From Vicar Shepard

Greetings to you all in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ!

This newsletter is the first in a series looking in depth at the elements of the Divine Service.  

We begin by examining the first part of the Divine Service: Confession and Absolution.  

Historically speaking, Confession and Absolution was considered a prerequisite to the Service of the Sacrament and so for much of church history it was held either the day before, in the form of Private Confession, or in the weeks leading up, the pastor would visit his parishioners for Confession and Absolution in their homes.  As the time went on, the Papists began adding things to Confession, what they called satisfaction. However, during the Protestant Revolution, Luther stripped Private Confession of the Works Righteousness that the Papists had turned it into and encouraged its use as an exceptional tool of pastoral care.  Then, again, Individual Confession and Absolution began to devolve in the 17th century because of the influencing forces of rationalism and the pietist movement.  Corporate Confession and Absolution as we have it today did not come into style until the 19th century with the American Lutherans.

Today, many outside the Lutheran Church take much offense to the pastor forgiving everyone’s sins.  Why is he allowed to do this?  The answer is simple; Jesus commanded it!  In John 20 we see Jesus giving his disciples (the one’s he trained to carry on his ministry) the Holy Spirit and the authority to forgive sins.  Here Jesus gives them the keys to bind or loose sins.  This is why the office of the pastor is also called the office of the keys.  Because of this, we as Lutherans “believe that when the called ministers of Christ deal with us by His divine command, in particular when they exclude openly unrepentant sinners from the Christian congregation and absolve those who repent of the sins and want to do better, this is just as valid and certain, even in heaven, as if Christ our dear Lord dealt with us himself” (Luther’s Small Catechism).  When pastor says “I, by virtue of my office as a called and ordained servant of the word” and “in the stead and by the command of Christ,” the forgiveness that he pronounces is not his own, but rather Christ’s.

Grace and peace to you all,

Vicar Shepard

Trinity Lutheran Church - LCMS
16 12th Ave NE,  Hampton, Iowa  50441
Rev. Karl C. Bollhagen