confession and absolution

  • This Wednesday we began the season of Lent. Numerous things might come to your mind when you think about Lent. You might think about the ashes of Ash Wednesday. You might consider Lenten disciplines such as giving up something like chocolate, coffee, or meat. You might think about the tender moments of the Last Supper or Jesus washing His disciples’ feet. You might ponder the agony of Gethsemane or the cross.

    It is a tradition at First Lutheran (so I am told) that for the Lenten season we switch from our usual order of worship (Divine Service, Setting Two) to Divine Service, Setting Three. If, like me, you grew up with The Lutheran Hymnal (also called TLH or “the red hymnal,”) this is page 15.

    The wording of this order of worship is a bit different. One word that I often hear people complain about is in the confession of sins. Together we confess before our almighty God, our merciful Father, beginning with these words, “I, a poor, miserable sinner…”

    Miserable. There is a word with some baggage. I immediately think of how a person might feel if they had the flu. Miserable, achy, wretched, a person to be pitied.

    Miserable has become almost entirely negative in its usage. Nobody wants to be miserable. Confessing that we are miserable might not be terribly true if we only think of miserable as a wretched, unhappy person that none of us wants to be around.

    At the root of miserable is the Latin word miser. It’s where we get our English word “miser,” as in a stingy person. But it also appears in the Latin version of our historic liturgy in the Agnus Dei (the Lamb of God).

    It’s this phrase: miserere nobis, which means “have mercy upon us.”

    To be miserable in that sense is not to be unhappy or stingy or wretched, but rather to be one who needs mercy. Since that is the case, I think we can all easily confess that we are miserable, for we are truly in need of God’s mercy, and He has given it to us in His Son, Jesus Christ.

    God’s blessings on your week.

    Pastor Andy

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