Originally posted Feb. 28, 2013, at Church Outloud. Republished with permission of the author.
I once had someone question the Absolution offered at the end of the Confession of Sins. She said, “I don’t need someone to forgive my sins. God does that.”
Leonard Cohen wrote these lines in a song titled “That Don’t Make It Junk.”
“I know that I’m forgiven,
But I don’t know how I know
I don’t trust my inner feelings
Inner feelings come and go”
(“Ten New Songs”)
Of course God forgives sins, but without someone to declare that forgiveness to me, my forgiveness becomes an internal phenomenon — a product of my inner feelings, which change more often than the weather. Worse, forgiveness becomes something I do for myself.
We have a tendency to make faith largely a private, internal matter. And yes, our relationship to God is highly personal, deeply intimate indeed. But God is more than the private relationship God and I have.
An important part of my intimate relationship with God is the way it drives me to engage the world. My relationship with God compels me to enter into relationship with others. And God may address my heart not only through an internal voice, but in spoken word that enters through my ear. A word that originates from outside of me, beyond my control. A word spoken that draws me into it.
When Absolution is pronounced by a pastor, a minister or a priest, it is pronounced on behalf of God. It draws us out of the echo chamber of our own inner feelings and into relationship with our brothers and sisters.
Martin Luther taught children to make the sign of the cross (touch your head, your heart, your left shoulder and your right shoulder) like this: “God is in my head, God is in my heart, God is on my left, and God is on my right.”
God is inside of me, and outside of me. God is not my possession as much as what and who possesses me. +
Find a link to Charles Oberkehr’s entry on the blog Church Outloud at Lutheran Blogs.