Thursday, January 7, 2010

Liturgical Variations: Understanding Liturgical Worship, Part III

Micah over at Variations on a Liturgical Theme has posted his latest installment of Understanding the Liturgical Worship Service.

Topics include:
  • Confession
  • Absolution
  • Introit (Latin for "Entrance")
Regarding Confession and Absolution, Micah says:
Before we enter the presence of God we must be pure. Thus we confess, or acknowledge, to Him who and what we are: sinners. We are honest- knowing He already knows our sinful condition- but confident of His forgiveness and mercy.

This is where the pastor, on behalf of Christ, announces to all that they are absolved, or forgiven of their sins. Many Protestants struggle with this, however Jesus says in Matthew 16:19, "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you free on earth shall be freed in heaven," (translated by yours truly) and in John 20:23, "If you forgive the sins of anyone, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven." (NIV)

For those who don't quite understand the sacramental nature of Absolution, it is important to remember that the pastor is not the one who absolves, but Christ himself. The pastor stands in the place of Christ as His representative. As the TLH Order of Holy Communion and LSB (Divine Service, Setting Three) state, the stead and by the command
of my Lord Jesus Christ
I forgive you all your sins
in the name of the Father
and of the Son
and of the Holy Spirit.

Those words, "in the stead," let us know that Jesus is present here in the proclamation. The words "by the command" let us know that these are not the pastor's words but the very Word of Christ Himself.

Hymn of Confession
From depths of woe I cry to Thee,
In trial and tribulation;
Bend down Thy gracious ear to me,
Lord, hear my supplication.
If Thou rememberest every subm
Who then could heaven ever win
Or stand before Thy presence?

Hymn of Absolution
Jesus speaks to us in this hymn.
In the first line, "he" refers to Satan.

Though he will shed My precious blood,
Me of My life bereaving,
All this I suffer for your good;
Be steadfast and believing.
Life will from death the vict'ry win;
My innocence shall bear your sin
And you are blest forever.
LSB 556, Stanza 8

The tune from LSB 508
is also associated with this text.