WordAlone - The Heart of Worship
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The Heart of Worship

—the Essential Role of Confession and Forgiveness

by Pastor Scott Grorud
(Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, Redwood Falls, MN)

Conference Document

Key Points:

  1. Theology is at stake in how we do worship, including confession and forgiveness.
  2. The Liturgical Reform Movement and the Praise and Worship movement have downplayed the central role of confession and forgiveness in different ways.
  3. The content and place of confession and forgiveness in our worship is not a matter of form, but of theology.
  4. Evangelical worship understands that confession and forgiveness are essential.
  5. Confession and forgiveness form not only the heart of worship, but of the entire Christian life.
  6. Because of the central role of confession and forgiveness the language we use is critically important to the work the Gospel does on us.
  7. The very Gospel is at stake in whether we see confession and forgiveness as the heart of worship and use language that gives full weight to its significance.

Number 1 of Luther’s 95 Theses

“Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, in saying, ‘Repent!’ intended that the whole life of believers should be repentance.”

“Holy Baptism”, part 4, from Luther’s Small Catechism

What does Baptism mean for daily living?

It means that our sinful self, with all its evil deeds and desires, should be drowned through daily repentance; and that day after day a new self should arise to live with God in righteousness and purity forever.

Examples of Confessional Language

  • SBH - “We are by nature sinful and unclean.
  • LBW - “We are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves.
  • WOV - “Forgive us our sins, known and unknown, things done and left undone.”
  • RW - “In your great mercy, wash away our iniquity and cleanse us from our sin...”

Plain Talk Before God: The Language of Worship

God of light, my life seems like a long, dark hallway with no end in sight. I struggle from one step to another, trying not to fall, but sometimes I can’t help myself. God of light, swing wide the doors! Open the windows! Let in the new light of your love. Light the paths I walk so I can understand where I have been and be confident of the direction I am headed. Illuminate my life with the light of your Word, so I can live in forgiveness and be free to live life to the fullest in service to others.

Sourcebook of Worship Resources

Holy God, there is no stopping us now. There is so much to do before Christmas and we are on the move. We are making our lists and checking them twice. We hear “The Twelve Days of Christmas” and pray we’ll have twice as many. We are looking for boughs of holly and dreaming of a white Christmas. We see sugar plums, red-nosed reindeer, twinkling lights and mistletoe in every store window. Holy God, this season can be such a jumble and rush. Through it all, in it all and in spite of it all, restore the sense of whom we are waiting for. Let us get ready our hearts as well as our homes to receive the Savior of the world. Amen.

Examples of Forgiveness Language

Luther's Monastery

May the merit of the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, of Blessed and Ever Virgin Mary, and of all the saints, the merit of your Order, the humility of your confession and the contrition of your heart, the good works that you have done and will do for love of our Lord Jesus Christ–may all this bring you the forgiveness of sins...”


Almighty God, in his mercy, has given his Son to die for us and, for his sake, forgives us all our sins. As a called and ordained minister of the Church of Christ, (but) by his authority, I therefore declare to you the entire forgiveness of all your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.


Almighty God have mercy on you, forgive you all your sins through our Lord Jesus Christ, strengthen you in all goodness, and by the power of the Holy Spirit keep you in eternal life.

Renewing Worship

The God of all mercy and consolation has reconciled the world through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, forgiving you all your sin. By the power of the Holy Spirit may the image of God be restored in you, the wisdom of God renewed in you, and the breath of God revived in you, in the name of the blessed and holy + Trinity. Amen.

Jesus Christ our Savior gave himself for us, redeeming us from all sin and cleansing us to be people who are eager to do what is good. Through the water of rebirth and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, God saves us, renews us in grace, and bestows on us eternal life. Amen.

Plain Talk

Our God is for all time and all people. Just as God called the Israelites out of slavery of Egypt, we are called to lay aside the weight of our sin and live out new lives of freedom and acceptance. We were once a people without a home, but now we know where we belong. We once wandered aimlessly through our every day, but now have a purpose and a direction. Praise God for our journey of joy.