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.
A little before I was born a practice that had been common in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod passed into oblivion. It was called “announcement for communion.” People used to go talk to the pastor before they went to the Lord’s Supper. I’ve never really been too sure what went on in these talks. From asking older people in the church I’ve gathered that over time it became little more than a ritual of going to church and signing your name in a book as intending to commune. Later people began to phone in their announcements.
But it always struck me as interesting that there was this practice in the Lutheran Church that bore some resemblance to confession prior to communion and that it only recently died out. Yet you never hear anyone talk about it or suggest resurrecting it. I’ve written another post touching on the subject (here), but that was two years ago and I can’t remember what I said.
I’ve been flipping around in a fantastic book I bought recently–a translation of C. F. W. Walther’s early volumes of Der Lutheraner, the newspaper he started before the Missouri Synod was even founded. (Thanks to Pr. Joel Baseley for his work in translating it; you can find the book here.) I stumbled upon a sample dialogue between a pastor and would-be communicants at announcement for communion, authored by no less than Wilhelm Loehe. I reprint part of it here for your edification and perhaps to entice you to buy a copy of the book.
A note: the confession referred to in what follows seems to have been a corporate service of confession and absolution rather than private confession and absolution. Although in the first century and a half or so after the reformation it was normal for Lutherans to go to private confession before communion, by the time this was published (December 1846) private confession and absolution was seldom used.
Announcement for Confession
A sketch as to its nature. by W. Loehe
Balthisar: Good day, Parson.
Parson: Good day, Balthisar, what do you want?
B. I want to announce for Confession this Saturday and the Lord’s Supper Sunday.
Pn. So why do you want the Lord’s Supper now?
B. Why? I think it is now the time to have the Lord’s Supper again.
Pn. Why now? Is it because you do that every year at Advent?
B. Yes, in my family we’ve always thought we should observe that, so if it’s Pentecost or Christmas day or in Advent we go to the Lord’s Supper. So I do that, too.
Pn. So you are going because of that custom?
B. Sure, why not? I don’t agree with the tradition many hold, who go but once a year.
“Whoever Does Not Receive the Kingdom of God Like a Child Will Never Enter it”. Sermon on Infant Baptism, Wed. after Judica 2013
St. Peter Lutheran Church
St. Luke 18:9-17/ Passion History/ Small Catechism: What does such baptizing with water indicate?
March 20, 2013
“Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a little child shall never enter it”
Jesus died for you. You are saved. That is a short and sweet rendition of the article of justification. Lutherans have always said that the Christian Church stands or falls on the article of justification. If you keep that front and center, it will save people; God will build His church on it. When it is kept straight the conscience is comforted, and all the other articles of the Christian faith will be preserved. But without it all of the teaching of the Church is corrupted. Without it there will not be harmony in the Church.
That sounds good. But in practice it doesn’t look true. Jesus died for you, you are saved. That’s enough for salvation? That’s enough to keep the Church alive and together? Have we found that to be true? No, it looks to us like either the Lutheran reformers were wrong or it hasn’t been taught clearly here lately. Because the churches that have other things to boast about besides the article of justification do well and we feel like, to quote the Psalms, “A sparrow alone on a housetop, like an owl in the ruins.”
Once a catechumen told me, respectfully and honestly, “That seems too easy.” He had a lot of Roman Catholic family, so it was understandable. But it’s not just the pope’s church. If a Baptist asks you, “Are you saved,” tell them yes, and then if they say, “How do you know,” say, “Because Jesus died for me on the cross.” What will many of them say? “Yes, that’s true, but did you accept him into your heart, really and truly? Do you have a relationship with Him?”
And it’s not just them either. A lot of times it seems too easy to Lutherans, to Lutheran pastors. Jesus died for me, so I’m saved. But I’d like to see some evidence. Holiness, victory over sin, any kind of victory. What good is it if I preach Jesus died for us, and then everyone is just as angry and anxious as they were before? Sometimes I ask that of myself, and sometimes you do too.
But there are some Lutherans, and not just little kids, either, who know in the time of trial, that the article of justification is their refuge. Jesus died for me, so I’m saved. It’s not easy to comfort yourself with that when the mountains are removed and tumble into the heart of the sea, when it looks like you are going to die or maybe your congregation is, and maybe it’s your fault, at least partly. Can I get an Amen?
But there are some Lutherans who God has enabled to do it. That’s the difficult art that Christians are taught by the Holy Spirit—to say, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but Jesus’ word will never pass away, and His Word says that He saved me from my sins by His death on the cross.”
I am baptized in Jesus’ blood;
this is my pearl, my highest good,
which calms my soul in all distress
against the devil, hell, and death.
Or as the old hymn in the Lutheran Service Book teaches us to sing:
Sin, disturb my soul no longer: I am baptized into Christ!
I have comfort even stronger: Jesus’ cleansing sacrifice.
Should a guilty conscience seize me, since my baptism did release me
in a dear forgiving flood, sprinkling me with Jesus’ blood?
If saying “Jesus died for me on the cross, so I’m saved” seems too easy to us, saying “I am baptized” seems even worse. Especially if you were baptized as a baby. A man who plays the piano at one of the nursing home services was raised at Messiah Luth. Church. But now he’s a Baptist or a Nazarene. He always really likes my preaching, except when I talk about Baptism. One time he said, again, honestly and respectfully—“If all you have to do is be baptized as an infant to be saved, why don’t Lutherans just baptize babies as often as possible, even when their parents aren’t looking?”
But the baptism of infants is possibly the clearest picture we have of what it means when we say that salvation is by grace alone. That is what Jesus is getting at when He says “let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it (St. Luke 18:16-17).”
298. Prayer of a person who wants to go to private confession and desires the holy Absolution.
Lord Jesus Christ, my Redeemer! You have bequeathed to Your beloved church here on earth and her faithful butlers (servants; ministers) the holy Office of the Keys with the promise attached to it, that what they in the power of this office will loose or bind shall also be loosed or bound in heaven. For such a grace-rich means and instrument of Your Spirit, I declare Your eternal laud, glory, and praise. I beseech You from the bottom of my heart: since as a poor, bound sinner, I am in need of this comforting loosing-key, and so that I will not be held in the fetters of the jailwarden of hell, let it come upon me through my Christian father-confessor, and for the sake of Your blood and death graciously release and acquit me from all my sins. Lend me Your Holy Spirit alongside of the holy Absolution, that I may take hold of it in genuine repentance, unwavering confidence, good purpose [to amend my life], brotherly love, and thankfulness, and finally come to everlasting blessedness in heaven. Amen.
–Sigismund Scherertz (1584-1639)—Superintendent at Lueneburg (Germany)
Seelen-Arznei und Spiegel der geistlichen Anfechtungen (Soul-Medicine and Mirror of Spiritual Afflictions)
From Evangelische-Lutherischer Gebets-Schatz
- Prayer in Sickness. Eisenach Hymnal (1760). Ev. Luth. Gebets-Schatz (deprofundisclamaviadtedomine.wordpress.com)
- The Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel…Sermon on Luther’s Small Catechism, 3rd Article of the Apostles’ Creed (deprofundisclamaviadtedomine.wordpress.com)
- Prayer for Septuagesima. Ev. Luth. Gebets-Schatz. (deprofundisclamaviadtedomine.wordpress.com)
A Lutheran Pastor’s Firsthand Account of Prison Life
by Pastor Richard Wurmbrand
I am a Christian from an Orthodox country — the country of Romania. Having been in prison for fourteen years for my faith, it is now my missionary work to help persecuted Christians in Communist countries. I would like to tell you the stories of several Orthodox Christians with whom I was privileged to come into contact during my time in prison. Their examples and their deeds have been a constant source of encouragement to me throughout the years.
Always Rejoice The first man was a priest who was put in jail at the age of seventy. His name was Surioanu. When he was brought in with his big white beard and white pate, some officers at the gate of the jail mocked him. One asked, “Why did they bring this old priest here?” And another replied with a jeer, “Probably to take the confessions of everybody.” Those were his exact words. This priest had a son who had died in a Soviet jail. His daughter was sentenced to twenty years. Two of his sons-in-law were with him in jail — one with him in the same cell. His grandchildren had no food, they were forced to eat from the garbage. His whole family was destroyed. He had lost his church. But this man had such a shining face — there was always a beautiful smile on his lips. He never greeted anyone with “Good morning” or “Good evening,” but instead with the words, “Always rejoice.” One day we asked him, “Father, how can you say ‘always rejoice’ — you who passed through such a terrible tragedy?” He said, “Rejoicing is very easy. If we fulfill at least one word from the Bible, it is written, ‘Rejoice with all those who rejoice.’ Now if one rejoices with all those who rejoice, he always has plenty of motivation for rejoicing. I sit in jail, and I rejoice that so many are free. I don’t go to church, but I rejoice with all those who are in church. I can’t take Holy Communion, but I rejoice about all those who take. I can’t read the Bible or any other holy book, but I rejoice with those who do. I can’t see flowers [we never saw a tree or a flower during those years. We were under the earth, in a subterranean prison. We never saw the sun, the moon, stars — many times we forgot that these things existed. We never saw a color, only the gray walls of the cell and our gray uniforms. But we knew that such a world existed, a world with multicolored butterflies and with rainbows], but I can rejoice with those who see the rainbows and who see the multicolored butterflies.” In prison, the smell was not very good. But the priest said, “Others have the perfume of flowers around them, and girls wearing perfume. And others have picnics and others have their families of children around them. I cannot see my children but others have children. And he who can rejoice with all those who rejoice can always rejoice. I can always be glad.” That is why he had such a beautiful expression on his face.
Let me interrupt to tell you about another Orthodox Christian. He was not a priest, but a simple farmer. In our country, farmers are almost always illiterate, or nearly so. He had read his Bible well, but other than that he had never read a book. Now he was in the same cell with professors, academicians, and other men of high culture who had been put in jail by the Communists. And this poor farmer tried to bring to Christ a member of the Academy of Science. But in return, he received only mockery. “Sir, I can’t explain much to you, but I walk with Jesus, I talk with Him, I see Him.” “Go away. Don’t tell me fairy tales that you see Jesus. How do you see Jesus?” “Well, I cannot tell you how I see Him. I just see Him. There are many kinds of seeing. In dreams, for instance, you see many things. It’s enough for me to close my eyes. Now I see my son before me, now I see my daughter-in-law, now I see my granddaughter. Everybody can see. There is another sight. I see Jesus.” “You see Jesus?” “Yes, I see Jesus.” “What does He look like? How does He look to you? Does He look restful, angry, bored, annoyed, happy to see you? Does He smile sometimes?” He said, “You guessed it! He smiles at me.” “Gentlemen, come hear what this man says to us. He mocks us. He says Jesus smiles at him. Show me, how does He smile?” That was one of the grandest moments of my life. The farmer became very, very earnest. His face began to shine. In the Church today there are pastors and theologians who can’t believe the whole Bible. They believe half of it, a quarter of it. Somehow they can’t believe the miracles. I can believe the whole of it because I have seen miracles. I have seen transfigurations — not like that of Jesus, but something apart. I have seen faces shining. A smile appeared on the face of that farmer. I would like to be a painter to be able to paint that smile. There was a streak of sadness in it because of the lost soul of the scientist. But there was so much hope in that smile. And there was so much love and so much compassion, and a yearning that this soul should be saved. The whole beauty of heaven was in the smile on that face. The face was dirty and unwashed, but it held the beautiful smile of heaven. The professor bowed his head and said, “Sir, you are right. You have seen Jesus. He has smiled at you.”
Now, to come back to this priest, Surioanu. He was always such a happy being. When we were taken out for walks, in a yard where there was never a flower, a piece of herb, or grass, he would put his hand on the shoulder of some Christian and ask, “Tell me your story.” Usually the men would talk about how bad the Communists were. “They’ve beaten me and they’ve tortured me and they’ve done terrible things.” He would listen attentively; then he would say, “You’ve said plenty about the Communists; now tell me about yourself. When did you confess last?” “Well, some forty years ago.” “Let us sit down and forget the Communists and forget the Nazis. For you are also a sinner. And tell me your sins.” Everybody confessed to him — I confessed to him, too, and I remember that as I confessed to him, and the more I told him sins, the more beautiful and loving became his face. I feared in the beginning that when he heard about such things he would loathe me. But the more I said bad things about myself, the more he sat near to me. And in the end he said, “Son, you really have committed plenty of sins, but I can tell you one thing. Despite all of these sins, God still loves you and forgives you. Remember that He has given His Son to die for you, and try one day a little bit, and another day a little bit, just to improve your character so it should be pleasant to God.”
For preparation for Confession and for the Sacrament of the Altar
The Fifth Commandment: You shall not murder. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not hurt or harm our neighbor in his body, but help and support him in every physical need.
In reality, haven’t I at times given offense to the innocent and simple by my words and deeds, and to one degree or another wounded their souls?
Have I striven to raise up those who have been given offense and caused to stumble, and sought to make amends for the injury done them as much as possible, and to soothe and still their anger?
Have I provided all possible assistance to my neighbor in his need, distress, danger, and poverty? Have I even stood by him with counsel and comfort?
Have I had mercy and love in my heart, kindness in my actions, and a sweet and considerate bearing in my words?
Have I been longsuffering toward those who offend, insult, and injure me? Have I nurtured a heart willing to be reconciled with them?
Have I sought to make peace between others who hostile toward one another?
Have I sought what is best for my neighbor in spiritual and physical things? (Salomon Liscovius)
- Questions for self-examination – 3rd Commandment (part 2) (deprofundisclamaviadtedomine.wordpress.com)
- Do I have true faith? Thoughts on Announcing For Communion, Self-Examination, and Infant Communion (deprofundisclamaviadtedomine.wordpress.com)
- Self Examination Questions: 4th Commandment (deprofundisclamaviadtedomine.wordpress.com)
- Questions for Self-Examination – 3rd Commandment (deprofundisclamaviadtedomine.wordpress.com)
- What is a Lutheran? (geneveith.com)
For preparation for Confession and for the Sacrament of the Altar
—Salomon Liscovius. Ev. Luth. Gebets-Schatz.
3rd Commandment (continued)
Remember the Sabbath day, by keeping it holy. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred, and gladly hear and learn it.
Have I spent my time in the church after the fashion of the children of the world, showing off my clothes, chatting about worldly things, constantly looking around at other people, measuring the preacher’s speaking only by whether or not it was pleasing according to human standards, seeking to attract attention to myself by strange behavior, whether rude and disrespectful or overly devout? Have I spent a lot of the time sleeping, whether at home in bed or in church?
Have I repeated the sermon to myself at home, or even thought of it, particularly those parts that concern my occupation? Have I spent the rest of the Sunday in holy exercises, such as reading, praying, singing, self-examination, together with meditation on God’s work and marvellous deeds, renewing my good intentions to serve God and amend my life, and so on?
Have I also sought to teach, awaken and build up others? Have I carried on good conversations (leading to spiritual edification and encouragement, as opposed to sinful and impure talk), and stood by poor sorrowing ones with comfort and help? Or have I sought my joy on the Lord’s Day with the world in various pleasures of the flesh, in sinful joking and foolishness? Do I spend the whole remaining day playing games? Have I spent the time eating and drinking too much, or in too frequent parties and keeping company, forgetting first of all to set apart the Lord’s Day for His Word to work in me toward eternal life?
Do I sincerely want to serve God, and grow and improve in faith in Christ and obedience to Him?