After the service, he asked someone to help him find the thing he'd found about confession. Several people, including myself, tried, but failed. He kept looking for nearly half an hour before he found it and signaled to me.
He had found this section of Luther's Small Catechism:
What is confession? Confession consists of two parts. One is that we confess our sins. The other is that we receive the absolution, that is, forgiveness, from the pastor as from God himself and by no means doubt but firmly believe that our sins are thereby forgiven before God in heaven.
He pointed this out to me and said, "Do you do this?"
"Do you mean, am I the person, the pastor, who would assure you of God's forgiveness?"
"Yes." He then went on to name some struggles and then said, "Can you, as the pastor, give me forgiveness?"
On a Sunday where we celebrate the priesthood of all believers, the work of God in ever-reforming God's church, the gift of the Holy Spirit... on this festival day...
I looked at that man and said what he needed to hear, "Yes, I can assure you of God's forgiveness. I will tell you that in the darkest of nights and the least certain of moments, that Jesus Christ is with you. I promise you that the Holy Spirit is always working to bring peace and comfort to your heart. Know that what I am telling you is true: there is nothing that you have done that will separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus. God knows your confession. You are forgiven."
He flinched a little as I raised my hand to make the sign of the cross, but then smiled as he received it, relief plain in his eyes.
Are you the one who can offer words of forgiveness as though from God's ownself?
This is the gift of God's reformation.