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Week 12b

Liturgical Note: Over and again we have stressed that liturgy is active. It is the work of the entire people. You will not remember every detail of this study. Therefore it is vital that you remember this one single governing theme:

At every point in the service you are to be doing something.

Not only that if you will listen the service will tell you what that something is (be it “let us pray”, “let us confess our sins”, or “let us hear and receive the reading of God’s Word”).

 

Liturgical Location: We have just received the Invitation to come to the Lord’s Table. During the Invitation we were reminded of why we are to come and well as how we are to come. That is, the Invitation reminds us that the Table is a table for sinners who repent of their sins and turn to God for His healing. At the same time, the Invitation reminds us of what Scripture says true repentance involves (it is specific, relational, renewing). Notice then, immediately after the Invitation, the liturgy turns to the General Confession. As such, the believer is guided through the very repentance called for by the Invitation.

 

General Confession:

ALMIGHTY God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Maker of all things, Judge of all men; We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness, Which we, from time to time, most grievously have committed, By thought, word, and deed, Against thy Divine Majesty, Provoking most justly thy wrath and indignation against us. We do earnestly repent, And are heartily sorry for these our misdoings; The remembrance of them is grievous unto us; The burden of them is intolerable. Have mercy upon us, Have mercy upon us, most merciful Father; For thy Son our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, Forgive us all that is past; And grant that we may ever hereafter Serve and please thee In newness of life, To the honor and glory of thy Name; Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

A] Notice at once the Confession begins with the crucial change in direction/disposition definitive of true repentance. That is, the Confession begins by turning us back to God. In doing so, it reminds us of both our hope and our need to return. First, the Confession reminds us that God is the Father of Jesus and thus a God of mercy to whom we can return. Second, the confession reminds us that God is our maker and the maker of all we encounter. Therefore, we owe God our worship and obedience in all that we do, all that we are, and all that we have. In turn, God is the judge of all men and the one to whom all men will give an account (regardless of whether they believe or not). Simply put: the Confession begins by turning us from our own willfulness and self-rule to acknowledge God’s Lordship and claim over the whole of life.

 

B] Next, notice after acknowledging God’s claim on the whole of life, the Confession turns to acknowledge our failure to love and serve God as we ought. Notice then, the Confession begins with the general brokenness and sinfulness that defines the whole of our life. Thus, we are prompted to recognize and repent of our manifold sins and wickedness. In other words, we are reminded that even our best deeds and intentions are marred by sin. Likewise, there are many times that we sin unknowingly or unintentionally (Num 28, 29; Lev 4). Therefore, the whole of our brokenness needs to be brought to God for forgiveness and healing.

That said, the emphasis of the Confession is on those sins that we have done knowingly and intentionally. Why? Our intentional sins are where we both see and express our brokenness most fully. Notice then, while every act we do is tainted by imperfection, we from time to time most grievously and willfully sin against God. Therefore, the prayer prompts us to acknowledge our rebellion and to turn to God in repentance.

Importance: notice at once the great comfort. The reason the General Confession calls us to bring our brokenness as well as the most flagrant and intentional works of that brokenness to God is because God calls us to bring them. In other words, behind the Confession is the great assurance that God responds to our need with “greater grace” (James 4:6).

 

C] Next, notice the General Confession turns to remind us of the scope of our individual sins. Our sins are never merely isolated wrong deeds. Rather, sin involves the whole person in its rebellion against God. Notice then when the Confession tells us that we have sinned against God by thought, word, and deed, it is not just that we sometimes say something wrong and then other times we think or do something wrong. Rather, in most cases, each individual sin involves all three working together. Again notice the comfort: God’s grace does not simply forgive our misdeeds, it heals the whole person.

 

D] Next, the General Confession reminds us of the proper attitude that we are to have because of our sin. We are not to be casual or indifferent about our sins. Rather, we are to earnestly (thus honestly and specifically) repent and to be truly (or heartily) sorry for our wrong doings. Likewise, as we come to see more and more fully the nature of our sins, true repentance means that we will no longer look on our past sins with fondness. Rather, as grace changes our desires, we will be grieved and repulsed by the memory of them. Finally, as we suffer the results of our sins, we begin to recognize the burden and sorrow that sin bring to life. As such, true repentance not only turns to God to remove our sins but by acknowledging their true nature and ill effect, true repentance helps deter us from future sin.

 

E] Finally, the General Confession underscores the true nature of the grace our repentance seeks. Notice then, we are prompted to turn to God for both forgiveness and renewal that we may serve and please Him in newness of life.

Bottom line: the General Confession demonstrates what true Biblical repentance looks like and the true nature of the grace it seeks. As such it informs our individual devotions throughout the week

 

Absolution:

ALMIGHTY God, our heavenly Father, who of his great mercy hath promised forgiveness of sins to all those who with hearty repentance and true faith turn unto him; Have mercy upon you; pardon and deliver you from all your sins; confirm and strengthen you in all goodness; and bring you to everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

Immediately after turning to God with our sins, the Absolution gives us God’s response.  Notice, the Absolution assures the believer that God’s amazing and bountiful grace is given to all who turn to Him (again notice the nature of the grace given- it forgives, heals, and completes). As such, we are not permitted to fear that our sin is too big or that we are somehow the exception. God promises forgiveness to all who come to Him in faith and He has instructed His ministers to officially declare it. Importance: it is vital to note that it is not the minister who pardons sin. Rather, it is God who pardons sin. However, at the same time, the minister is commanded by God to declare God’s pardon to all who truly repent.

 

Comfortable Words:

Hear what comfortable words our Savior Christ saith unto all who truly turn to him.

 

The comfortable words are guarantees given in Scripture that Christ’s one time sacrifice has paid the full price of sin. As such, they are given to strengthen our faith and fortify our hearts in the Lord. (Remember the word “comfort” means to strengthen). Notice then, immediately after the General Confession and the announcement of God’s Absolution, the liturgy turns to Scripture to assure the believer of the certainty of God’s grace to all who truly turn to Him

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