We followed the Agenda for Maundy Thursday, offering the Rite of Corporate Confession and Absolution. We did the same thing at Redeemer, but with one telling difference here: after the confession, we followed the rubric which states “The pastor absolves the penitents individually at the altar…” Previously, I followed the alternate instruction and absolved them corporately.
I stood to the Epistle side, my associate pastor to the Gospel side and the people came forward in two lines. Some held head down, and I absolved them, placing the sign of the Cross on their foreheads. Others came and looked me in the eyes as I said, “In the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
For me it was both emptying and filling. I was a tool, just a hand and mouth of Christ who was doing the work. It wasn’t me up there at all. But I was also forgiven and filled with joy and peace, knowing that all are absolved, all are free, all gathered that night cleansed and pure by that Word of Christ. The same happens on every Sunday with Corporate Confession and Absolution, of course, but only a fool would say it is exactly the same. It was different.
And I am already looking forward to it next year.It was one of the most beautiful moments I’ve had at Grace. One by one, person by person, seeking forgiveness and in their face, touching their heads giving them absolution. It was intimate and personal and underneath it all I repented that I had never conducted the Rite this way at Redeemer. We needed it. We all need it.