgiveness is the forgiveness of God?”

[P] “Yes, I do.”

[C] “Be it done for you as you have believed. According to the command of our Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Go in peace.”

(A confessor will know additional passages of the Scriptures with which to comfort and to strengthen the faith of those whose consciences are heavily burdened or who are distressed and sorely tried.)

From Martin Luther’s Small Catechism

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