Which sins are these? Before God we should plead guilty of all sins, even those we are not aware of, as we do in the Lord's Prayer; but before the pastor we should confess only those sins which we know and feel in our hearts. (Confession and the Office of the Keys)
There is not a drop of innocence in your being. You are a sinner, begotten from your mother’s womb in sin. There is much to confess, both that you do and do not know. Some of these sins burden you and some do not. The ones that burden you cause you to sin more,. They cause you to doubt your Lord’s forgiveness, and to doubt your Baptism and the promise given to you in those waters. These sins, the ones that trouble you and attempt to distance you from the altar where you eat and drink of the Body and Blood of Jesus are the ones you confess before your Pastor.
To confess to your pastor is to lay your sins at Jesus' feet and have Him bind them up and take them to the Cross. Sometimes it is hard to do, to tell your pastor that you have not loved your neighbor as yourself. Those things that burden us and that we feel in our hearts are often the ones which are the most difficult to speak.
When your pastor hears your sins in Confession he hears them as the Lord does. He not only hears them, but forgets them. They no longer exist. They are buried in the tomb with Jesus and drowned in the water of your Baptism with your Old Adam. When you speak them you can be certain and sure that you will never hear of them again. They are forever gone.
When we confess our sins to our pastor we are given a sure and sweet joy, our hearts are unburdened and we can live free in Christ, not bound to sin. When we do not confess them and hold onto them as if we could deal with them on our own we never find comfort. To be free in Christ is to be free of sin. To be free of sin is to no longer let it have power over you but to give those sins to your pastor in Confession and have him absolve them.
When your Pastor absolves your sins they die with Jesus on the Cross. In death we find life, risen from the grave where our sins were buried. Go at once in good cheer and rejoice, for you have been forgiven! In the name of Jesus, Amen.
The words which absolution give Are His who died that we might live; The minister whom Christ has sent Is but His humble instrument. (LSB 614:5)