Wednesday, May 27, 2009

What a thing is. . .

A theologian of the Cross calls a thing what it is. This is part and parcel of the Lutheran ideal - to be honest and blunt about things (in a loving fashion). However, sometimes I think we can get caught up simply on names and terminology - in our desire for precision (especially as pastors who desire to call a thing what it is) we can end up focusing more on the name of something rather than what it is.

For example - consider the common lament about the lack of Private Confession and Absolution. Pastors will set the times they will be available and no one will come - they are scared to come, they don't think they need it. . . on and on.

Yet, if we look at the rite of Private Confession, the lead in to the confession is "What troubles me particularly is that. . . " Hmmm. . . gee, do we Pastors ever have people come to us with their troubles, with their difficulties. Do they ever ask for counselling? If so, what they are really asking for is Confession and Absolution (even if they don't know it), and what you will do is yes, give advice, yes, get the heart of the problem, but you had probably also better absolve.

And people have a sense of this - because if they come to you for advice they expect what they say to be sealed and held in confidence. . . which is what you swore about what you heard Confessed. We don't call it Confession and Absolution (and perhaps we ought), people don't think of it as Confession and Absolution (we don't default to assuming that if I have troubles part of it is my sinful actions) - but it's set up right there.

There are other things too - we get hung up on terminology and jargon, rather than the substance of a thing - and no one understands. It's not that people haven't confessed - it's that they haven't gone through a rite - and the rite is simply a tool. Ah well, thus is life.


Rev. Paul Beisel said...

I wouldn't be so quick to chuck the names of things. Changing names is not going to bring people to the pastor. I think that people simply don't know how to use a pastor, or for what purpose we exist. That is a big part of it.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

I agree that people don't know precisely what Pastors are there for often - and so we need to not be so. . . down. . . when "Name" is not requested but it's function is. A lot of the specific lingo we have lost in the US - so teach it, but don't worry if people don't jump full bore into it. There's nothing wrong with a person who thinks "Confession and Absolution" sounds strange or Roman Catholic coming for "counseling" and getting the same thing. That's the thrust.