21 October 2008

Jesus Lutherans Doth Receive

It's one thing for those of us with wonderful Father Confessors to go on about how wonderful private confession is. But the sad fact is that if a pastor doesn't know what he's doing, private confession can range anywhere from awkward to awful. Most LCMS pastors have probably never made a private confession. Of those who have, many were probably in a drive-by setting at a conference where they import pastors from the next district to sit in classrooms and hear random confessions for an afternoon. Few have Father Confessors, and few make confession with any regularity or preparation.

I've been blessed to spend my adult life in locales populated with faithful pastors who make and hear confession regularly, so I have always had access to experienced and capable confessors. But there are plenty of places where such shepherds are hard to come by. You don't even have to travel out of the midwest. So it's fine and good to exhort people to confess and be absolved privately, but it's hardly fair to come down on the people in the Bronze Belt saying, "Lord, to whom shall we go?"

I've heard some ugly stories come out of the confessor hunt. One pastor who was asked by a friend of mine to serve as a confessor received the request poorly and fulfilled the task reluctantly and artlessly. That's not an excuse to quit going, but it's not exactly the pastor/pentitent relationship for which a pious soul longs--someone who wasn't really sold on this popish-sounding confession business would not stick with it under such circumstances. Another friend had a confession horrifically botched by someone who apparently had no idea what his end of the deal was. It still turns my stomach to think about it.

Worst of all, stop an average pastor or seminarian on the sidewalk and ask him about the seal. If he hasn't been taught exactly what the confessional is and has instead obtained all his knowledge on the subject from syndicated episodes of Law and Order, he does not get it. There are LCMS pastors out there who do not think they should (and have vowed to) keep the seal if, for example, a crime is being investigated. That is criminal on the part of our church, and it's not right to send people running off to a confessor whose ears are anything short of sepulchral.

It's not as easy as telling people, "You should go to confession. Any pastor can do it." Sad but true, LCMS pastors haven't been trained for it unless they've sought out the training themselves, and most don't know that they should.

But as someone said in the comments recently, don't let your pastor off the hook. It is his job, so ask him, and be patient if you're both learning together. Take him a copy of this and say it got you interested and would he please hear your confession and pronounce forgiveness to fulfill God's will?


Blogversary said...

Good thoughts. I can honestly confess, I have never been to confession. It is sad commentary on my lack of trust. Thankfully, I do have a father who is a pastor and I can talk to him about anyting and get as close to one can w/ confession. Pretty sure a lot folks feel the same way I do.

Reb. Mary said...

Alas, I am among the confessor-less! Geographical limitations are among my "excuses."

Maybe I should check ebay? Online confessionals are all the rage now, anyhow.

Gauntlets said...

Ha! What isn't sold on Ebay, I'd like to know.

It took us a long, long time to find a confessor that didn't balk every time we called to schedule. Yet, even those awkward confessions were of great benefit to me.

Now, we are very blessed to have a Father Confessor that takes his Call very seriously. Additionally, he is very pastoral and very kind. Even so, we with our Father Confessor are growing into the process. It takes effort and practice on everyone's part . . .

Rev. Robert Franck said...

These words reminded me of a Lutheran Witness article in the January 2002 issue. The article was a fine one about Confession and Absolution, but included the recitiation of a person's particular sins!

The particular issue of the Witness doesn't appear to be archived at the LCMS site, but a couple of letters and the Witness' response are on pages 3 and 4 of the March 2002 issue at http://www.lcms.org/graphics/assets/media/Witness/LWmar02.pdf

Rebekah said...

Pastor Franck, ?!?!