Devotional Thought fo the Day:
16 Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. James 5:16 (NLT)
323 Anyone who hides a temptation from his director shares a secret with the devil. He has become a friend of the enemy.
3 With regard to the time, it is certain that most people in our churches use the sacraments, absolution and the Lord’s Supper, many times a year. Our clergy instruct the people about the worth and fruits of the sacraments in such a way as to invite them to use the sacraments often. On this subject our theologians have written many things which our opponents, if they are but honest, will undoubtedly approve and praise.
There is no hope, no chance to correct the wrongs, no chance to fix that was broken, the person thought. So they had one of two easy solutions, Ignore the problem, or run and hide from it. either way, the damage increases, and the help needed to overcome the problem is ignored.
If this was a medical issue, (and yes people ignore and hide from them) most of us would come alongside the person and urge, even beg them to seek help. If it was an addiction, we might risk their anger and do the same. But how many of us are going to take such an action on something that is far more critical, the spiritual health of our friends and family? How many of us would even think to suggest absolution, the ministry, and sacrament of reconciliation, if someone was sharing their battle with guilt and shame?
St. Josemaria’s words are harsh, that when we hide our sins, when we don’t confess them, when we don’t ask for help in dealing with them, we effectively align with Satan, and we accept the bondage of guilt and shame which will paralyze and haunt us.
That’s pretty serious, and after 20 years of ministry, and seeing the problems that unresolved guilt and shame brought upon people, upon their family and friends, I concur. All we do when we ignore sin, or when we isolate ourselves from others because of it is fall, to trust in Satan’s deception.
Confession and absolution, the hearing that God does forgive us because of Jesus’ work on the cross, that free us from that bondage, it starts the healing of brokenness that would otherwise crush us. It is liberating, it brings about both incredible joy and incredible peace.
It’s time to stop ignoring our sin, or hiding from others as the sin and guilt tear our souls apart.
God loves you and wants you to know, He desires to cleanse you of it all, to restore your soul, to mend the broken hearts. He wants us to encourage each other to know this, to hear it from those entrusted to speak on His behalf.
Come, know the peace of God, and rejoice in the freedom Christ’s blood bought you!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1526-1527). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.
Devotional Thought of the Day”
6 If, then, we say that we have fellowship with him, yet at the same time live in the darkness, we are lying both in our words and in our actions. 7 But if we live in the light—just as he is in the light—then we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from every sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and there is no truth in us. 9 But if we confess our sins to God, he will keep his promise and do what is right: he will forgive us our sins and purify us from all our wrongdoing. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make a liar out of God, and his word is not in us.
1 John 1:6-10 (TEV)
187 If your mistakes make you more humble, if they make you reach out more urgently for God’s helping hand, then they are a road to sanctity: Felix culpa!—O happy fault!, the Church sings. (1)
Every once in a while, I get to help people reconcile with other people. During some of the conversations along the way, one of the two parties might indicate that the fault belongs only to one side of the fight.Usually, this is with one side taking all the blame, but on occasion, it will be laid all a the feet of their opposition.
Normally, the only time one side of the argument is completely right is when one side is God.
But even with God, people will play the game most call hypocrisy, where they indicate it isn’t really a fault that is theirs. I’ve seen people (and my own thoughts/actions) trying to avoid recognizing the fault/sin/brokenness. We can pretend to be in denial, we can try justify ourselves, we might even go on the offensive and get distracted by other people’s sins.
Bout ours still lie there, eating at us, causing damage to relationships. eroding the value we place on those relationships, even our relationship with God.
For if we hide in the sin, if we bury it and refuse to acknowledge it, we turn our back on God and those we love. This is what the Apostle John is writing about – that if we refuse to confess our sins, if we refuse to trust in God, then we set ourselves apart from Him, and we ignore his love and mercy and care.
This is where St Josemaria’s words come into play. The humility it takes to know the brokenness that sin causes is easily taken care of by God.
Humility, acknowledging the reality, not hiding from it, nor running from the responsibility, not pretending anymore, but just going yes, I screwed up, and realizing in that moment that God has already planned to take care of it.
What a glorious revelation! One we couldn’t know unless if was for the fault, and for honestly, humbly, coming to the realization that we are sinners, and that God isn’t going to get rid of us because of it.
He will deal with it, He’s planned to!
Let’s stop hiding, let’s confess our sins, and rejoice!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 853-855). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
There is another Way
Romans 4:1-8, 13-17
† In Jesus Name †
As we realize the sin we commit, may we also realize the grace of God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, which cleanses us from the sin, even as we come to depend on His presence in our lives!
In the midst of the passage from Romans this morning, our translation puts a few of the words inside of parenthesis. They are no less part of scripture, and I would call your attention to them this morning…
They are these words, “The only way to avoid breaking the law, is to have no law to break!”
That seems simple. No law, no breaking the law.
Even though they are scripture, they present a problem for us. They are a literary device, not what we would call “pure gospel”. A literary device, sort of like sarcasm or irony.
You see, as a literary device, the idea of getting rid of God’s law is predetermined to fail.
For one thing, it’s impossible.
For another… well you will see.
We can’t avoid it – because of Adam
Paul’s literary device fails, simply because we can’t avoid sin. Last week we saw why, sin entered the world through Adam, and it was passed on, as vicious as any virus or genetic anomaly to every person who was a product of human conception.
All we have to do is look at what our lives produce, and we know that the Apostle Paul was right when he said that, “the law always brings punishment on those who try to obey it.”
That seems like a bit of a challenge, doesn’t it? You try to obey God’s law, and you can’t!
Some will say the law is impossible, that we should just ignore God’s law, and do whatever we want. Others give up, and others pretend that they have never sinned, or that their sin isn’t as evil as the sins of those they complain about.
Sin, we’ve all done it, we’ve all earned the wrath of God that are the wages for that sin. Ignorance of the law doesn’t matter, and we can’t simply make God’s law disappear, or claim that it isn’t for us…
You can’t avoid the law, it exists, which is why we need what Abraham discovered….. the discovery that David says brings great joy.
Rejoice, we were cleared of breaking it.
Hear David’s words again,
7 “Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sins are put out of sight. 8 Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord as cleared of sin.”
This promise is for all people, without care for their age, their ethnicity, where they lived or even the sin they committed. This wondrous act of God, clearing us of sin, putting the sin out of sight is amazing!
Trusting God, depending on Him to keep a promise that goes back to the garden of Eden is what we are talking about, it is how we have a “right relationship” with God.
Since the beginning this is God’s plan, since God covered Adam and Eve’s sin with the skins of animals, since God saw Abraham’s trust, first in the promise of Isaac’s birth, and then as he went to sacrifice Isaac, knowing God’s promise was deeper than he could understand. Hebrew’s tells us that he counted that through Isaac God would provide him more descendants than the sand on the shore, or stars in the sky.
That trust, that dependence on God saw Abraham counted as a friend, just as David, whose sins far outweighed his predecessor King Saul, God describes as a man after his own heart. Paul gets this as well,
20 Here we are, then, speaking for Christ, as though God himself were making his appeal through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf: let God change you from enemies into his friends! 21Christ was without sin, but for our sake God made him share our sin in order that in union with him we might share the righteousness of God. 1 Cor. 5:20-21
This right relationship we share – another way of describing God’s work in creating it is what Paul told the church in Corinth – His way of changing us from enemies into His friends.
Let that sink in.
Like Abraham, being counted as righteous means you are counted as a friend of God.
That’s what a right relationship with God is, which explains why David uses this word joy to describe our sin being put away.
During Lent, this is what we focus upon, this work of God we need, this love of God that proclaims we are cleansed, healed, forgiven, loved, by the Creator of the universe, who created us to be His friend.
And though sin tried to break that relationship, our God had already prepared for that, even before creation, for His intent has always been the same as it was in the garden,
to walk with us… He as our God, we as His people, his children, His friends.
And the cross, it is our way to avoid the damage of sin. And it works. So be at peace and trust in God who loves you more than anything.
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be heard in every part of you and transform your heart, your soul, your mind and your strength.
Raising Cain – What if….
As you look at this title and think back on the words from Genesis we heard read a few moments ago, I wonder what you are thinking.
I mean if I gave your “permission” to think about raising Cain, would you think I was encouraging you to do something evil? To cause great trouble, to be rebellious, to behave ( as one person said) like loud protestors at some protest rally?
Or is there another option to raising Cain?
And what you do you think about Cain? Is he another like Judas that is beyond redemption, that is condemned because of the evil he committed? Do we write him off like Pharaoh, or like King Saul or Ahaz and that rotten women Jezebel?
Aren’t we glad that we certainly aren’t a sinner like that Cain…?
Or like that tax collector,
Are we more like that Pharisee than we want to admit, thanking God that we aren’t sinners like everyone else, picking our sins we are proud we didn’t commit and proud of the things we do that “prove we are righteous?”
Could it be that instead of encouraging riotous living, the idea of Raising Cain is about trying to see how God called Cain to repentance and offered him hope, and life?
When we can see God working in Cain’s life, it will give us hope, as we struggle in our brokenness, in the midst of this broken world?
Look at the chances!
One of the things I see in this passage is that God doesn’t easily give up on Cain. Nor will he give up easily on us, and we need to know that.
But consider a few of these things.
As Cain is upset about the offerings, God comes to him and says,
6 “Why are you so angry?” the Lord asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected? 7 You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.”
And like Cain, God comes to us, as we are struggling and says similar things. He tells us we are His, which we are accepted. But Jesus also warned Peter about potential sin, and then Peter would describe Satan this way…
6 So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. 7 Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. 8 Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. 9 Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith.. 1 Peter 5:6-9 (NLT)
Does that sound familiar?
God knows his heart, knows that Cain is being eaten up by the sin, by the jealousy, by the nature he inherited from his folks and made his own.
And as God prophesied – sin caught him, his anger and jealousy and attempted to devour him,
He killed his brother. He did something only God has the right to do, to take a life.
What happened next, he could never have foreseen.
Instead of God taking his life, he comes back to Cain, and calls him to repentance,
9 Afterward, the Lord asked Cain, “Where is your brother? Where is Abel?”
“I don’t know,” Cain responded. “Am I my brother’s guardian?”
10 But the Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground!
As I read this, I had to ask, why does God ask where Abel is? God is omniscient, isn’t He? God asked the same question of Adam and Eve, where are you? What have you done?
And of Peter on the beach, as Peter couldn’t get over denying Jesus three times, and three times Jesus asked, Simon Peter, “do you love me?”
We have to realize this; God didn’t give up on Cain. He didn’t just take his life, as He should have. If God were only merciful and not just, he would have just taken Cain’s life.
But God cares for him, and for you and I when we fall into sin when we are trapped and in bondage.
Even when we realize we deserve to be punished for our sin and utter those words Cain did…
13 Cain replied to the Lord, “My punishment is too great for me to bear! 14 You have banished me from the land and from your presence; you have made me a homeless wanderer. Anyone who finds me will kill me!”
If we didn’t have a pharisaical bias towards Cain, would we hear this any differently? Would we notice that Cain added in something God didn’t say?
14 You have banished me from the land and from your presence;
God didn’t – he is still with Cain. God is talking to Him. God is with him, there, and Cain is in the very presence of God.
Whether we hear those words of Cain as complaining, or fear, or pleading for mercy, they are said to a God who is there, who is listening, who is both just and merciful…
Just as He heard us a few moments ago, when we confessed our sin, when we pleaded for God to show us grace…
Even as He did to Cain.
Look at the grace – and what it pictures
We don’t see it if we just skim the passage, but it is there,
15 The Lord replied, “No, for I will give a sevenfold punishment to anyone who kills you.” Then the Lord put a mark on Cain to warn anyone who might try to kill him.
I think we usually see that mark as one of punishment – a stay away from this evil person.
But it is there to protect Cain, to let people know that he was under God’s protection, that (gulp) God was with him. That no one had the right to condemn him, no one had the right to punish him. Just like the woman caught in adultery.
Just like the mark of our baptism,
3 Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other. 4 But—“When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, 5 he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. 6 He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior.
Titus 3:3-6 (NLT)
You and I, we were no different than Cain, we were rebellious and sinned, despite God’s warning it devoured us. God came to us again, and called on us it, showed us what we deserved, and then reminded us we are marked….. in our baptism, and no one has the ability to condemn us. Nor will we ever be banished from His presence.
You are forgiven, just like the tax collector, and Peter, Paul, David, and me.
So go, and live in God’s peace, for Christ will guard your heart and mind in that incredible peace. AMEN!
Devotional THoguht of the Day:
1 Jesus got into the boat and went back across the lake to his own town, 2 where some people brought to him a paralyzed man, lying on a bed. When Jesus saw how much faith they had, he said to the paralyzed man, “Courage, my son! Your sins are forgiven.” 3 Then some teachers of the Law said to themselves, “This man is speaking blasphemy!” 4 Jesus perceived what they were thinking, and so he said, “Why are you thinking such evil things? 5 Is it easier to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? 6 I will prove to you, then, that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “Get up, pick up your bed, and go home!” 7 The man got up and went home. 8 When the people saw it, they were afraid, and praised God for giving such authority to people.
Matthew 9:1-8 (TEV)
15 Note, then, as I have often said, that confession consists of two parts. The first is my work and act, when I lament my sin and desire comfort and restoration for my soul. The second is a work which God does, when he absolves me of my sins through a word placed in the mouth of a man. This is the surpassingly grand and noble thing that makes confession so wonderful and comforting.
In Luther’s Large Catechism, we see the words in blue above, as Luther exhorts (begs) his people not give up the blessing of confessing their sin. Only a man who himself experienced the overwhelming crushing weight of his own sin, and the relief he knew writes in such a manner.
Luther’s relief is found all over his works, and he gets a bit testy (okay even violent) toward those who would deny people as broken as he was/is the hope he found and the healing he experienced.
His explanation nails it, our confession and absolution is far more about the absolution that we receive, that we so desperately need, than it is about the crap we drop in the presence of God. We may fear seeing it revealed, we may fear the surgery that removes it, what St. Paul calls the circumcision of the heart. We may even consider it impossible, a task beyond our ability.
Yet, the emphasis is not on the confession, but the cleansing. The work is not ours, it is the work of freeing us from the darkness that consumes us. That can even physically inhibit and paralyze us, as the man experienced in the gospel reading. But Christ’s death, and the authority given to Him by the father shatters those bindings, those things that trap us.
The blood of Christ, which binds us to Him, already did this, as He hung on the cross and declared we are free from sin, and even while we get up – perhaps for the first time, His Spirit quickens us, strengthens us, restores that which had decayed and been destroyed by sin.
We need to stop buying into the lie that confession is difficult, a duty that is one that burdens us and breaks us. It is a moment of incredible promise, a moment of being found in the presence of God, in peace that may be completely unfamiliar – but yet is home.
A little further down the section, Luther emphasised this again,
22 We urge you, however, to confess and express your needs, not for the purpose of performing a work but to hear what God wishes to say to you. The Word or absolution, I say, is what you should concentrate on, magnifying and cherishing it as a great and wonderful treasure to be accepted with all praise and gratitude.
This prayer, this desire for mercy needs to be seen as a treasure, not because of the words we say, but because of the words said to us in love. That changes our plea from one of desperation, to one of expectation, as the glory of God surrounds us, and we dind His love is still deeper, higher, broader and wider than we could have ever thought.
This is our God. We are His….gloriously his.
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (pp. 458–459). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
13 We are sure that we live in union with God and that he lives in union with us, because he has given us his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and tell others that the Father sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If we declare that Jesus is the Son of God, we live in union with God and God lives in union with us. 16 And we ourselves know and believe the love which God has for us. God is love, and those who live in love live in union with God and God lives in union with them. 17 Love is made perfect in us in order that we may have courage on the Judgment Day; and we will have it because our life in this world is the same as Christ’s. 18 There is no fear in love; perfect love drives out all fear. So then, love has not been made perfect in anyone who is afraid, because fear has to do with punishment. 19 We love because God first loved us. 20 If we say we love God, but hate others, we are liars. For we cannot love God, whom we have not seen, if we do not love others, whom we have seen. 21 The command that Christ has given us is this: whoever loves God must love others also.
1 John 4:13-21 (TEV)
282 Practise a cheerful charity which is at once kindly and firm; human and supernatural. An affectionate charity, knowing how to welcome everyone with a sincere and habitual smile, and how to understand the ideas and the feelings of others. In this way, gently and vigorously, and without concessions in matters of personal morals or in doctrine, the charity of Christ—when it is being well lived—will give you a spirit of conquest. Each day you will be more eager to work for souls. (1)
5. We cannot truly call on God, the Father of all, if we refuse to treat in a brotherly way any man, created as he is in the image of God. Man’s relation to God the Father and his relation to men his brothers are so linked together that Scripture says: “He who does not love does not know God” (1 John 4:8). (2)
He chose to stay there. He had to stay there. He had to absorb their hatred and return love in its place. They physically tortured Him, and He called on God the Father to forgive them anyway.
One of his followers said, Imitate me, as I imitate Christ!
Are you ready to do that? Are you ready to face hatred head on, and meet it with love? Are you ready to surrender your pride, your rights, your position or reputation, your family and even your life, if that is what is needed, that your enemies and adversaries could be afforded the opportunity to be reconciled to God the Father through Christ?
Some would say we aren’t supposed to put ourselves in the place of Jesus, that there is only one mediator. That God can’t expect us to love like He did, that such is not possible for sinners such as we are.
And so they refuse to love their neighbor, nevermind their enemy.
We can’t do that anymore, it is so contrary to what Paul talks of, when he talks about our being united to Christ’s death and resurrection, when he says we can use grace as an excuse for not trying to restrain the sin in our lives. (For Lutherans, check out Article VI of the Augsburg Confession)
There is a new life in Christ. There is the life in the Spirit; there is the life breathed into us, when we were spiritually dead, dry bones.
But this life is one that begins in the sacraments, as the word of God results in God taking root in our lives. It is encouraged in prayer, and in times of devotion, those times of quiet awe and adoration when we realize He is God, and He is here… It is a life where any fight is not over power or authority, but a fight to see people reconciled to God, rescued and healed from the damage of sin and hell.
To see their hearts turned to God, to see them be drawn to the cross, for there we have found hope, for there we have found life.
This is our ministry, whether pastor or priest, deacon or any other servant of God. Yes, it takes great faith, great trust in God, that He will raise you from the dead, that He has given you this life, He has given us the Holy Spirit to comfort and empower us and transform us into the image of His Son.
In this faithful life, we come to love our brothers who we can see, and so demonstrate our love for God our Father.
This is the baptized life. Don’t accept any other ….
(1) Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1144-1148). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
(2) Catholic Church. (2011). Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions: Nostra Aetate. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
Forgiven Much, so Love Much
or Was our Debt the Smaller One?
A Sermon on Luke 7
† I.H.S. †
The grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus will bring you such life that you will adore Him! AMEN!
A New Title:
There are times where the biggest struggle in a sermon is found in coming up with a title. This week, that was part of the struggle, not the only one, but a struggle none the least.
I mean, I couldn’t turn the gospel into a pastor parker parable, could I? The Kingdom of God is like a … Nah, that doesn’t quite work. Imitate a … well never mind, that still doesn’t work either.
But the title of the sermon sets where I am going with it, so I went with the Forgiven much, and was our debt smaller. It is a good simple basic sermon about forgiveness, basics for a Lutheran sermon.
On Saturday, I decided to put a Concordia spin on it, to focus more on the woman than on Simon, to see here as Jesus, and for us to see Jesus as she saw him. Which changed the sermon to:
Healed of so Much, So Worship and Adore Him And Let the Tears fall!
The challenge of dealing with our brokenness – Simon’s challenge
I should mention Simon the Pharisee for a moment, just to compose myself and explain why the prostitute at Jesus’ feet is more spiritually mature than he is. And why, in a way, we need to be more like here than like the religious professional who invited him to a feast.
Yes, I believe the lady balling was more mature than the calm collected Pharisee, who was devoted to serving God, and dedicated to living life as holy as possible.
It is seen in the parable he was told, about the two debtors. Not because he was able to guess correctly, that the one forgiven of much was the one who would love and adore more the man who forgave the debt.
He got that right.
What he didn’t understand is that he was the greater debtor.
We have a look into this as Simon’s thoughts are shared with us in verse 39
39 When the Pharisee, who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman is touching him. She’s a sinner!”
That is why Jesus tells the parable, and the mistake Simon makes is that Jesus knew exactly who the woman was.
Even more, he knew who Simon was, and that Simon’s debt wasn’t 1/10th of the lady’s debt, but that Simon’s debt was as great, therefore should his love for God should have been like the lady’s, and his welcome, as much in awe and adoration of Jesus, who comes into the presence of those who are sinners, of those who are broken.
The tears pour but why
This is what the spiritually mature lady knew, and I will explain why in a moment. She knew he would welcome her; she knew she could go to him, she so valued this love Jesus showed in forgiving sins, that she poured out her life, the perfume that would cost more than a year of her life, just to bring comfort to his feet.
He didn’t just forgive her of her sins, He healed her of her inability to love, and now, able to truly love, she did.
With tears that didn’t just roll down her cheeks, but poured out of her. Enough to bathe his feet, not just rinse them. She massaged those beautiful feet that brought her good news with her hair, again the cultural implications of this are staggering, for a woman’s glory was seen in long luxurious hair.
In her being forgiven of so much, she was healed to love so much.
To love without thought to cost or culture restriction, to love with every bit of her heart and soul.
That is what grace does. That is what happens when God comes and lives with us.
She’s not the only one…
I mention a moment ago that this lady didn’t come to Jesus without.. encouragement., without expecting something to happen.
I didn’t get this till I looked at the end of the reading, the part that comes from the next chapter,
He took his twelve disciples with him, along with some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases. Among them were Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons; 3 Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s business manager; Susanna; and many others who were contributing from their own resources to support Jesus and his disciples.
You see, this lady wasn’t the first broken person that Jesus healed, she wasn’t the first sinner that was amazed at His grace and love. She wasn’t the first person who learned to adore him, giving of all she had and all she was, literally pouring it out at her feet. She knew He was her hope, even if she didn’t know what hope was. Someone brought her there, someone helped her, brought her into His presence.
I am not sure whether it was Mary Magdalene who led her into the courtyard at Simon’s house, or whether it was Joanna or Susanna or one of the disciples.
Her experience wasn’t a novelty; it wasn’t a single occurrence in the ministry of Jesus. There had been others before her; there have been millions since.
Who learned to love and adore Him, who learned to let the tears flow, who learned that worship happens, not in a controlled managed environment, but worship happens when we encounter the God, who dwells in our midst, and open to sinners coming to Him, and feasting with Him. This is who we are as a church, a people who’ve found healing in Christ, while helping others heal… and
This is our Lord, and He invites you to come, and as you do, do not be surprised at the tears that well up inside, or the healing that takes place, or that you find yourselves loving him, far beyond what you could have expected.
For those who are forgiven and healed of much love much, and this is you and I. AMEN.
Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day:
13 No temptation has come your way that is too hard for flesh and blood to bear. But God can be trusted not to allow you to suffer any temptation beyond your powers of endurance. He will see to it that every temptation has a way out, so that it will never be impossible for you to bear it. 1 Corinthians 10:13 (Phillips NT)
“And lead us not into temptation.”
18 What does this mean?
Answer: God tempts no one to sin, but we pray in this petition that God may so guard and preserve us that the devil, the world, and our flesh may not deceive us or mislead us into unbelief, despair, and other great and shameful sins, but that, although we may be so tempted, we may finally prevail and gain the victory.
201 In a Christian’s life everything has to be for God—even personal weaknesses, once they have been put right! The Lord understands and forgives them.
As my devotions seem to be focused on prayer this morning, I once again find myself analyzing my prayer life, measuring it against that of scripture, and those like Luther and Escriva, men whose dependence on God I wish I could emulate.
Not because they were giants in knowledge, but rather because their ability to express their needs simply, to be honest about their thoughts and feelings. And because there are days where despair is my greatest temptation, as it seems they understand.
So when I came across, this portion of the Luther’s Small Catechism, I thought, besides in praying the Lord’s prayer, when was the last time I prayed that God would lead me not into temptation but give me the strength to endure it?
Not only when was the last time I prayed this petition for myself, but for my leaders?
Perhaps it is simply apathy. Said that, God promised it, time to move on, nothing to see here? Perhaps it is worse, the things I am tempted to do, to say, to think, I am too comfortable with, even as I realize they betray my weaknesses?
Do we consciously or subconscious omit this from our daily prayer because we want to avoid confronting that which tempts us, that which ensnares us, those sins that are all too common in our lives? Do we too easily give place to lust, or despair, to doubt God’s promise? Do we become to comfortable with being broken? Is it too easy justification for not living life in Christ? Is that why this is only prayed in our repetition of Christ’s prayer?
Are we afraid, that if we truly pray, truly desire that God would not lead us into temptation, that He will answer that prayer?
I like the point St. Josemaria makes, that we need to realize these weaknesses, yes even these temptations can be used by God, even as He is putting them to right. As we confess them, as we plead for Him to not lead us into them, we give Him the authority over them. Even as we realize we can’t overcome them, as we depend on Him, we find out that He has give us the victory! We will prevail not by avoiding the temptation, but by allowing Him to lead us through the temptation, showing us the way out, as we are crucified with Christ.
For at the cross is where sin and temptation lose their power, as Paul instructs the Galatians,
24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have put to death their human nature with all its passions and desires. 25 The Spirit has given us life; he must also control our lives.
Galatians 5:24-25 (TEV)
As we pray lead us not into temptation, what we are praying is the we realize that the Holy Spirit is not just the Giver of Life, but the Lord of it as well. That the Spirit calls us to know what Christ has taught us, that we are family, treasured enough by God that the cross becomes the revelation of that love.
The peace that God desires we know shatters the power of temptation and the sins that temptation would have us treasure, even as we learn to pray. This too is included in our prayer, Lord Have Mercy!
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (pp. 347–348). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 896-898). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought fo the Day:
5 Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the LORD.” And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone. Psalm 32:5 (NLT)
18 And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. 19 For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5:18-19 (NLT)
Since absolution or the power of the keys, which was instituted by Christ in the Gospel, is a consolation and help against sin and a bad conscience, confession and absolution should by no means be allowed to fall into disuse in the church, especially for the sake of timid consciences and for the sake of untrained young people who need to be examined and instructed in Christian doctrine
.126 You asked me to suggest a way for winning through in your daily struggles, and I replied: When you lay your soul open, say first of all what you wouldn’t like to be known. In this way the devil will always end up defeated. Lay your soul wide open, clearly and simply, so that the rays of God’s Love may reach and illuminate the last corner of it!
We used to refer to it as “Private Confession” in the Lutheran Church. Theologically we refer to it as COnfessiona and Absolution, with the emphasis on the Absolution part. The quote in green is from our confessions, where it is numbered among our sacraments, and in the minds of our forefathers, too great a treasure to forgo.
My brothers in the Roman Catholic church call this the Ministry of Reconciliation, and I have to admit I like that name as well. It reminds us what forgiveness does, it makes things right, it applies the blood of Christ to our brokenness, it brings healing, much-needed healing to souls damaged by guilt, shame and resentment which comes along with our sin and rebellion, It is the duty of the church, it is at the heart of its very mission, to pronounce this news of God’s mercy, of His care.
It is what brings life back, this far too overlooked sacrament, this anxious moment where we trust God enough to lay our soul wide open. It is then, as the Lord of Life, the Holy Spirit circumcises our heart with the power of God’s love, that all which hinders our life.
This is a ministry we all need, for we need the freedom that we find as Christ delivers us from sin and death, as He liberates us from the oppression that can so dominate our lives.
Luther makes it clear, that part of this ministry is too timid consciences, those that are unsure of God’s grace, those that are bruised and battered by their own lives, by their pasts, by the fear that they won’t be accepted by God, or by His people. That is no different today, as people will gradually talk to a pastor or priest, as if trying to see if the water is scalding or frigid, only to warm up and get to the heart of what troubles them.
They need our ministry, our time, out ears to hear their confessions, our mouths to say what they long to hear, our eyes and hearts to assure them that the forgiveness we speak, is not ours, but we speak it for Him.
Because this life-giving ministry was given to us.
To stand by their side, to encourage them to cry out to God, to cry out, “Lord, have mercy!”
And to know that He has had mercy… and will walk by their side in life.
(1) Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 312). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press
(2) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 644-647). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
8 If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. 9 But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.
1 John 1:8-10 (NLT)
Accept the sacrifice of my confessions from the ministry of my tongue, which Thou hast formed and stirred up to confess unto Thy name. Heal Thou all my bones, and let them say, O Lord, who is like unto Thee? For he who confesses to Thee doth not teach Thee what takes place within him; seeing a closed heart closes not out Thy eye, nor can man’s hard-heartedness thrust back Thy hand: for Thou dissolvest it at Thy will in pity or in vengeance, and nothing can hide itself from Thy heat. But let my soul praise Thee, that it may love Thee; and let it confess Thy own mercies to Thee, that it may praise Thee.
When God names himself after the self-understanding of faith he is not so much expressing his inner nature as making himself nameable; he is handing himself over to men in such a way that he can be called upon by them. And by doing this he enters into co-existence with them, he puts himself within their reach, he is “there” for them.
180 Because of his promise, because of Christ, God wishes to be favorably disposed to us and to justify us, not because of the law or our works: this promise we must always keep in view. In this promise timid consciences should seek reconciliation and justification, sustaining themselves with this promise and being sure that because of Christ and his promise they have a gracious God
As I worked through my devotional readings this morning (which you see some of, above), there seems to be a connection between two themes.
The first is the presence of God in our lives. That He revealed to us His name, not that we would misuse it, but so that we could use it, to call upon when we are in need when we have seen that need met.
The second is along the use of that name when we most dearly need it. When sin has broken our lives, and the lives of those we should love. When sin has damaged the incredible blessings, God has given and entrusted to us.
I think both St. John’s epistle and the blunt words of Augustine make it clear, we aren’t confessing what we successfully hidden from God. For nothing can be hidden from Him, and to pretend we can, is being foolish and ignorant. To pretend to be sinless, to ignore the things we have done, said or thought that result in a need of healing is not just a lie, but it results in great damage.
Instead, we need to confess, and in doing so, we praise God for being so gracious, for being merciful, for a love that overwhelms the wrath we deserve. Like the worship that we label lament, the worship of confession is beyond words that can express God’s glory. For in both lament and confession, we hope for that which is beyond our imagination.
God takes us, in all of our brokeness, in all of our despair, in the depth of human anguish, and lifts us, comforts us, heals us. As the Lutheran Confessions speak, God sustains those who timidly approach the throne, confident not in their own merit, but sustained by Jesus.
This has to be the message of the church. The hope that every believer, not just pastors, and priests, passes on to those around them, friend and foe, neighbor and refugee, family member and… well those family members. It transcends any moral issue, for all are immoral until they encounter the cross. It is the message found in every Bible, and it is our more precious vocation, that of children of God.
So come, confess your sins, yeah even those you wanted to excuse or argue aren’t sins. Stop trying to defend what you know is wrong. Hear you are forgiven, and rejoice. For the confession and the joy are praise to the Lord, who loves you more than you can know, and welcome you to explore every dimension of that love.
Never, ever, be afraid to cry out, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner!” For He has. AMEN!
Augustine, S., Bishop of Hippo. (1996). The Confessions of St. Augustine. (E. B. Pusey, Trans.). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 22). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (pp. 131–132). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.