Confession (February Newsletter)

by jpserrano on February 4, 2016 · 0 comments

The basis for our teachings at Good Shepherd and all Lutheran Churches is: the scriptures of the Old and New Testament; the Apostles’, Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds; and the Book of Concord (The Lutheran Confessional Writings). These works provide the anchor points for everything we do. They act as aides in helping us enter into the mystery of God’s presence and clarify the faithful teaching of the Lutheran Church.  If one wants to dig deeper into what Lutherans believe these are the reference works.


I write all of this because we Lutherans have specific beliefs that our written down.  Often we think that what we grew up with in belief and practice is THE Lutheran way never realizing that there is a wider birth of practice in the church.


When I first became Lutheran I assumed that private confession was a Roman Catholic thing and for a while I paid little attention to it. I had heard from many people that Lutherans only confess directly to God on Sunday morning, nothing else is needed.  But then, in conversations with colleagues I learned that some of them not only went to private confession, but received private confession as well. They even showed me the parts in scripture and the confessions where they got this practice…GASP!


Article XXV. of the Augsburg Confession (in the book of Concord) says, “Confession has not been abolished in our churches.” Giving instructions on how confession should be viewed Luther wrote in the Large Catechism,  “[Confession is] voluntary, that we may confess without coercion or fear; that we are released from the torture of enumerating all sin in detail; that we have the advantage of knowing how to use confession beneficially for the comforting and strengthening of our conscious.” So for Lutherans we do confession and it’s voluntary, brief, and for our comfort.  The main purpose of confessing to the pastor is to unburden yourself of the shame, guilt, and troubled conscious that comes with sin and hear the grace, love, and forgiveness of God.  When our sins are brought from darkness into the light of another living soul there is freedom.  Every lent I now go to confession myself.  It is incredibly freeing and unburdening.


But, we also have two other types of confession; to God alone and to our neighbor alone.  We are really good at the first one as a community.  We practice confessing to God every Sunday and hopefully you find yourself throughout the week throwing up confessions here and there.  Our communal practice is exactly that, practice for the rest of the week, that you may quickly identify your sins, confess, and repent.  What we do on Sunday is the group training for when your on your own.  Hopefully that training leads you to confess when you have hurt your neighbor and sinned against them in either word or deed, by what you have done or left undone.  At the heart of Christian community is confessing our sins when we wrong others and having them absolve us of our transgressions.


So continue to confess to God on Sunday and throughout the week.  Call the neighbor you have wronged and confess and ask for forgiveness. It has not been the practice of Good Shepherd in recent memory for the pastor to offer private confession. However, during this lenten season (and all year if you desire) I will make myself available for private confession.  Call me in the church office and I will be happy to make a time for us to meet.  I hope you take me up on it.  You will hear God’s grace and forgiveness while at the same time unloading the weight on your soul.


Blessing (Oct Newsletter)

by jpserrano on October 7, 2015 · 0 comments

Blessing Josh bird 10 2015

Since last year we’ve (Good Shepherd) done several blessings during our celebration of the liturgy on Sundays.  We’ve blessed bikes, chalk, backpacks, ashes, palms, people, and this month we are blessing our pets.  But, that’s not even the half what we could do.  The ELCA also publishes resources to bless new communion-ware, bells, organs, windows, paraments, vestments, houses, and more—there’s a lot of blessing going on.


I am partial to these kinds of rites because of what it means for us to bless.


Blessing doesn’t magically make something special.  When we as a community bless things we are committing them to God’s service.  The rite of blessing is meant to be a reminder that with this chalk, or backpack, or bike, whatever it is, we are receiving it from God, and using it in God’s service.


As a part of the blessing we first bring it before God with thanksgiving.  We acknowledge that this person, animal, or object is a gift from God.  We are saying that the blessing of God is the foundation for us in our living out our relationship with God and we are called to be a blessing to the world. When we pronounce God’s blessing, we are saying that something will  function for the good of creation.  Ultimately, with blessing we are reminded that we live purely by God’s grace, protection, and ask for favor. 


Often, we think of a division between spiritual and physical.  We attribute prayer, meditation, worship to the spiritual and work, play, and service to the physical.  But, those lines are only imaginary.  The physical activities we do are spiritual acts; the two are intimately intertwined.


Everything we do is spiritual.  


Blessings are a part of the Church’s rites of pastoral care.  Blessings are not sacraments, but they are a way for us to remind ourselves that there’s no division between the sacred and secular for the Christian.  In fact, we carry with us the sacred with us wherever we go.  Blessed objects remind us of that.


Christians are called to be a blessing in the world; to remind people of God’s love, to serve the marginalized, to be witnesses to grace, forgiveness, and charity.  We bless so often because we need a reminder that what we do for the world must first be done in us.




Get up: A Sermon on Mark 5:21-43

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen   Who do you identify with? So, who do you understand most in this Gospel?  That’s to say,  who do you identify yourself with the most here?   Are you the crowd? The crowd doesn’t know what to make of […]

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Easter Sermon

You can hear this sermon here.   Christ is Risen! Grace and peace to you from Jesus Christ, our resurrected Lord. Amen. Intro This last week, I heard a scene unfold between my wife and 4-year-old son that was straight out of the Cosby Show.   I heard her say,    “Benny, you can’t just […]

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Keep Awake!

Preached @ Good Shepherd Lutheran Church (Concord, CA)

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Lasting Security

Preached @ Good Shepherd Lutheran Church 11.16.2014 23rd Sunday After Pentecost

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Confession & Christian Identity (Sermon on Matthew 16:13-30)

Preached @ Faith Lutheran Church of Castro Valley on 8.24.2014

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Pentecost Sermon 2014

Preached @ Faith Lutheran Church (Pentecost in the Park)

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If You Love Me (Sermon on John 14:15-21)

Preached @ Faith Lutheran Church of Castro Valley on May 25, 2014.

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Lust, Length, and Looking

The News Story Making the Internet rounds is the story of a 17-year old girl who was kicked out of a homeschool senior prom.  She was wearing a dress that was deemed inappropriate in length for the dance by the chaperones.  As someone who has seen some of the dresses and Halloween costumes that pass […]

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Doubting Thomas (Sermon on John 20:19-31)

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. Intro When people speak about Thomas, especially from today’s Gospel reading, he is almost universally called what?  Doubting Thomas.  I am not sure that’s accurate.  I think that history hasn’t really understood Thomas.  But mostly, I think he gets a […]

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Worship in the Park

For the last couple years I’ve had the opportunity to share some ideas with the congregation I’m currently serving.  One idea that I am particular fond of is taking Sunday worship to a local park. This is a little outside the comfort zone of most Lutherans, so I put together the following proposal for consideration […]

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