Pastoral Study Project Writing: Variation on the Confession and Absolution

* I would like to thank the Louisville Institute for graciously providing a Pastoral Study Project grant.  

A Variation on the Confession and Absolution

One of the critiques I’ve heard during this Pastoral Study Project through readings and interviews with theologians is that the traditional Lutheran Confession, addresses sin (from social science research, this is a focus on action) but is woefully lacking in addressing shame (focus on one’s personhood). 

We confess that we have sinned in thought word and deed by what we have done and what we have left undonebut this keeps us in our heads.  A cognitive ascent to knowing God and living in a right relationship with God.  Yet, shame is pre-language; we experience it before we have capacity for language and we experience it in our physical bodies. We have a physical response to shame - some of us drop our heads, we avert eye contact, we may want to hide like Adam and Eve or leave as quickly as possible.  We don’t feel safe when we are in shame.  

Confession: Lord, we have sinned against You by blaming and deflecting.  We hide from you, each other, and ourselves; believing that being half-alive is better than being fully known.  We often feel small, flawed, and worthless and don’t actually believe you are with us and for us.  We behave in ways that break true relationship with creation, each other and you.  We are in bondage to the ever present fear?  voice of shame?  - which is best here?  that says we can’t trust you and in the end, it is best to hoard and hide.

Absolution:  As a called and ordained minister of the Church of Christ, I declare to you all your sins are forgiven.  Shame doesn’t define you, your past, or determine your future.  Jesus has done that by becoming human, fully knowing your pain, and taking it to the cross.  In his death and resurrection, God has freed you of all your sins and shame has power to kill and destroy no more.  The Holy Spirit gives the power to name shame and blame and to receive God’s love, kindness, and grace in the community of the broken and wholehearted.  You are not alone.  You are never alone.  In the name of the Triune God.  Amen.