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Forgiveness is a Gift

11December2012

I know they were surprised because I could almost hear their audible gasps. I had to look up at them because they stopped speaking. It was written in bold so they knew it was meant for them to say, but they hesitated, waiting for one bold person to push on in confidence. No one wanted to make a mistake if it was actually the pastor who made an error in the bulletin. Kindly they would not want to embarrass me for a miscue. So I looked up at them. . . after a moment of silence too long. . . I looked up and nodded as if to say, “Yes, you get to go first. You have to pronounce forgiveness on me. Go ahead, it’s what we are here for, it’s alright, it’s good and proper, press on friends. . .”

(From ELW Compline service:)

Pastor: Let us confess our sin in the presence of God and of one another.

(Silence is kept.)

P: I confess to God Almighty, before the whole company of heaven, and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned by my own fault in thought, word and deed. I pray God Almighty to have mercy on me, forgive me all my sins, and bring me to everlasting life.

Congregation: Almighty and merciful God grant you healing, pardon, and forgiveness for all your sins. Amen.

C: I confess to God, Almighty, before the whole company of heaven, and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned by my own fault in thought, word and deed. I pray God Almighty to have mercy on me, forgive me all my sins, and bring me to everlasting life.

P: Almighty and merciful God grant you healing, pardon, and forgiveness for all your sins. Amen.

Advent Altar

Advent Altar

We never spoke about it afterward. I guess we didn’t have to but my hunch is that there are just some things that happen that you do not discuss afterwards. You simply let it sit, dwell in your heart, bask in the light and love of Christ’s forgiveness spoken by the community of believers. What an incredible gift! Luther called this Mutual Care and Consolation of the Saints. Perhaps we forget about this aspect of our life together as we expect that only the pastor can pronounce forgiveness and pardon. It is simply  not true. .  . we are gathered together as the communion of saints to strengthen one another, listen to one another, hear one another’s confessions and to pronounce Christ’s life saving forgiveness. It is this bond forged through Christ’s body and blood, word and sacrament, that binds us together as one people on a mission to the world that God loves. Until we understand ourselves, at least at some level, to be forgiven and loved we have not a whole lot to offer the world. So while the flock I serve may have been a bit unsure, stunned even by the turn of events in that Advent liturgy, they had the joy of forgiving me for all of my sins and shortcomings. They got to experience the privilege that I get to experience every Sunday. . . assuring them that they are loved and forgiven and are given another second chance!

Go and practice that which God has commanded us to do as a way of preparing the way of the Lord: love, serve and forgive! Amen.

ACL@CCD

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