Liturgy: Confession of Sins and Absolution

There is a wide gulf between God in his holiness and us in our sinfulness. We put on clean clothes in the morning to come to church, but more importantly we need a clean heart in the presence of the Lord. So at the very beginning of our worship services, we need to lay our sins on Jesus and be assured that God does not condemn us for our sins, but forgives and forgets. We need to “lay down our burdens at the doorway before entering upon the praises of God.”

There are a variety of words in our services for the Confession. They include words like, “Let us bow before the Lord and confess our sins,” or “Beloved in the Lord! Let us draw near with a true heart and confess our sins to God, our Father . . .,” or “Almighty God, our Maker and Redeemer, we poor sinners confess unto you that we are by nature sinful and unclean, and that we have sinned against you by thought, word, and deed.

Likewise, the Absolution (declaration of forgiveness) uses a variety of words, such as, “Upon this your confession, I announce the grace of God to all of you and forgive you all your sins,” or “Almighty God, our heavenly Father, has had mercy upon us and has given his only-begotten Son to die for us, and for his sake forgives us all our sins.

Confession and Absolution is a return to our Baptisms. In Confession, we take all our sins and throw them back into the baptismal font, burying them with Christ, washing them away in his blood. Then in Absolution, the forgiveness of Baptism is brought to us again, so that we may live new, resurrected lives today (Romans 6:4).

Confession and Absolution in our services reflects the experience of Isaiah in a vision (Isaiah 6:1–8). He was in God’s presence in the Temple. He was terrified to be there because he knew he was a sinner (Confession). An angel touched his lips with a coal and told him he was forgiven (Absolution). Only then was he able to serve the Lord in gladness (“Here I am. Send me.”).