To receive forgiveness is to have a burden lifted from our shoulders; it is a gift of grace upon grace upon grace. Forgiveness frees us from the unrelenting demands of perfectionism and fear of failure; it nourishes hope and encourages us toward a whole and integrated life. When we are forgiven, our offenses are in the past, forgotten by God. We're given a clean slate and invited to begin again.
But I've noticed that the Assurance of Pardon, or Absolution as it's know in more liturgical contexts, often flies by quickly and rather efficiently. After we've offered words of confession and kept silence, the liturgist, pastor, or priest proclaims that we are forgiven. We may reply with a spoken affirmation or sing a Gloria Patri. Many congregations also share the Passing of Peace at this point. Since we are reconciled with God, we enact a renewed relationship with each other through gestures of care and love.
But have these life-changing, liberating words found their way to the core of our being? Does our liturgy provide space to celebrate and savor the grace we have received? Do the words and tunes we sing in response to the Assurance of Pardon invite us to be present to the moment or to share our joy with others?
Christian history and our diverse denominational traditions provide varied and meaningful approaches to confession and forgiveness and I don't intend to critique or split hairs over liturgical or theological particulars. Instead, I'm interested in exploring how music can enliven and expand this moment in liturgy, and help us experience personal and communal forgiveness in a spiritually and emotionally vibrant way.
Earlier this month, I wrote We Are Forgiven, Loved, and Free to honor The Rev. Alvin O. Jackson, a former colleague at Park Avenue Christian Church. One of the hallmarks of his preaching is bold encouragement to bring Christ's message of hope, healing, and love to others. I distilled this theme into a rhythmic, Gospel-inspired tune, drawing inspiration from the opening phrase of Brian Wren's Communion hymn, I Come With Joy. While written specifically as a response to the Assurance of Pardon that leads directly to the Passing of the Peace, it could be equally useful for Baptism, Confirmation, as a Benediction, or a general song of praise.
Take a listen below and download a copy of the score which is free for a limited time. I also invite you to view a list of songs and responses that can help your community sing forgiveness in new, meaningful ways.
We are forgiven, loved, and free.
We're washed anew and then called to be
Hope for the weary, strength for the weak
with a blessing of peace for all.