The Ministry Of Reconciliation: A Great Untapped Power…
Devotional Thought of the Day:
35 They will say, “This once-desolate land has become like the garden of Eden. The cities once ruined, laid waste and destroyed, are now resettled and fortified.”s 36 Then the surrounding nations that remain shall know that I, the LORD, have rebuilt what was destroyed and replanted what was desolate. I, the LORD, have spoken: I will do it! (NABRE Ezekiel 36:35-36)
24 Suppose, now, that the invitation (to confess our sins and receive absolution) were changed into a command that all beggars should run to the place, no reason being given and no mention of what they were to look for or receive. How else would the beggar go but with repugnance, not expecting to receive anything but just letting everyone see how poor and miserable he is? Not much joy or comfort would come from this, but only a greater hostility to the command.
25 In the same way the pope’s* preachers have in the past kept silence about this wonderful, rich alms and this indescribable treasure; they have simply driven men together in hordes just to show what impure and filthy people they were. Who could thus go to confession willingly?
26 We, on the contrary, do not say that men should look to see how full of filthiness you are, making of you a mirror for contemplating themselves. Rather we advise: If you are poor and miserable, then go and make use of the healing medicine. (1)
That is the way you are, too, he says; that is the way you are interiorly, if we look attentively at ourselves we shall know that this is true. We are interiorly stunted and crippled. We lack interior strength because we live only exteriorly. “Everyman”, who abounded in health and life, was interiorly completely crippled, but he did not know it. In his efforts to draw all life to himself, he had failed to learn what life truly is. There appears now on stage a second female figure, who teaches the dying Everyman how to pray again. Thus faith helps to give strength to his works. Supported by faith, his works can move, and he, too, can move—to move along the right, the true road to salvation. Faith gives him from Christ’s strength what Everyman does not have of himself. (2)
A pastor or priest sits, and hears people unburden their lives, and we see a miracle happen. Those crushed by guilt and shame are healed, they are made whole. They are restored.
We can often see it with our eyes, yet the perception goes far deeper, as the grace of God bursts from their hearts and souls through their eyes. It is such a thing that Ezekiel describes as he calls watching a once desolate land become the garden of Eden. Or a city laid waste, that has been restored.
Pope Benedict wrote of it as Everyman learning to pray again – the line of communication between God and man cleared of all that blocks it from our inattention, as guilt and shame are flushed away, and we can live again. Luther talks about it as a great treasure, this healing medicine of hearing God speak.
But we would rather look in the mirror and see the filth; we would rather look at works, poor and feeble, no better than filthy rags. Because we’ve let confession (and I mean the entire church) and the precious words of absolution be neglected, we struggle to believe them, to perceive the grace we should look for, the guarantee of mercy we should desire!
This is why pastors and priests must return to teaching about this precious sacrament. So that its power to heal and restore people no longer sits unused, misunderstood, untapped. Our people need to have this – they need to be able to share the joy of their salvation, to celebrate that God isn’t far off, but in Him we still live and move and have our very being! This is amazing grace; this is proof of His unfailing love… these words of absolution, these glorious words that we are free…
God is merciful, the world needs to know this, you and I need to know this.
As we are absolved, let our awe turn into praises and celebration, as God throws us a feast, and as we know we are welcomed in His presence. AMEN!
(1) Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 460). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
(2) Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (pp. 233–234). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
* ( DIsclaimer: While it may be true that some in the RCC in Luther’s day are accurately described in his comment, the priests of the Roman Catholic Church I know and admire urge people to go, not just out of obedience, but because of the joy that awaits them as Christ assures them of His forgiveness – there are such pastors in every church body, even as there are those who would deny people of the joy of reconciliation)
Posted on July 21, 2016, in Augsburg and Trent, Devotions, Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI, Martin Luther, The Small Catechism, Theology in Practice and tagged Abiding in Christ, absolution, Concordia Cerritos, Concordia Lutheran Church, confession, love, mercy, ministry of reconciliation. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.