An Example of Announcement for Communion or Confession (2nd Discussion)
It can be found in Der Lutheraner volume 3, p. 44. And you can get an English translation of the book here.
Margaretta: I would like to come to the confessional.
Parson: That’s good, why do you want to?
M. So that I confess my sins.
Pn: So, even you have sins?
M: We are all sinners and fall short of the glory we should have before God.
Pn: Do you also know your sins?
M: Some we know and some we don’t.
Pn.: But one must still know those that are known, else, there wouldn’t be known sins, so do you know them?
M.: I’ve never done anything wrong, and no one can say I have.
Pn.: So have you no sins?
M.: No one is without sins. I’d never say I am without sins. One often sins and is completely unaware of it.
Pn.: And yet you say you have never done anything wrong. Don’t you know what the apostle John says: “Whoever commits sins does wrong, and sin is that wrong doing.” If you still have to admit that you have sins, how can you then say that you have never done anything wrong?
M.: I am not so learned that I can answer every question, but I’m not so contentious as some people, so I am really just as good as they.–
Pn.: Here it doesn’t depend on education and knowledge, M., much less will one’s lack of contentiousness help, for in this we stand before God, who tests the hearts and reins. Therefore in this it is a matter of honest repentance over one’s sins.
M.: Oh, but I don’t have so many sins.
Pn.: That will not justify you, M.. You certainly know what James says: “If anyone keeps the whole law and sins in just one point, he is guilty of it all.” And so, who do you think is a better Christian, someone who finds few sins in himself or one who finds many?
M.: (hesitantly) I just think a true Christian is pious and does nothing that’s wrong, and because of that he can also not find many sins in himself.
Pn.: I think David and the apostle Paul had been pious people and more pious than either of us, don’t you think so, too?
M.: Yes, certainly they take first place!
Pn: And yet the first one says: “who can know how often he falls short.” “My sins are heaped over my head, they have become too heavy for me as a heavy load.” And the other one said: “I am fleshly and sole under sin. I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwells nothing good.” That said, they must have found more sins on them than you do, yet they were more pious, yes, it is just for that reason that they were more pious. That’s why I’m telling you: the better the Christian, the greater the sinner.
Pn.: So who do you think knows your heart better, you or God?
M.: God, of course.
Pn.: And who says: “The imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” Of whom is it written: “God looks from heaven at the children of men, if anyone understands and inquires of God: But they have all become wayward and altogether unfit, there is none that do good, not even one.” Now certainly you are still a child of man with a human heart, so does what the holy and all-knowing God is saying here also apply to you and your heart? And even if you’ve not also personally accepted this as true, then you must believe God in this and humble yourself and learn that even this alone is enough to condemn you, since up ’till now you’ve never acknowledged your sins. In your heart’s self-justification you are defiantly and thoughtlessly dismissing God’s word and witness. For if you had better taken God’s Word to heart and if you had paid closer attention to the thoughts of your heart, your sinful corruption would have become obvious to you long ago. But since up until now you’ve never done so, that sin alone is enough to condemn you.
M.: Ok, so now I’m supposed to regard myself as condemned in God’s name.
Pn.: I think I see what I’m saying is angering you. You think I’m going too far. But do you believe what the catechism says?
M.: As if I would not believe it! You always think people have no faith at all!
Pn.: Then you must also believe you are lost and condemned for the sake of your sins; for that is written in the catechism and you have also confessed this often enough from your catechism, but you have not yet ever thought about what it says, and –don’t let this make you angry because it’s true–and therefore you have not yet ever believed it. Can you still say the Second Article along with its meaning, where it says: I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, etc., etc., is my Lord, who has–now how does it continue?
M.: Who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me–
Pn.: Far enough. Did you hear what you just said? Why do you call yourself a lost and condemned person there? Because you must learn by setting the Ten Commandments before you (if you consider them seriously and are honest), that you haven’t kept any of them as you should, and therefore you are under God’s wrath and curse.
M.: One just does what he can.
Pn.: And you imagine by doing what you can that’s enough. You don’t see that just by that you only make your condemnation worse. For those who go around with doing the works of the law are under the curse, as Paul says in Gal. 3: “For it is written: Cursed is everyone who does not remain in everything that is written in the book of the law, that he do it.” Now you cannot say that you have remained in everything, in everything, else you’d be without sins, so you’re under the curse. With that you are nevertheless going on with doing the works of the law, that is, you nevertheless want to be justified through your works since you claim people can’t accuse you of doing anything wrong. Since you are deceiving yourself you must remain under the curse.
M.: Oh, but I also believe that the Lord Christ has died for us.
Pn.: You might like now to appeal to him to help you out of this predicament but he does not receive you.
M.: Why would he reject me? Am I such a bad person?
Pn.: Now, you’re too good. For he says: “I have come to heal the sick and not the healthy; I have come to save sinners and not the righteous,” but you are strong and feel nothing less than any infirmity in your soul. You’re righteous. Even if you admit you are a sinner, you are in no way a poor, nor a needy, nor a lost sinner, but he has only come to seek the lost. You don’t want your feet to be washed by him, for you think you don’t need it. The mire with which you have muddied yourself in your walk isn’t even worth mentioning, thus you have no part in him.
M.: But that’s why I’ve been going to the Lord’s Supper, just to partake of him.
Pn.: Dear Margaretta, don’t forget that the holy Lord’s Supper is only instituted for sinners, for poor, repentant sinners, who acknowledge and feel their sins and hunger and thirst for God’s grace. That is why it is said every time: Broken for your sins, — shed for your sins. Could those be paltry, insignificant sins that were the cause of the Son of God’s body having to be broken, and his holy precious blood having to be shed? It’s because you imagine your sins so small, that you think so little of God’s grace. When you justify yourself you rob the Lord of his rightful place. Your self justification is your greatest sin. If you remain in it, you yourself are transforming the blessing of the Lord’s Supper into a curse.
M.: I think, Parson, I also want to have as beneficial a blessing as others receive.
Pn.: Then you must also repent as much as any other sinner who wants forgiveness. Margaretta, you don’t believe everything I’ve been telling you, so at least receive a bit of good advice. Let God be the deciding judge between you and me, and say to him: Dear God, my Parson has said such and such, and always wants to make me into a greater sinner. So I pray you, dear Father, by your Word reveal to me if it is really so, if what he is saying is just. Search me and know my heart, test me and see my condition and see if I have been on an evil path and lead me to the eternal path! Amen. Pray this to God daily and especially in these next days before you go to the Lord’s Supper. He will then certainly help you to learn what is right. Will you do that?
M.: I can certainly do that.
Pn: Then go and do so, and God be with your spirit!
M.: Farewell, Parson!