Bishop and Christian*, February 2014

What about the General Confession?

In my time at Faith so far, we have used the Confession and Absolution from Divine Service, Setting III (Lutheran Service Book, p. 184). Before the actual confession, we have (since I’ve been here) paused for a moment of silence prior to the confession. Some people may wonder about this time of silence, so I’m going to take this space to give a little background to the practice of silence before the confession.

In his book The Quest for Holiness, Adolf Köberle quotes the theologian Hermann Bezzel: “A general repentance is the death of repentance” (214). That is, if we are content with the confession that we are “poor, miserable sinners” (which is true!), but do not realize how that general fact shows itself in specific and concrete sins, we will soon lose the absolute seriousness of our sin before God. We do not sin generally, so we cannot confess sins generally (although we do confess sin generally). To avoid the loss of repentance and real confession, we take a short time of silence prior to the confession. This helps us focus on how our own sinfulness has shown itself in specific, sinful thoughts; in specific, sinful words; in specific, sinful actions. We have actually damaged our relationships with God and with others, not generally, but specifically. More than that, Jesus’ death and resurrection do not only forgive us generally; He died for specific sins.

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