Devotional Thought of the Day
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. 20 So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” 21 For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:18-21 (NLT)
669 The co-redeeming—eternal!—efficacy of our lives can only become real with humility, passing unnoticed, so that others can discover Him.
Recently, the president of the United States was reported to have commented with harsh language about several countries. There is no doubt the phrasing he used was wrong. But there is also no doubt that those countries, much like our own, are broken.
Sin does that, and in some places, the sin is more evident to us, and to others, our sin is much more evident than theirs.
But rather than focus on the brokenness, both those backing our president and those opposing out president focus n the words of the message. I would not say the reason they d this is conscious and deliberate, but in focusing on the President’s phrasing, they are able to forget about the real problems in those countries and our own.
The brokenness, the sin that dominates our culture, whether it is corruption, or theft, or murder.
We would rather get mad, or get defensive about the word order than doing something about it
And these places, (including the USA) continue in their brokenness. And very few do anything about the problems. Which, in and of itself, is just as sinful, just as corrupt, and just as wrong.
St Josemaria wrote about the humility required to become effective, to have a real meaning to our lives. He talks about it from the point of our not caring about the credit we could receive, but rather being satisfied with only one goal, seeing people see God’s love for them. It doesn’t matter if I am the man baptizing them, or whether it is my Catholic priest or Methodist pastor friend. It doesn’t matter if it is my sermon that opens someone eyes to God’s love, or someone else’s.
All that matters is that they know God’s love and mercy. As they do, they will be changed by God, and their little area of the world will be filled with less skubala. (that’s is crap in Greek)
But humility doesn’t start with not caring who gets the credit. If it does, it could just be a nice excuse for apathy, and not working in the ministry God gave us all, the ministry of pleading with people to be reconciled.
Humility is found in our own reconciliation, in realizing the crap that we’ve got ourselves into, and that on Christ can reconcile us with the Father. He saved us from our crappy life, full of sin, and cleaned us up, and gave us life. As he doesn’t in just about every country in this world.
And He does it through us, the people He reconciled.
He shares this incredible work with us and makes it happen.
As we simply point to the cross and the empty tomb and invite people to know that is all for them. For Christ would unity with them there, as He did with us.
This is our hope, this is our joy, this is who we are meant ot be, working with people to see their lives change, and then to rejoice and see that every day. This is what makes our lives and communities a little less crappy…. and will do the same for the world.
The love of God, the power of God that would reconcile everything back to Him.
So rejoice in what God has done and is doing in your life, and pray for those who need reconciliation, and as you can, plead with them to let God do what God does… and then rejoice some more, in awe that God does work, and works through you!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 2460-2462). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
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:
3 When I did not confess my sins, I was worn out from crying all day long. 4 Day and night you punished me, LORD; my strength was completely drained, as moisture is dried up by the summer heat. 5 Then I confessed my sins to you; I did not conceal my wrongdoings. I decided to confess them to you, and you forgave all my sins. Psalm 32:3-5 (TEV)
175 You are consumed by the desire to seal once more the self-dedication you made some time ago: remembering that you are a son of God and living like one too. Put your many weaknesses and infidelities in the Lord’s hands. For that is also the only way to lessen their weight.
In Paul’s teaching about the Lord’s Supper in Corinthians 11, he mentions the need for self-examination. To ake some time and think through our lives. to think about our sins, to realize the great need we have for God’s mercy and abundant love.
Most of us want to please God, we want to avoid sin and temptation, we want to do better. We understand all too well though the battle that rages on in our hearts and souls which the apostle Paul describes clearly in Romans 7 and then again in Hebrews 12. In the latter, he begs us to leave it all behind, this sin which so easily traps us.
Yet many of us are bothered by this idea of self-examination. We don’t want to see what we know is there, the resentment, the hatred, the lust, the greed and envy, the thirst for what benefits us, no matter what the cost. We don’t like looking int he mirror, and if we are “made” to, we act like we can clean up our mess. “Just give me another week, just be more patient, I will fix this,” we tell God.
We can’t, the burden will just get greater, the pressure more intense, the spiritual and emotional crushing pain will go on and it will either eat us up, or will cause us to become callous, and defensive.
With a little humility and some trust, this burden can be removed and in its place, we came know peace and joy, just as the Psalmist says. We can give to God our weaknesses, our infidelities, placing them in His hands, knowing He will deal with them, forgiving them, cleansing us, answering our prayers to lead us not to temptation, and deliver us from the evil one.
Free of the snares, your heart will be far less burdened, your mind at ease, knowing that what you really desire, to please the God who loves and saves you, is possible.
But you say, how can I do this? How can I take this step?
You aren’t alone in it, for the Shepherd of your soul, Jesus, has provided you and all the church those who can guide you through this, the pastors and priests who are tasked by God and the church with helping you with this, of hearing you confess, of counseling you through this, and then saying, on Jesus’s behalf (and by His command), “you are forgiven!”
Come, lay down your burdens, and lay down your pain. Let God deal with your sin, and let the Holy Spirit set you apart as one who is the child of God. Trust Him, He won’t turn you away, for this is what he wants for you. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 945-948). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
5 This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. 6 So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth. 7 But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin. 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 1:5-10 (NLT)
65 Once again you had gone back to your old follies!… And afterwards, when you returned, you didn’t feel very cheerful, because you lacked humility. It seems as if you obstinately refuse to learn from the second part of the parable of the prodigal son, and you still feel attached to the wretched happiness of the pig-swill. With your pride wounded by your weakness, you have not made up your mind to ask for pardon, and you have not realized that, if you humble yourself, the joyful welcome of your Father God awaits you, with a feast to mark your return and your new beginning.
The divine embrace: The appropriate image for biblical and ancient spirituality.
I once again find myself struggling with those I would term sinful, even, in my more cynical moments, evil. Some are in bondage to sin and struggle to realize it, even though all around them can see it. Others seem to revel in their evil, and they will go to great length to defend the sin that so dominates and controls them.
There are days I want to oppose them, to fight the evil. There are other days I simply want to walk away, leave them to their own consequences, to by my absence curse them to remain locked into their evil. It is tempting to want to remove myself from their crap, whether that crap is found in what we call a secular arena, or in one that is supposed to be sacred.
To even think that way reminds me that I am no different, for my sin can dominate me as easily, and as St Josemaria points out, my lack of humility conveniently assumes their sin is far worse than mine. My crap, or the pig slop that St Josemaria identifies, is no better than theirs, my desire to fight or flee is really more about my pride that it is about the distaste for their sin.
It is hard, not at this point to want to condemn myself as much as I would condemn them. Don’t I know better? Don’t I hear John’s words regularly about the reality that exists when I deny my own sin? Those questions run over and crush my heart and soul, for how will I be ever delivered from this life and its struggle with sin? Well, those are my thoughts deep in my heart until I encounter something in someone else that is sinful or evil. Then I forget all about self-condemnation to condemn the easy target.
The only way out of this is to encounter what Webber calls the “Divine Embrace”, the Prodigal’s Father who runs out to embrace his son, casting aside all dignity, all hurt from his son’s betrayal, to embrace Him.
We are that prodigal, God is that Father who embraces us! We are that sinner who can’t deny our sin but confesses it, and finds not only that sin forgiven, but our lives cleansed of all unrighteousness.
A cleansing that enables us to do more than finding others sins revolting, but to actually hurt for them, to beg God to deliver them, to help them. We may even find ourselves led and empowered by the Holy Spirit to reach out and minister to them, to be the agents through whom God reconciles them to Himself, and to His people. Then we will be blessed to witness that which St James about,
19 My friends, if any of you wander away from the truth and another one brings you back again, 20 remember this: whoever turns a sinner back from the wrong way will save that sinner’s soul from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins. James 5:19-20 (TEV)
May we all rejoice at being brought back, together.
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 490-495). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Webber, Robert E. The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006. Print. Ancient-Future Series.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
32 They know God’s justice requires that those who do these things deserve to die, yet they do them anyway. Worse yet, they encourage others to do them, too. Romans 1:32 (NLT)
1 Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. 2 Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. 3 If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important. Galatians 6:1-3 (NLT)
19 My dear brothers and sisters, if someone among you wanders away from the truth and is brought back, 20 you can be sure that whoever brings the sinner back will save that person from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins. James 5:19-20 (NLT)
We must indeed meekly bear with our friend in his imperfections, but we must not lead him into imperfections, much less imitate his imperfections ourselves. But I speak only of imperfections; for as to sins, we must neither occasion them, nor tolerate them in our friends. It is either a weak or a wicked friendship to behold our friend perish and not to help him; to see him die of an abscess, and not to dare to open it with a lancet of correction, to save his life.
I am preaching this weekend on Jesus’ direction to us to really love those around us, even our enemies. To be so committed to people that we won’t even consider what we sacrifice to help them. To be so dedicated to what is best for them, that we don’t look at the impact on us.
But before we get to loving our enemies, I need to consider whether I really love my friends, and those I claim to love.
Given the passages above, it is not as easy a question as I would like to think.
Do we love our friends enough to rescue them from sin? To bring them back when they wander away from the truth?
Are we willing to see the relationship deep enough to where they know our love and care enough to respond when we ask them to confront the demons that assail them and allow them to do the same for us?
Or will we ignore the sin that so easily takes us captive, the temptations that so distract us from the presence and grace of God? Will we even let our friends think we approve of their sin? ( or will we simply abandon them in their sin?)
I think, more than we want to admit, that we need to repent, so that we can encourage their repentance.
So that we can hear the answer, together, to our cry,
“Lord,, have mercy on us, for we have sinned, and need your healing touch.”
Francis de Sales, Saint. An Introduction to the Devout Life. Dublin: M. H. Gill and Son, 1885. Print.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
9 For this reason we have always prayed for you, ever since we heard about you. We ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will, with all the wisdom and understanding that his Spirit gives. 10 Then you will be able to live as the Lord wants and will always do what pleases him. Your lives will produce all kinds of good deeds, and you will grow in your knowledge of God. 11 May you be made strong with all the strength which comes from his glorious power, so that you may be able to endure everything with patience. And with joy give thanks to the Father, who has made you fit to have your share of what God has reserved for his people in the kingdom of light. 13 He rescued us from the power of darkness and brought us safe into the kingdom of his dear Son, 14 by whom we are set free, that is, our sins are forgiven.
Colossians 1:9-14 (TEV)
780 Deo Omnis Gloria—“All glory to God.” It is an emphatic confession of our nothingness. He, Jesus, is everything. We, without him, are worth nothing: Nothing. Our vainglory would be just that: vain glory; it would be sacrilegious theft; the “I” should not appear anywhere.
A question arose as I came across these readings this morning.
Do we please God?
The question began to transform a little, first int this,
DO we care about pleasing God?
and then it hit home,
Have I taught my people about what pleases God? Have we, as pastors and leaders int he church equipped our people, not just the the knowledge, but the ability and the desire to please God?
Do we, as Paul did for the church in Colossae and others, pray for this for them?
Or has God’s pleasure, what pleases Him, fallen off of the church’s radar?
Have our words praised and glorified God, but our actions and thoughts forgotten what pleases Him, what He desires?
From my Lutheran perspective, we fight so hard against the teaching of works meriting salvation that we shy away from teaching that we should please God after our baptism. We are afraid our people can’t understand the difference, that they will deliberately misunderstand. It sounds like a good justification at first, but it is a poor excuse.
We know what pleases God, all you have to do is read the last 6 chapters of Isaiah and see it over and over. Or hear the parable of the prodigal son or the Good Samaritan. We know about God finding the treasure in the field, and giving His Son to purchase it, and the joy in heaven over one sinner transformed. There we find His will, that none should perish, that all should come home.
Yet we don’t do this work alone, it is His will, His desire, and we receive the strength from His glorious power.
That is why He gets all the glory, as we live as He wants, as He revealed. We live reconciled to Him, and we grow in desire to do what pleases Him, lifting high His cross, seeing people drawn to His mercy, into His grace! And as we do, we come to know Him better, to rely on Him more.
Lord, help us, those you have tasked with shepherding your people, to reveal your love and mercy to them. Help us to pray for them, that they too would understand your will, and as they grow to respond to Your love, to do that which brings You great pleasure. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1802-1804). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
17 He then taught the people: “It is written in the Scriptures that God said, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer for the people of all nations.’ But you have turned it into a hideout for thieves!” Mark 11:16-17 TEV
I will bring them to my holy mountain of Jerusalem and will fill them with joy in my house of prayer. I will accept their burnt offerings and sacrifices, because my Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations. 8 For the Sovereign LORD, who brings back the outcasts of Israel, says: I will bring others, too, besides my people Israel.”
Isaiah 56:7-8 (NLT)
Thus confession of sin is a sovereign remedy against sin itself. Contrition and confession are so precious, and have so sweet an odour, that they deface the ugliness and destroy the infection of sin. Simon the Pharisee pronounced St. Mary Magdalen a sinner; but our Saviour denied it, and speaks of nothing but of the sweet perfumes she poured on Him, and of the greatness of her charity. If we be truly humble, Philothea, our sins will infinitely displease us, because God is offended by them; but the confession of our sins will be sweet and pleasant to us, because God is honored thereby. It is a kind of consolation to us to inform the physician correctly of the disease that torments us.
As I grew up, I preferred walking into St Francis rather than St Joes, and definitely St Basil’s over Mary Queen of Peace or the Formation Center in Andover.
Not because of the priests, or because the masses were better, or because of the music was more to my liking. It wasn’t that at all. I loved the stillness, the quietness, the ability to sit and kneel before the cross, to think about the Eucharist (the Lord’s Supper) that we would receive, to just find peace, there in the presence of God.
The other churches were much more friendly, much more interested in you. Those churches were full and had lots of activities. But as I went into the church, I didn’t have the time, or so I thought, to settle in, to hear the silence, to be in awe of God.
Even today, as I pastor a church without a sizeable narthex, I enter the church just before service, bow at the altar, move over to the musicians, and try to catch my breath, and long for 10-15 minutes of silence. ( as much as I love our worship music, I love our quiet communion in our midweek Advent services…)
As I read the scriptures this morning and considered what it meant to be a house of prayer, I thought for a moment and wondered if they truly are….
Our churches need to be places of prayer, whether silent or sobbing, full of joy and excitement as we come to our Father and share with Him our lives. There are many forms and ways of prayer, each has their own time and place. But when scripture is talking about the church, or the Temple being a house, a home of prayer, it has something specific in mind.
Something our churches today need to be that we must be, if we are going to make a difference in our people’s lives. Whether the church is a place where 20 people gather in a storefront, or a cathedral where thousands pray.
We need to realize what that means to have a house of prayer to go to, what Isaiah is hinting at (as Mark cites him,) as he talks of sacrifices and offerings being acceptable again.
What Solomon mentioned, as God dedicates the temple by being present, and listening as Solomon prayer,
19 Nevertheless, listen to my prayer and my plea, O LORD my God. Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is making to you. 20 May you watch over this Temple day and night, this place where you have said you would put your name. May you always hear the prayers I make toward this place. 21 May you hear the humble and earnest requests from me and your people Israel when we pray toward this place. Yes, hear us from heaven where you live, and when you hear, forgive. 2 Chronicles 6:19-21 (NLT)
If our churches are to be a place of prayer, then they need to be a place where we give God every burden we have, especially the burdens of guilt and shame, the weight that is added to the sin that we commit.
This is the prayer the temple and the church are set apart to facilitate, to make the prodigal (whether they realize they are one or not) welcome home, to dress them up again,, to help them realize they are part of the family. The ministry of reconciliation; as the incredible love of God is revealed to those who are broken. As they hear, “you, child of God, are forgiven and restored.”
By the way, this isn’t a Sunday morning thing, this should be anytime you need it, the chance to go and sit in the quiet with God, to talk to a pastor, to hear of God’s love, to leave those burdens at the altar, to walk away with your hunger for righteousness sated, to know you are loved.
That’s what it means to have a church that is a house or prayer….
May our churches be houses of prayer… may our shepherds help us pray, be relieved and overjoyed as we find out He hears us and forgives.
Francis de Sales, Saint. An Introduction to the Devout Life. Dublin: M. H. Gill and Son, 1885. Print.
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)
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.