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Has the Church forgotten this critial direction?

Altar with communion

Devotional Thought for the day:
28  So then, you should each examine yourself first, and then eat the bread and drink from the cup. 29  For if you do not recognize the meaning of the Lord’s body when you eat the bread and drink from the cup, you bring judgment on yourself as you eat and drink. 30  That is why many of you are sick and weak, and several have died. 31  If we would examine ourselves first, we would not come under God’s judgment. 32  But we are judged and punished by the Lord, so that we shall not be condemned together with the world. 1 Corinthians 11:28-32 (TEV)

235    Examination of conscience. A daily task. Bookkeeping—never neglected by anyone in business. And is there any business worth more than that of eternal life?

Of course, fasting and other physical preparations are excellent disciplines for the body. But anyone who believes these words, “Given for you,” and “Shed for you to forgive sins,” is really worthy and well prepared. But whoever doubts or does not believe these words is not worthy and is unprepared, because the words, “for you” demand a heart that fully believes.

We don’t allow enough time for it in our church services.

Perhaps because the silent time of reflection is awkward.

Perhaps it is because of the shuffling of papers that occurs, or the sound of people shifting (squirming) in their seats, fifteen or so seconds into the silence.

Perhaps it is because we mistakenly think the things we have to say or sing are more important,

The time of reflection, when we consider that we’ve sinned against God, and against others.  When we think back and take inventory of the time since we last confessed our sin since we are brought face to face with those moments where we failed to love, where we failed to care, where we made ourselves and our desires the most important thing in life.

It shouldn’t be just on Sunday morning that we do an examination our of lives or our consciences. But we need to do it before we commune, not out of a sense of duty, but because we need to realize why we commune, why we need Jesus to come to us, why we need to know He loves us.

Because we realize we are broken because we need to realize that it was our sin that Jesus responded to, laying down His life to erase it from our books with the grace found in the body broken and sacrificed, and love found as He offered His blood to cleanse us.

We need to do this, not to dwell in the guilt and shame, not to recount how horrible we are, but to realize how precious God’s forgiveness is, and how much He truly loves us, and how much we need to know He does love us.

That is why Paul warns us to examine ourselves. because as we do, we understand the blessing of God’s forgiveness.  If we don’t if we neglect this, look at the warning, God will, and rather than pour out His grace, it will result in HIs judgment, and His punishment or worse, His wrath.

Not because we didn’t cover every sin (who has that big of a memory) but because we didn’t trust Him enough to deal with our failures, and we continued in life not dealing with our sin. Because we neglected the freedom God offered to us, and chose to stay in the dark.

So take your time, let God bring to your heart and mind the sins you need to know are forgiven. Ask Him to help you, so that you are convinced of this, you are clean, hole, healed,

Because He was broken, and His blood was shed, for you….

And knowing that, it is a time for a feast!…

AMEN!

How much time do you need, would you like, to examine your conscience in regards to the last week…?

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 640-642). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Luther’s Small Catechism: Developed and Explained.

Where Renewal Starts…..

Devotional Thought of the Day:
26  This means that every time you eat this bread and drink from this cup you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. 27  It follows that if one of you eats the Lord’s bread or drinks from his cup in a way that dishonors him, you are guilty of sin against the Lord’s body and blood. 28  So then, you should each examine yourself first, and then eat the bread and drink from the cup. 29  For if you do not recognize the meaning of the Lord’s body when you eat the bread and drink from the cup, you bring judgment on yourself as you eat and drink. 30  That is why many of you are sick and weak, and several have died. 31  If we would examine ourselves first, we would not come under God’s judgment. 32  But we are judged and punished by the Lord, so that we shall not be condemned together with the world.     1 Corinthians 11:26-32 (TEV)

109      There is an enemy of the interior life which is both little and silly. Unfortunately, it can be very effective. It is the neglect of effort in one’s examination of conscience.  (1)

For this reason private confession should be retained in the church, for in it consciences afflicted and crushed by the terrors of sin lay themselves bare and receive consolation which they could not acquire in public preaching. We want to open up confession as a port and refuge for those whose consciences the devil holds enmeshed in his snares and whom he completely bewitches and torments in such a way that they cannot free or extricate themselves and feel and see nothing else but that they must perish. For there is no other greater misery in this life than the pains and perplexities of a heart that is destitute of guidance and solace.
To such, then, an approach to confession should be opened up so that they may seek and find consolation among the ministers of the church.  (2)

Growing up in the 1970’s there was a lot of talk of renewal, and movements which facilitated various renewals.  There was a call for liturgical renewal, retreats that offered times of personal renewal, parish and congregational renewal, and the movement which was known as the Charismatic Renewal.

Each form of renewal brought promise, sometimes delivered, sometimes frustrated.

Then in the 90’s we replaced renewal with revival, and then revitalizatiom.

Now it seems that renewal, either personal, congregational, across a denomination, or across the entire church has been tossed aside.  We’d rather close churches, and start something completely new.  We’d rather give up on people whose faith has become dormant, and focus on new conversion.  Or worse, offer hope to those churches and people, not through the renewal of their spirit, but through returning to the forms that left them dried, weary and with a withered faith.

How will these new lives survive when their new churches hit 20-25 years old (the age when some skeptics say churches begin to die)   What will happen to the faith of these people who are guided toward the dry, repetitive faith that caused their churches to dwindle?

Or is there an option?

Could it be found in these words from Paul about the examination of our hearts and souls? Could it be in letting confession and the examination it offers fall into disuse we have hindered renewal/revival in the church, and if the church is not renewed, neither is the world?

What joy have we prevented people from knowing, what joy and peace could we offer them, simply by helping them realize their need for forgiveness while assuring them it is offered?  What joy and peace have we neglected giving our people, what guilt and shame do they bear, not knowing they bear it without need?

We talk of wanting churches to grow, in number, faith and practice, yet we do not offer them the basic respite the psalmists craved, and rejoiced and rested as they received it.

What if we offered them a real chance to examine themselves, to consider their lives, to cry out for deliverance, to cry out in hope?  What if our words assured them of God’s mercy, of the forgiveness He years to give, of the love He would assure them they have?

Our people need to examine themselves, knowing that they are doing so to find their freedom in Christ.  To know that doing so will bring them life, as God sets aside all that would inhibit their life, and transform and make them Holy. For that is what absolution, that is our cleansing.

That is renewal, that is revival, that is life being restored to those who are weary and worn, broken and devastated.

May we, and our people cry out for the Lord’s mercy, knowing He who provides it is faithful.
AMEN!

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 589-591). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

(2)  Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 6: Lectures on Genesis: Chapters 31-37. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 6, pp. 297–298). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

.A Necessary Workout…to Help Us Value God’s Grace

Featured imageDevotional thought of the day:

27  So anyone who eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord unworthily is guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28  That is why you should examine yourself before eating the bread and drinking the cup. 29  For if you eat the bread or drink the cup without honoring the body of Christ, you are eating and drinking God’s judgment upon yourself. 30  That is why many of you are weak and sick and some have even died. 31  But if we would examine ourselves, we would not be judged by God in this way. 32  Yet when we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned along with the world. 1 Corinthians 11:27-32 (NLT)

72 If you are heavy-laden and feel your weakness, go joyfully to the sacrament and receive refreshment, comfort, and strength.  73 If you wait until you are rid of your burden in order to come to the sacrament purely and worthily, you must stay away from it forever.

142         If you are really fighting, you need to make an examination of conscience. Take care of the daily examination: find out if you feel the sorrow of Love, for not getting to know Our Lord as you should.

If you are a preacher of grace, then preach a true and not a fictitious grace; if grace is true, you must bear a true and not a fictitious sin. God does not save people who are only fictitious sinners. Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly, for he is victorious over sin, death, and the world

We don’t talk about it much, whether Protestant, Roman Catholic or those of us somewhere in between.

Because of the pressures of time, we don’t take the time we need for it either.  This practice that would lead us to appreciate the sacraments better that would make more vivid and real what it means to be promised that our sins are forgiven and removed.

For I think we fall into two categories when it comes to sin.

We dismiss it, because, after all, our sin isn’t as great as “their” sin. I mean – look at the world, their sin is so much greater than ours, and they proudly flaunt their sin in front of all the world.

Or they are so crushed by it, they can’t imagine that God would ever notice their pitiful existence, never mind welcome them into His presence, nor spend the time and patience to create something holy and sacred, while removing all that mars the beauty He created in them.

That is where this idea of the “Examination of Conscience” comes into play.  It is a time to think about our sin, and the struggles we have in our faith.  Not to add to the guilt and shame, though we may shudder a bit as we really think through how much we have done wrong. But in examining our conscience, in taking the time to realize how often we push God away and put ourselves in His place, we begin to realize how incredible His love for us is.  We begin to realize what He has saved us from, and then we appreciate more what He has saved us to experience. Being in the presence, sharing in the glory of God.   This is what an examination of conscience leads to, as it allows us to realize our need for Christ.

I sometimes think we think of salvation, of God’s deliverance of us from sin like a lifeguard saving us from a near drowning experience. We needed the salvation, because we couldn’t calm down, we couldn’t overcome the waves of life.  Examination of our conscience reveals to us that we’ve been saved from drowning, not in a simple rip current, but as we opened the front door of our submarine a mile under the ocean.

And there, in the depths, we find the cross, we find the blood of Christ, we find salvation, a rescue we so need.  Even us who count on so many other things to save us, or count on them to have proven we’ve been saved.  Examination of conscience removes all such illusion.

That’s why Luther advises us not to wait until we are holy enough to run to where God’s grace is poured out on us. Because if we wait, we will never be good enough, we will never be free enough, for it is at the baptismal font that we find our peace.  It is at the altar we find the promise of God’s love, it is as the pastor pronounces our sin forgiven, that we realize the height, depth, width and breadth of God’s love for us. It is an awe-inspiring ride, from the depths of despair to the heights of highest joy.

This is the love of God, for you!

So take the time, examine your conscience, and know the love of God which truly rescues you.  AMEN

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 455). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 794-796). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s Works, vol. 48: Letters I. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 48, pp. 281–282). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

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