Some Thoughts Regarding Luther’s Brief Admonition to Go to Confession

In Luther’s Brief Admonition to Go to Confession, he seems to indicate that Private Confession may take place before any Christian and in fact, that any Christian may absolve another. See what you think:

Besides this public, daily, and necessary confession, there is also the confidential confession that is only made before a single brother. If something particular weighs upon us or troubles us, something with which we keep torturing ourselves and can find no rest, and we do not find our faith to be strong enough to cope with it, then this private form of confession gives us the opportunity of laying the matter before some brother and receiving counsel, comfort, and strength when and however often we wish. That we should do this is not included in any divine command, as are the other two kinds of confession. Rather, it is offered to everyone who may need it, as an opportunity to be used by him as his need requires. The origin and establishment of private confession lies in the fact that Christ Himself placed His absolution into the hands of His Christian people with the command that they should absolve one another of their sins. Thus any heart that feels its sinfulness and desires consolation has here a sure refuge when he hears God’s Word and makes the discovery that God through a human being looses and absolves him from his sins.

Now, I find this very interesting on several different levels. First of all, it definitely appears as though Luther sees Absolution as something all Christians are commanded to do. The true and chief confession, Luther insists, is the confession made to God in the Lord’s Prayer, and the confession that is made between those who are at odds. When we speak of Confession today we tend to put the most emphasis on the oral and private confession that takes place before a pastor, and we are almost adamant that one should confess to a fellow (non-ordained) Christian ONLY in the case of an emergency, when there is no clergyperson available. So what gives here? Are we, in our desire to get back on the horse of Confessional Lutheranism, jumping too far when we make such a big deal about Private Confession & Absolution before a Pastor only? Or is Luther just railing against the Papacy here? I am inclined to think this is just what he really thinks. And yet, he is so boggling. In one breath he can say: “Private Confession has no divine command, and is necessary only if you don’t have a strong enough faith to cope with your sins.” In the next breath he can say: “But, if you don’t go to Confession, we’re not going to consider you a Christian.” Okay, so it is free, and not free. Which is it????

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About Rev. Paul L. Beisel

Graduate of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN in 2001 (M Div.) and 2004 (S.T.M.); LC-MS Pastor and Adjunct Instructor for John Wood Community College; Husband of Amy and father of Susan, Elizabeth, Martin, and Theodore.
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42 Responses to Some Thoughts Regarding Luther’s Brief Admonition to Go to Confession

  1. Rev. Eric J Brown says:

    You have to remember the public nature of the pastoral office. If you have a “brother” or a friend who you go to when you feel guilt and who points you to Christ and tells you what He has done to win forgiveness and that this forgiveness is indeed yours – that is wonderful, fantastic, and valid on earth is heaven.

    The Pastoral Office is entrusted with the safegaurding of the Teaching of the Faith and the public administration of the Sacraments. This is where that “public” idea comes in. I’m not doing anything as a Pastor that other Christians fundamentally *can’t* do – but rather I have been charged to do so publicly.

    Can you go to a friend and confess your sins to him or her? Sure. But they have not been set aside by the Church specificially for that. As pastors, you and I have. In fact, we have been given the charge to hear any confession no matter how embarassing or distasteful.

    Now, on the other hand – if you are one who despises such gifts – if you reject God by rejecting his means of Grace – then there is a problem. This plays off of the third commandment – we are not to despise preaching or the Word. To reject the idea of private Confession and state that it is worthless is to reject the Word. Also, to continually not take avail of it (either with a pastor or with a fellow Christian) calls into question one’s faith – just as failing to commune brings into question one’s faith.

    This is something I fear we forget. And Office doesn’t give one abilities, and Office authorized one to use his abilities on the behalf of others. I don’t gain the ability to speak of Christ by virtue of being a Pastor – but because I am a Pastor I AM to speak the Word publicly and to make myself available to all for confession. Does that distinction make sense?

  2. Rev. Benjamin Mayes says:

    Great question, Paul. Ron Rittger’s book, “The Reformation of the Keys,” shows that on the Eve of the Reformation, not only did priests hear confession and give absolution but monks did as well. I don’t know whether this has anything to do with the “brothers” Luther speaks of, but the monastic precedent may be part of the background of Luther’s statements on who may absolve.

    One other thing, I’d encourage you to speak of pastors as “clergymen,” pace Dr. Scaer.

  3. Lawrence says:

    Is this that much different from paying a private secular or religious counselor or psychologist to hear one’s problems?

    One can confess a lot of stuff to a counselor or a trusted friend. As long as we realize that this type of confession is not the same thing as speaking with one’s Pastor to receive absolution.

    I’ve always read it to say that we must repent. The word repent carries a deeper meaning that confess.

    Someone can confess to me that they did something against me in order to get if off their chest, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are repentant for it to God.

    My point is that talking about confessing in general is not exactly the same thing as seeking out one’s pastor for purposes of repentance and absolution.

    So, we could say that if one does not go to confession then they are not Christian. However, I think what we really mean is that if one is not repentant then one is not a Christian.

    In the end, it wouldn’t be the first time that some of our confusion is due to language translation problems from German to American English.

  4. Pastor Beisel says:

    Ben, you could have a point there. Notice he does not say “brother or sister.” But he does say that Absolution has been placed into the hands of all Christians to absolve one another of their sins.

    Lawrence, I think that Luther is actually saying that absolution can be spoken by any Christian. Chemnitz makes the same point in his Enchiridion, but says that this is only in emergency. Chemnitz puts much more emphasis on Absolution being something committed to Ministers of the Word.

    Eric, what you say does make sense. What strikes me, however, is how Luther really seems to be saying that private confession before “a brother” is for those who can find no relief from their guilt, and do not have a strong enough faith to cope with their sins. Chemnitz also speaks of Absolution as being for those for whom the general use of the loosing key in preaching of the Gospel does not seem to satisfy the conscience.

  5. Pr. H. R. says:

    Beisel,

    Ben’s comments are good – and I’m sure that that book will have a lot to say about this.

    But I, too, have often wondered about this passage. My gut feeling is that Luther means what he says – and he’s just plain wrong. (Note that the Exhortation is not a confessional document – it’s not included in the 1580 BOC to which we swear; see the footnote in KW and note its absence in the Triglotta).

    The whole Church receives the command to forgive sins in the same way it receives the command to baptize, preach, and conduct the Supper. These are the possession of the whole Church: but the exercise of these means of grace comes through the Ministry. The Church’s job in the execution of these powers is by calling and ordaining clergymen.

    Christ delivers the exercise of the Keys to the Apostles (and through them to all the Ministry) in John 20. Only they have the command that “whatever _you_ forgive is forgiven.” What every Christian has put in his mouth is “mutual conversation and consolation” (From a confessional passage in the SA).

    In other words, a clergyman says, “I forgive you all your sins” and that is valid in heaven for all the sins. It is a performative act – it does what it says. A layman has authority to say, “My dear brother! Remember that Christ has died for you! Take heart.”

    If that’s what Luther means here, I don’t think he’s said it very well. But I do think this is the truly confessional and Chemnitizian understanding of Church and Ministry.

    We should note, that even if Luther is just mispeaking here, it is such mispeakings that have led to the greatest abuses in the anti-clerical Lutheran tradition (WELS, ELS, Feucht, and the old Lehre und Wehre under Walther).

    +HRC

    PS: On “emergencies” we might say the following: 1) hard cases make bad law; 2) there is no such thing as a lay baptism/absolution. Rather, these are such pressing needs in certain emergencies that the clergy have said to the lay: in this circumstance, you may be my hands and voice. Really, the “emergency” baptism is a fearful thing that the Church has invented. Where is the biblical mandate for it? Where are the laity commanded to baptize and forgive sins?

    Really, this is a case of tradition driving theology over the text. “Everybody knows that in emergencies the laity can baptize and absolve, thus…” Really? Why? Where does Jesus give that gift in that way?

    Rather, I think the Church invented this exception to the rule due to a great need. And I think the Church was right to do it. But to derive theological conclusions from the man-made exception is dangerous. “lay baptism/abosolution” is an anomaly born out of necessity: it is nothing more.

    Also note the terminology in the TLH Agenda: The Ratification of a Lay Baptism. See also Scaer’s remarks in his famous essay, “The Churchly Acts of Women.”

    You can tell if you agree with me by answering this question: can a Jew baptize? If one of my members dies while giving birth at Barnes-Jewish hospital, and the child is dying, and the Jew nurse calls the number on my business card that dramatically falls from the mother’s dying grasp: can I tell the Jew to take water, pour it over the child’s head three times and say “I baptize you…”

    If you say Yes, then you agree that there is no such thing as lay baptism: only clergy baptism via agency.

    If you say No, the person baptizing must be a Christian, then you are a Donatist. This is a brilliant point that Ben made to me a while back. If a person has to be a Christian to baptize, you’ve made the sacrament dependent on someone’s faith: which is Donatism.

    OK, that was a long PS. Sorry.

  6. Rev. Eric J Brown says:

    Paul,

    What is the purpose of specific confession and absolution – before the Pastor we confess only those sins we know and feel. PC is specifically for those particular sins that continues to bug – those sins that Satan zaps us with when we are weak. It is meant to be that specific communication – that yes, this particularly thing you mention, Christ has died for that.

    Sometimes I think we want to make PC a general occurance sort of thing – well, I better get it done just to be a good little Christian. I think we get too technical with absolution being too exactly a pastor invoking his office and saying “Te Absolvo” in the language of his choice. I was reading Luther’s Latin Mass from 1523 – and he speaks of the Pax Domini before the Supper being an Absolution, so that all who come to the Supper have indeed been absolved and are prepared to come. Absolution happens all the time, and I think we just don’t notice it.

  7. Father Eckardt says:

    I believe Fr Curtis is right on this; I also believe that we can easily demonstrate that in practice, *everyone* understands that only a pastor may go about absolving. It’s even spelled out in the rubrics. Only a pastor can give the general absolution (TLH page 16), and only a pastor can give a benediction. Were we to believe that any Christian can do this, then why would the rubrics carefully dictate that in the absence of a pastor these things ought nevertheless not be said by a layman?

    Moreover, I think there’s a great forgetfulness of the difference between saying “in the stead of Christ I forgive you,” i.e., announcing the forgiveness of sins authoritatively, and on the other hand assuring someone of mercy. The Pharisees, we will recall, understood this difference well. For they would never have objected to Jesus or anyone reminding people that God is merciful. But when He authoritatively forgave the shriven woman, they were scandalized.

    I think the idea of proxy or agency is especially helpful. During the Black Death of 1350, when people were dropping like flies, the Pope proclaimed that in a case of need any layman may absolve. Now this, I’d say, was the extraordinary grant of the right to absolve in an emergency. Whether it was allowed to the Pope to do this is another question; but it would indicate at least that the notion of proxy is not new.

  8. Pastor Beisel says:

    What I find somewhat troubling is the fact that while Luther seems to emphasize the first two kinds of confession, we today seem to downplay those and say that if you are really going to be an orthodox Christian, you will go to Confession. I guess I’m with Luther: it ought to be done freely and voluntarily, for the sake of hearing the Word of absolution. If no particular sins are troubling us at the moment, is it necessary for us to go to the priest to confess? Or is Confession more of an extraordinary thing, that one should use mainly when the preaching of the Gospel does not satisfy his conscience?

  9. Lawrence says:

    Father Eckardt said…“in the stead of Christ I forgive you,”

    Thank you. It is through Christ wherein ultimate forgiveness comes to us. Regardless.

    Pastor Beisel said…“we today seem to downplay those and say that if you are really going to be an orthodox Christian,”

    Exactly. And this is a works based point of view.

    This is the trap that American evangelicalism has fallen into (thank you Billy Graham). Generally we have all the right pieces, but we keep putting them together in the wrong order.

    This ties in with a debate I recently had with an ELCA person over the need for us to maintain a Biblical world view in order for Christianity to remain a relevant religion. I took a lot of heat for objecting to this order of events.

  10. Rev. Eric J Brown says:

    Paul, go pull out LW 53 and in Luther’s Latin mass (I just wrote Luther’s revision to the liturgy as opposed to Karlstadt’s for the History class I do here) read the section on communion practice, in particular, who you welcome to communion. It was interesting to see how Luther treated frequence of Confession there.

  11. Latif Haki Gaba, SSP says:

    Father Beisel,
    I tend to take the passage you quote as an exortation to go to sacramental Confession. That is how I read Luther’s use of ‘brother’ here, viz., as a late medieval shorthand for an ordained brother, just as we arguably see elsewhere in his writings, such as in the Smalcald Articles, where he speaks of the “consolation of brethren.” (Read this way, “Mutuum colloquium et consolationem fratrum” is merely the application of the “potestatem clavium,” and not something different from it.)
    Another example of Luther speaking in just this way is at the Marburg Coloquy, though I don’t have it with me to quote it.

    While forgiveness ought to flow freely, openly, and constantly within the relationships to which we are called, such forgiveness ought not replace sacramental Absolution. When this happens, I think both will suffer. If a man thinks himself free of great vices, or that he is doing well enough in his relationships with others, he still ought to go to Confession (as BML indeed counsels in the Small Catechism), where the confessor can help him to see things he may have been blinded to, and where he may hear God’s holy and sweet Absolution from the man who is sent here for that very purpose.

    Too often, though, in my opinion, forgiveness in the family or between spouses, or whatever, while it is vitally important, is painted in such a way as to cause downright confusion with, if not degradation of, sacramental Absolution, as for example, Richard Eyer does in the first chapter of his book, They Will See His Face: Worship and Healing, where is repeatedly refers to forgiveness in the family as “confession and absolution.” I’m sure he means well, but such talk, I think, just confuses matters. Sorry for going on so.

  12. Carl Vehse says:

    In Der Lutheraner, Vol. 17[22], June 11, 1861, pp.169-71, reprinted in The Congregation’s Right to Choose a Pastor, translated by Fred Kramer, Concordia Seminary Publications, St. Louis, 1997, p.142), C.F.W. Walther includes this quote from Martin Luther:

    “We hold fast to this, that there is no other Word of God save that only which all Christians are commanded to proclaim; that there is no other Baptism than the one which all Christians can give; that there is no other remembrance of the Supper of the Lord than that which Christians may celebrate. which also Christ has instituted to be kept; also that there is no other sin than the one which every Christian can bind and loose; likewise we hold that there is no sacrifice except the body of every Christian; also that no one can or may pray, save only a Christian; in addition, that no one is to judge doctrine save only a Christian…” [Emphasis added]

    Walther then follows this up by stating:

    “Although there is of course a great difference between a pastor and a believing Christian, and a Christian never through his faith becomes a pastor or parish minister in the real sense of the word, it nevertheless by no means follows from this difference that the Christians do not possess this office originally, and that they are not to exercise it privately each according to his rank and calling which has been committed to ministers and parish pastors according to God’s expressly made order for public administration on behalf of the congregation, as Luther generally expresses himself.

    “Many at this time have a totally wrong conception of what the office of the ministry is. They think that when an ordained minister preaches the Word baptizes, absolves, etc., then the office is being administerered; but when a layman presents the Word of God, baptizes, absolves, etc., then that is no administration of the office, but something else, of which they are not certain what they should call it…. Whoever admits that a Christian layman can in a case of necessity baptize, absolve or perform similar things, has thereby at the same time admitted that Christian lay people have the office, and therefore can, in a case of necessity, even exercise it publicly…. If the Christians did not have the office already originally, they would not be permitted, and could not exercise it even in a case of necessity.” [Kramer, p. 143-5]

    Furthermore, in his sermon on the first Sunday after Easter on John 20:19-31, preached in 1522 at Borna, a young Luther stated:

    “Here the power of absolution is given to all Christians, although some, like the Pope, bishops, priests, and monks, have appropriated it to themselves alone. They say publicly and shamelessly that this power is given to them alone and not to the laymen as well. But Christ is speaking here neither of priests nor monks. on the contrary, he says: ‘Receive ye the Holy Ghost .’ This power is given to him who has the Holy Ghost, that is, to him who is a Christian. But who is a Christian? He who believes. He who believes has the Holy Ghost. Therefore every Christian has the power, which the pope, bishops, priests and monks have in this case, to forgive sins or to retain them… To be sure, all of us possess this power; but no one except him who was chosen by the congregation to do so should presume to practice it publicly. In private, I certainly may use this power. If, for instance, my neighbor comes and says: My friend, I am burdened in conscience, speak a word of absolution to me; then I am at liberty to do so. But in private, I say, this must be done.” [Emphasis added]

    Later, in his sermon on the first Sunday after Easter, 1540, in Dessau on the John 20 text, an older Luther again stated:

    “But who can express what an unspeakable, mighty and blessed comfort it is that a human being can with one word open heaven and lock hell to a fellow mortal? For in this kingdom of Grace Christ has founded through his resurrection, we do indeed nothing else than open our mouth and say, I forgive thee thy sins, not on my account, nor by my power, but in the place of, and in the name of, Jesus Christ, for he does not say: ye shall forgive sins on your own account, but: ‘I send you, as my Father hath sent me.’ I myself do not do this of my own choice or counsel, but I am sent by the Father. This same commandment I give to you unto the end of the world, that both ye and all the world shall know that such forgiveness or retaining of sin is not done by human power or might, but by the command of him who is sending you. This is not said alone to the ministers or the servants of the church, but also to every Christian. Here each may serve another in the hour of death, or wherever there is need, and give him absolution.” [Emphasis added]

  13. Chris Jones says:

    Dr Strickert

    If Dr Luther believed that the power to absolve was given to all Christians individually (as your quotes seem to indicate), then Dr Luther was wrong.

    That is why, no matter how many times you may find this idea in Luther’s writings, you do not find it in the Scriptures nor in the Confessions.

    The exercise of the means of grace is given to the apostolic ministry, who are the stewards of the mysteries of God. If we say that any lay person may perform the functions of the pastor, we have turned the apostolic ministry from a divine institution to a human institution.

  14. Pastor Beisel says:

    Alas, the crux of post-Reformation Christianity. Who has the keys? I have been wrestling with this question since I began studying theology. My friends and I have hashed and re-hashed these same questions over and over and over again. It all comes down to (and I wrote an STM paper on this for my Church and Ministry class) who the 12 represent in various contexts. In Matthew 4 and 28 it would seem to me that Christ addresses them as ministers when he says: “From now on you will catch men;” and “Go make disciples…” Same thing in John 20. Luther even speaks this way in some places. He says that Christ was speaking to all ministers in the person of Peter when he said: “Feed my sheep.” Sheep can’t feed themselves. David Scaer’s book on Matthew recognizes that in some places Jesus is speaking to all Christians when he address the disciples (like when He says “whoever confesses me before men, him will I confess…”) and in some places he is speaking only to pastors.

    I’m thinking that based on the context of Luther’s statements the word “brother” refers to any Christian. I’m thinking that this is what Luther really thought. For him the highest form of confession was the kind that God had commanded: personal confession to God (as in the Lord’s Prayer) and confession to one’s neighbor whom you have offended (also understood in the Lord’s Prayer). Since there is no divine command for the private or confidential form of confession, then Luther doens’t seem to have a problem with Christians confessing to one another and absolving one another.

    Having said that, I’m not so sure he was right in this. Maybe this is why that part was not included in the 1580 Book of Concord. Perhaps later Lutherans like Chemnitz did not like this aspect of his teaching. Who knows?

  15. Latif Haki Gaba, SSP says:

    One more thing. To your concern that Luther claimed private Confession to be without a Divine command, I would strongly urge caution in such an assessment of Luther. Remember that in the Augustana, too (XXV), we teach that Confession is of human right (fatetur humani iuris esse confessionem), yet in the same Book of Concord, we have the confessor ask the penitent, “Dost thou believe that my forgiveness is God’s forgiveness? Answer: Yes, dear sir.” There is certainly a finer distinction being made, then, in CA XXV, than meets the modern eye. My conclusion: the power of the keys are given to those in the apostolic ministry by Christ Himself, and must be dispensed by them as by good stewards, but a particular form of canonical confession is not mandated in Holy Writ.

    And while we’re in CA XXV, I just noticed something. In the first paragraph we have this, “The power of the Keys is set forth in its beauty, and they are reminded what great consolation it brings to anxious consciences.” I can’t help thinking here of how a phrase like “great consolation” is joined so closely with the “power of the keys,” which is just what happens in the Smalcald Articles, which I quoted here yesterday, where “consolation of brethren” is linked with the “power of the keys.”

  16. Pastor Beisel says:

    I can’t disagree with your first paragraph Latif. Certainly as God’s servants and stewards ministers are commanded to proclaim this absolution to penitent sinners and to bind the sins of the impenitent. The question is, are Christians required to obtain such individual absolution from their pastors.

    As for the “power of the keys,” this entails much more than simply the spoken absolution. Absolution exercises the power of the keys, but so does preaching, baptizing, and administering the Lord’s Supper. Read Chemnitz’ Enchiridion: Ministry Word and Sacraments under Absolution. He lists absolution as a special application of the loosing key, to be used when the general proclamation of the Gospel does not satisfy the conscience. In the same way, the binding key is to be used when the general and public rebuking of sins is not enough to move one to repentance. Then Matthew 18 is applied. Gotta run.

  17. William Weedon says:

    Korby addresses the question in that wonderful series he did on Private Confession and Absolution down in Tupulo. He comes down decidedly with Luther: that our Lord desires that the forgiving of sin destroy sin’s power in family, work, church – in every sphere – and that to this end the word of divine forgiveness is placed by Christ upon the lips of all the baptized to be ceaselessly spoken and shared. I don’t think I’m misrepresenting him (those of you who were there or have heard the tapes can tell me if I am). FWIW.

  18. Lawrence says:

    Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said… If a man thinks himself free of great vices, or that he is doing well enough in his relationships with others, he still ought to go to Confession.

    “If man thinks himself free of vices…” Let’s think on this one a moment. If we confess and are absolved, are we now sinless? No. We’re still sinners. But for the purpose of salvation we are righteous in God’s eyes.

    What this tells me is that we need to live in a constant state of repentance. And having a trained and properly ordained clergyman helping us do this properly is very important.

    Pastor Beisel said… Since there is no divine command for the private or confidential form of confession, then Luther doesn’t seem to have a problem with Christians confessing to one another and absolving one another.

    I think there is a divine command to confess (and/or repent) to God, through Christ.

    Luther, suggesting that any Christian can be the vehicle for confession, focuses the active element of confession on Christ not on the human element.

    Luther also correctly articulates that the clergy (Pope, etc) in having embraced authority for absolution solely to themselves is wrong. This directs the active element of forgiveness on the human element and away from Christ.

    Luther then speaks to the idea of confession and absolution to any given Christian. Reflecting that he will not specifically say that Christ cannot work through this type of confession. Again correctly reflecting Christ as the active element in absolution.

    Yet, Luther also reflects that the action of absolution should be reserved to the clergy. It gets a bit confusing. However, the consistent message throughout is that repentance, confession, and absolution are effective only through the action of Christ in the process.

    >>>>>>
    The problem with confessing to fellow Christian brothers is that we often become confused between apologies and repentance. A trained Pastor knows the difference and can guide us and teach us proper repentance.

    Furthermore any given Christian brother is not ordained to shepherd us along this path of repentance, whereas the pastor of our congregation is. And I would submit, that it is not just any clergyman that we should seek absolution from, but we need to go specifically to the under-shepherd who holds the Office of the Keys of our specific congregation.

    Yet, if I strive to confess to Christ under some kind of duress and a Christian brother is there to help me when no others are, Christ is still there to absolve me. The active element in this case is not my Christian brother, but Christ’s absolution.

  19. Lawrence says:

    And after all that, had I refreshed my comments window just 2 minutes sooner, I could have just said “Ditto” to Pastor Weedon’s comment.

  20. Pastor Beisel says:

    I was reading this section of Luther in preparation for my Higher Things break-away session on Private Confession & Absolution. This is what prompted this post and I thank everyone for the helpful posts and discussion on this. I have and continue to use private Confession and think it is a useful and good thing. I think that Pastor Petersen is correct when he says that every Lutheran pastor who teaches the Catechism ought to have and use a father confessor. Luther just puzzles me sometimes, as I’m sure he does everyone.

    I think the Office of the Keys is a severely misunderstood and misapplied doctrine in our church today. I think even we pastors do not take seriously the responsibilty that we have been given by Christ to lock and unlock heaven to sinners through the preaching of the Word. I am chief of sinners in this regard.

  21. Carl Vehse says:

    In his writings (taken from the “Letter to the Council and Congregation in the City of Prague,” Halle edition, 10:1845-47, quoted in C.F.W. Walther, Kiche und Amt, translated by J.T. Mueller, CPH, 1987, pp. 56-7) Luther also addressed those (even today!) who claim that Scripture does not support the Lutheran doctrine on a Christian’s use of the keys :

    “At this point I do not worry about these maskers and their masquerade who, regarding Matt. 18:15-18, make this distinction: ‘It is quite another thing to have the right or power of the keys than to use them.’ This [[distinction] stems from their own arrogance and not from Scripture… This is frivolous talk that itself falls by the wayside. Christ gives to every Christian the power and use of the keys when he says:’ Let him be to you like a heathen.’ Who is meant by ‘you’? Whom does Christ address with the little pronoun ‘you’? Perhaps the pope? No, He speaks to every Christian in particular.

    “But when He says ‘to you,’ He not only grants [to every Christian] the right and power [of the keys], but He orders and commands also their use and administration… This is confirmed by the following statement: ‘Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven’ (v.18). Whom does He address here? Does He not mean all Christians? Is it not the Christian church? If they say that here only the power or right of the keys is given to the church, we answer that [then], according to Matt. 16:19, He gave the use of the keys to no one, not even to St. Peter… It is not proper that anyone should interpret the same divine words in one place in one way and in another passage in another. But these maskers do and so make mockery of the mystery of God by their fabrications, which are nothing else than human lies.

    “The keys belong to the whole communion of Christians and to everyone who is a member of that communion, and this pertains not only to their possession but also to their use and whatever else there may be.”

  22. Pastor Beisel says:

    These are compelling quotes and I’m sure that most of us have heard or read them before. My vicarage supervisor (David Nehrenz…yes, his father is Clyde) constantly pressed this point that if every Christian does not possess the power and use of the keys, then neither do I as a pastor. I was and still am skeptical, especially when you consider that later Lutherans like Chemnitz do not seem to speak like this. Rather, Chemnitz both in his Enchiridion and in his Loci constantly emphasizes that ministers are the ones to whom Christ has committed the keys and the word of absolution.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Father Eckardt wrote:
    “Moreover, I think there’s a great forgetfulness of the difference between saying “in the stead of Christ I forgive you,” i.e., announcing the forgiveness of sins authoritatively, and on the other hand assuring someone of mercy.”

    I certainly agree wth the difference here stated, but let me push you guys a bit. Is the contention here that only a pastor can speak the gospel in such a way that the forgiveness of sins is delivered through their words? If so, it seems to me this means that a layperson can never actually speak the gospel to another layperson. Have I misunderstood you guys on this point?

    Furthermore, does a word of assurance actually deliver anything other than assurance? Assuring someone of mercy doesn’t deliver mercy. Can “assurance” ever be equated with the gospel?

    These are not trick questions. As silly as they sound, I’m serious about them.

    Rev. Tom Fast

  24. Anonymous says:

    Let me offer a scenario.

    Let’s say my son comes to me one morning and says, ‘Dad, I have sinned against God and against you. I stole money out of your wallet and went to buy cigarettes with it. I’m afraid. I’m weighed down with the thought that God is angry with me. I want forgiveness. I desperately need forgiveness from you and God. Help me.”

    In your opinion, which three of the following responses are best/allowable:

    1. I forgive you, son, for Christ’s sake, etc..

    2. Jesus has paid for this sin also. As the apostle John writes: “The blood of Christ cleanses you from all sin”—this means your sin, too, son. Take heart, son, your sins are forgiven.

    3. I assure you that God will show you mercy and will give to you forgiveness. Let’s call the pastor and set up a time for you to receive Holy Absolution sometime this week. Remember, also, that you are Baptised. Baptism works forgiveness of sins. Additionally, next Sunday you are going to receive the sacrament of the altar which delivers forgiveness. Take heart.

    Of course these options are simplified and not comprehensive. While my son has never stolen money out of my wallet for cigarettes (so far as I know. In fact, I am the one who did that to my father when I was a kid), very similar confessions have been made by my son to me, my wife to me, and by me to my son and my wife. And this on mulitple occasions over many years. I don’t expect such confessions and petitions for forgiveness to cease anytime soon. So…what to do?

    BTW, great post and obviously a topic of great interest to me. I’ve truly wrestled with the proper way to speak the gospel to my family members in the home when they confess and ask for forgiveness. I suppose I have spoken in all three ways listed above. What do you guys think? Thanks for your comments, if there are any forthcoming!

    Rev. Tom Fast

  25. Pastor Beisel says:

    1, 2, and 3! The nature of these sins is that the son sinned against his father, so naturally, as the one offended, his father needs to forgive him from his heart (Matthew 6). So the father should say: “This is indeed a serious thing. But I forgive you for Christ’s sake.” Then the father should also say: “Son, you have recongized that your sin was also against God, so, should you be overwhelmed by guilt from this and not be able to find any relief, I would urge you to seek out your pastor and hear his absolution as from Christ Himself. But as far as I am concerned, we are reconciled. I forgive you.”

    It would be quite a different thing if, the son came and said: “Father, I have sinned against God: I stole some cigarretes from the store.” Int his case the father was not the one sinned against, so it would be silly for him to say: “I forgive you for Christ’s sake.” Instead, he should say: “Let us go to the store together so that you can return these cigarrettes and make an apology to the storeowner, for you have stolen from him; and then it would be good to seek out your pastor so that you can hear God’s forgiveness being spoken to you.” Kapische?

  26. Pastor Beisel says:

    Much of this has to do with who is called to do this. We really could simply by-pass the whole discussion of “who has the power and use of the keys.” What matters is who is called to do this. The pastor is called by the Church to do this. He is called to preach, teach, administer the sacraments, pronounce absolution to terrified consciences (loosing key) and to withhold forgiveness from the unrepentant (binding key). Fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, and every Christian has the command to forgive one another from the heart when they are sinned against. Pastors, as Christians, are likewise commanded to forgive those from the heart who sin against them. But only pastors are called and commanded to forgive the sins of joe-schmoe who said an unkind word to his wife. In their office, pastors deal with sins committed against others. But each and every Christian is commanded by Christ to be reconciled to their enemies.

    So again, what really matters in this whole discussion, I believe, is this (and I think Luther would agree): “Who is called to forgive the sins of penitent sinners and to retain the sins of the impenitent?” Pastors. The Church may indeed have the Office of the Keys. But only pastors have the call and command to do this BOTH privately and publicly. What this means is that I do not believe there is any place for a layman to privately absolve his neighbor when no sin was committed against him. All things are permissable, but not all things are beneficial. What a layman can do by virtue of his calling as a Chistian, he ought not do for the sake of love, good order, and a respect for the pastoral office. So Luther will say that even if someone could save the entire world by preaching one sermon, he should desist if he does not have the Call to do that, for he would be doing a work displeasing to God (quoted in Pieper; not sure of the reference).

    I hope this makes some kind of sense.

  27. Anonymous says:

    Paul, thanks so much for your response. This is good stuff. Now let me make myself a little more clear.

    I wonder, can a layperson speak the gospel to another layperson? I believe they may. I think when we use the term “Office of the Keys” and “Absolution” that those might be confusing us in this discussion. They are technical terms, I believe, which do speak primarily of the authority and activity of a pastor. However, doesn’t a father have the authority to “gospel” his son? It seems strange to me that those who are baptized into Christ and are called “christians” (little Christs) have no more authority than to offer assurance to someone who is guilt-stricken. Why even an unbaptized pagan can do that. In fact, a muslim can do that. Surely “little christs” have more authority when it comes to dealing with sin.

    Please understand that I am in NO WAY trying to pit laity against the OHM or to somehow count the OHM as needless.

    I know it sounds quaint these days to say this, and perhaps I am all wet, but the apostle Peter, in what seems to be post-baptismal catechesis, calls the baptized a “Royal Priesthood.” This “Priesthood” is to “declare the praises of Him…” What does “praise” mean other than to tell what the Lord has done—to talk about that Christ who was crucified for mankind’s sin and raised for mankind’s justification? I ground the authority of a christian (in his/her office as father, son, mother, daughter, etc) to proclaim the gospel and by it to say it is “for you” in the fact that they are baptized into Christ. Again, maybe I’m all wet. But this is how I see it.

    What say you?

    Rev. Tom Fast

    PS–Sorry about all the commas.

  28. Pastor Beisel says:

    Of course laymen can (and should) comfort one another with the word of Christ and the Gospel. I don’t think anyone would deny this. Where one’s conscience, however, is so stricken by guilt, or, as Chemnitz says: “Where one fears that God has passed a different sentence on him other than what he heard in the Gospel” he should by all means be encouraged to hear this from his pastor “as from Christ Himself.”

    For he knows that his pastor bears that “special church authority, which Christ has given to His Church on earth to forgive the sins of repentant sinners, but to withhold forgiveness from the unrepentant, as long as they do not repent.”

    The troubled Christian goes to his pastor because he knows that he has the promise of Jesus: “Whoever hears you hears me.” He knows that when his pastor speaks, it is Christ’s voice that he hears, and no other. He does not have this same assurance and certainty when a lay person speaks because that person has not been rightly called by Christ to bind and loose sins.

    The Office of the Ministry exists for the sake of justification, but this does not mean that justification can only take place through the pastor’s voice and speaking. As the Scriptures say: “The rumor of him went throughout the region.” And many people believed in Christ before they ever met him.

    More confused now??

  29. Anonymous says:

    Paul,

    I think I can agree with everything you wrote above. Perhaps it is fair to say that Holy Absolution is a particular formulation of the gospel which is given to a pastor to exercise.

    On the other hand, as a Father I am free to speak the gospel (e.g. Take hear, son, Christ has died for all your sins. The Lord is well please with you) which also delivers the same forgiveness of sins, albeit in different fashion. Or do you disagree with my contention that speaking the gospel in such fashion is more than simply “assurance”?

    Again, I think I agree with most of what you say, that is, if you can swallow what I have written above.

    I’ll check back tomorrow to see what you say. I really appreciate your time. It brings greater clarity to be able to think out loud about these important (central!) matters.

    Gotta hit the hay. I have a wedding tomorrow.

    Thanks again for your time and efforts.

    Pax tecum.

    Rev. Tom Fast

  30. Pastor Beisel says:

    Fr. Fast: The Gospel is the Gospel, pure and simple. And yet, there is something official about absolution (and its counterpart–withholding forgiveness from the unrepentant) that doesn’t seem to lend itself to laymen speaking it. It seems to smack of usurpation of another’s office. For example, who am I to go to Korea and claim to speak for the U.S. Government? Was I authorized to do this? Was I sent? Why should they listen to me? But if the President commissions me and sends me to Korea, then I speak with his authority and command. What is the difference? One is authorized to speak on behalf of the Government, and one is not.

    I hope this discussion is as helpful to you as it is to me. As I said, I have been mulling these same questions over and over in my mind since the days of my theological infancy. The most helpful theologians for me have been the venerable Martin Chemnitz, and the venerable Dr. David Scaer. I have read virtually every article he has ever written on church and ministry. I suggest you do the same. You can find them all at the CTS library in a binder behind the desk (if it is still there). Maybe by now they have actually bound them. I don’t know. But I really think that man gets it.

  31. Carl Vehse says:

    From Martin Luther’s sermon preached on the Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity in Wittenberg, 1525 ( Erl. 14, 190; W. 11, 2281; St. L. 11, 1710):

    28. The Pharisees knew very well that to forgive sins was the work of God, and belonged to him alone. For this reason they regarded Christ as a blasphemer, who as a man pretended to forgive sins. The forgiveness of sin is of two kinds: The first is to drive sin from the heart and infuse grace into it; this is the work of God alone. The second kind is the declaration of the forgiveness of sin; this man can do to his fellowman. But here Christ does both. He instills the Spirit into the heart and externally he declares forgiveness with the word, which is a declaration and public preaching of the internal forgiveness.

    29. All men who are Christians and have been baptized, have this power.

    For with this they praise Christ, and the word is put into their mouth, so that they may and are able to say, if they wish, and as often as it is necessary: Behold, O Man! God offers thee his grace, forgives thee all thy sins; be comforted, thy sins are forgiven; only believe and thou wilt surely have forgiveness. This word of consolation shall not cease among Christians until the last day: “Thy sins are forgiven, be of good cheer.”

    Such language a Christian always uses and openly declares the forgiveness of sins. For this reason and in this manner a Christian has power to forgive sins.

    30. Therefore if I say to you: Thy sins are forgiven, then believe it as surely as though God himself had said it to you. But who could do this if Christ had not descended, had not instructed me and said that we should forgive one another our trespasses? As when he says, John 20:22-23: “Receive ye the Holy Ghost; whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them, and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained unto them.” And at another place, Matthew 18:19-20, he says: “If two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them.” The word penetrates and performs it.

  32. Anonymous says:

    Pastor Beisel wrote:
    “The Gospel is the Gospel, pure and simple. And yet, there is something official about absolution (and its counterpart–withholding forgiveness from the unrepentant) that doesn’t seem to lend itself to laymen speaking it”

    I completely concur with what you write here. Holy Absolution, in the strict sense of the word, is an exercise of OHM. At the same time, other formulations of the gospel also actually convey Christ’s forgiveness to sinners (note: not just “assure,” but convey, or else it isn’t gospel, is it?). As a father I am free to speak this forgiveness-conveying gospel to my guilty son, am I not? When I do, then divine forgiveness is truly offered to him, is it not?

    Shame on those folks who try to use this to diminish the authority of the OHM. Each has its own “proprium” so to speak. Just as we shouldn’t pit the Holy Communion against Holy Absolution, neither should we pit a father speaking the forgiveness-conveying gospel to his son against the son receiving Holy Absolution from his pastor.

    Furthermore, there is little danger that the laity are going to abuse this in such a way. What I mean is this: do you really think the members of our congregation are busy gospeling each other in the home to any great extent? I highly doubt it. In fact, the pastors families rarely do this— how can we come to think that the average layperson is? Then we complain about the church being so anemic. This is our fault. We need to teach our families to speak the gospel in their homes. That’s the bigger issue here, imho. Let me say it again for the sake of impact: teaching our families to actually make use of the forgiveness-conveying gospel in the home is the bigger issue in this debate. What you hear from the pastor in the Divine Service, take home and continue to exchange with members of your family. It is akin to the body parts exchanging the vitalities of the food that has been eaten–we are, afterall, the “body of Christ”.

    Thanks again for all your time, Paul. I know I’ve taken alot of it. You’ve been very patient and I thank you for that.

    Rev. Tom Fast

  33. Anonymous says:

    Pastor Beisel,

    I forgot to mention that this discussion has been very helpful to me, as well. Thanks!

    Pardon me for all of my errors of punctuation and grammar. Let’s hope the “grammarian” doesn’t read this stuff! 🙂

    Rev. Tom Fast

  34. Carl Vehse says:

    Another excerpt from Martin Luther dealing with absolution is in The Stephanite Emigration to America, as discussed by Dr. Carl Eduard Vehse (p. 89):

    46. All Christians have the right to absolve in case of need.

    It is one of the crassest-of errors to assume that the clergy alone and exclusively have the right to forgive sins. It is also a most dangerous error, since conceivably this supposed right may become a means for controlling consciences. Thus it was in the papacy.

    Luther in his book of family devotions comments thus to the Gospel for the 19th Sunday after Trinity: “From today’s Gospel we should principally note the gracious injunction which God has given to mankind, that we here on earth may tell one another, ‘Your sins are forgiven you.’ We together with other believers may wonder at this and thank God with all our hearts that he has given such power to human beings. For it is truly by great authority that one Christian may say to another, Brother, be not afraid. You have a gracious God; only believe in the promise I give you in the name of Jesus, so that it may be as certainly true as if God himself had said to you, Your sins are forgiven you.”

    “Such authority, as we read, originated with our Lord Christ, and it has remained with men, particularly with those who have the calling and command to preach the Gospel, that is repentance and forgiveness of sins in the name of Jesus. Other Christians, though they do not have special calling, are still also commanded to comfort you whenever you are downcast over your sins and to say to you, Why are you sorrowful? I as a Christian tell you not to torment yourself. God is not unmerciful, for through Christ you have complete grace in him. Such words should comfort you as certainly as if Christ spoke them to you personally from heaven.”

    It is well to note also that the Gospel and the sermon are themselves a general absolution which each Christian is to accept as spoken to him individually. And consciences should not be troubled over the matter of private absolution, as if there were otherwise no forgiveness of sins.

  35. Carl Vehse says:

    And if Dr. Vehse’s book is still not on the ‘A-list’ at the seminaries, how about Christian Dogmatics: A Handbook of Doctrinal Theology for Pastors, Teachers, and Laymen (CPH, St. Louis, 1934, pp. 461-2), where Prof. J.T. Mueller writes:

    According to the papistic conception, absolution can be granted only by the priests (in severe cases only by the bishop of the Pope) upon adequate satisfaction rendered by the penitent individual (contritio cordis, confessio oris, satisfactio), the priest acting as judge to decide whether the satisfaction is sufficient. Absolution in that case depends on the sinner’s own worthiness, obtained by performing humanly prescribed penances, which are adjudged by human standards or values. The Roman Catholic doctrine of absolution is therefore in the fullest sense of the term a “commandment of men” (Matt.15, 9) and as such cannot mediate forgiveness, but rather eaves the sinner under the curse, Gal. 3, 10; 5, 4.

    Scripture on the other hand, teaches: a) that the Office of the Keys (potestas clavium), that is the peculiar power to forgive or retain sins, belongs to all Christians, John 20, 23; Matt.18, 18;16, 19, so that every believer may absolve from sin as effectually as does a priest or bishop; and b) that absolution is based neither upon contrition (either fictitious or genuine) nor any satisfaction which the sinner renders for his sins. (Roman Catholic doctrine), but alone upon the perfect reconciliation which Christ has made for all men by His vicarious obedience and upon God’s command (John 20, 21; Luke 24,47) to preach remission of sins in His name among all nations. Absolution is therefore nothing else than the individual application of divine pardon for Jesus’ sake. Hence it should not be doubted or rejected, but rather be received in true faith, just as the divine promises of God must be believed which the Gospel proclaims in general to all sinners.

    From this it is also clear why, as Luther so emphatically says, every Christian may absolve. His right to absolve is as certain as that of preaching the Gospel, 1 Pet. 2,9; in fact, absolution is only a special form of preaching the Gospel of grace and reconciliation.

    If Romanists and Romanizing Protestants aver that the power of remitting and retaining sins was granted by Christ only to the clergy, John 20, 22.23, they fail to observe that our Lord on that occasion addressed not only the Twelve, but also other disciples; cp. John 20, 19,24; Luke 24,33. Dr. A. Spaeth, e.g., writes: “When this power was conveyed by the Lord, the apostles were not all present; nor were those present on this occasion all apostles. John clearly distinguishes between the Twelve (v. 24) and the disciples (v. 19). And Luke tells us distinctly that others were gathered with the disciples on that evening, Luke 24,33. Luther, therefore, is right in saying: ‘This power is given to all Christians. Whosoever hath the Holy Spirit, to him this power is given, that is, to him who is Christian.’”

  36. Latif Haki Gaba, SSP says:

    “Carl Vehse” wrote: “And if Dr. Vehse’s book is still not on the ‘A-list’ at the seminaries, how about Christian Dogmatics: A Handbook of Doctrinal Theology”

    My question: Why would J.T. Mueller, a watered down condensation of Pieper, be on a seminary’s A-list?

  37. Anonymous says:

    Please don’t put me in the same boat as Dr. Carl Eduard Vehse. Neither put me in the same boat as Oscar Feucht—who seems to be in the boat with Vehse (then again, I really don’t know very much about Vehse, so I could be wrong about what he represents. Forgive me if I am misjudgig his position). I do not believe that “every man is a minister.” Neither do I believe that the pastor is only execising an authority that every man already has. It’s not as if the Lord says: “Okay, I am giving every christian the Office of the Keys, the authority to forgive and retain sins. But since most of you guys are too busy doing other things, you may delegate one from among you to do all this work for you. That way you’re free on Saturday to go fishing and do other more enjoyable things than preparing sermons and so forth. You can leave your work for someone else to do.”

    Let me make it clear, Pastor Beisel, that does not represent what I am trying to say.

    ‘Nuff said.

    Time for me to move on. Thanks, Pastor Beisel, for giving me food for thought, as you blog always does.

    Rev. Tom Fast

  38. Carl Vehse says:

    “I really don’t know very much about Vehse, so I could be wrong about what he represents. Forgive me if I am misjudgig his position.”

    Rev. Fast, are you seeking absolution for this waffling confession? And if so, from whom?

  39. Paul says:

    I didn’t think you were in the same boat as Carl Vehse. Vehse was a classic Pietist who viewed the origin of the Holy Ministry in the waters of baptism and the Priesthood of all believers. Walther was a little better by seeing both as being created and instituted by Christ. In some places Luther sounds like Vehse, particularly when he is railing against the papacy. But against the Anabaptists and fanatics he sounds much more like Walther and other more orthodox Lutherans.

  40. Carl Vehse says:

    A poster named “Paul” (with no profile) wrote:

    “Vehse was a classic Pietist who viewed the origin of the Holy Ministry in the waters of baptism and the Priesthood of all believers. Walther was a little better by seeing both as being created and instituted by Christ.

    These are false and unChristian accusations against Dr. Vehse. Shame on you, Paul.

    In a draft of six theses sent to Rev. O.H. Walther for review on August 5, 1839, Dr. Vehse wrote:

    1) All Christians are priests by baptism through faith. In the New Testament priests are not made but born. 1 Peter 2:9 “the royal priesthood;” Revelations 1:6 “made us kings and priests;” Gal. 3:28 “Ye are all one in Christ Jesus;” 1 Cor. 14:26,31,39,40 “for ye may all prophesy one by one;” 1 Cor. 3:21-22 “for all things shall be yours” (all things should be common to all Christians).

    2) The office of the priesthood is common to all believers: all have like authority. They are all to teach the Word of God. 1 Peter 2:9; 1 Cor. 14:26.

    Here Vehse was discussing Christians as the priesthood of all believers. These theses appeared in his book, Stephanite Emigration to America (translated by Rudolph Fiehler, Marion Winkler publisher, Tuscon, AZ, 1975, pp.78-9).

    In September a final Protestation document was issued to the Missouri Saxon pastors and congregations by Dr. Vehse, along with Heinrich Fischer and Gustav Jaekel, in which they wrote (pp. 82-3):

    Since we have been reproached for having in view only the rights of the congregation and not of the clergy in our six theses, we shall here profess ourselves for that which Walch has to say in his Christian Ethics, p. 639ff about rights of teachers [pastors]. The rights and duties of teachers are (1) to teach (and this function includes advising, professing, admonishing, reproving, comforting); (2) power to administer the sacraments; (3) to forgive and to retain sins (where there is no controversy).

    The authority of teachers then is not temporal but spiritual, –and this is the entire scope of the rights of teachers, as given to them by God.

    All authority given to the clergy is for edification and not for destruction (2 Cor. 10:8 and 13:10). The clergy are not to boast and to rule over others, but to administer divine gifts and favors to sinners for their need and welfare, their comfort and salvation. Hereof Luther writes very well in his tractate on the Keys, Jena ed. VIII, 251b “Est beneficium, non dominium” (The keys are benefits, not worldly power and dominion) given to sinners for their welfare and salvation as often as they need them….

    Seckendorf, The Christian State, p. 485: “The fact that the clergy have a prominent and influential office should not mislead them into such arrogance as to make a show of contrast and difference between themselves and the congregation, as if they alone were lords and masters, while the hearers are servants who must blindly obey. ‘Obey your teachers, for they watch over your souls.’ Heb. 13:17. But when they step out of this office of watchman and are no longer ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor. 5:20) so that they teach and act according to their own opinions, they can no longer expect to be obeyed. The sheep will then not know their voices.” [pp.82-3]

    [Emphasis added]

  41. Anonymous says:

    My dear brother in Christ, Carl Vehse.

    I do not know who you are, but I see you are very upset and seem to be angry with those who hold the pastoral office. Please understand that your “overseers” (to use a word which is used by the inerrant scriptures to describe those who are placed into the OHM) are put “over” you so that they can feed you with the mercy of God in Christ as it is delivered through Word and Sacrament. To rebel against that work is like a stomach rebelling against the food given it to eat.

    Your pastor, while an overseer, is really a Gift-man. He is there to deliver divine Gifts to you—all for free! Luther once said: “If you’re gonna be a christian, you have to like to receive gifts.” I encourage you to rejoice in the Gifting nature of both your Lord and the Office your Lord has established for you—the Office of Holy Ministry.

    I’m still learning how to better be the “Gift-man” that Lord has called me to be. I have a long ways to go, I will readily admit. I think it’s safe to say we both have something to learn about being christians—being content at the receiving end of all the Lord would give us.

    Peace be with you.

    Rev. Tom Fast

  42. Carl Vehse says:

    Even if no one else writes that they forgive you, Rev. Fast, I forgive you.

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