Devotional Thought of the Day:
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 1:7-10 (NLT)
15 Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven. 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 5:15-16 (NLT)
25 He shows a great deal of enthusiasm and understanding. But when he realises that it refers to him, and that it is he who has to contribute in earnest, he slinks away like a coward. It reminds me of those who, during moments of grave danger, used to shout with false courage: War! War! But they did not want to give any money or to enrol to defend their country. (1)
In a number of conversations this week, people have had to deal with sin.
In one case, a young man tried to convince me that he is the first since Jesus to completely live without sin, to live the perfect life. In several others, this being Lent and all, we’ve talked about calling people to repentance.
Like the man in St. Josemaria’s quote, everything changes when it comes to dealing with our sin, with our personal challenges, with our….gulp…. sin.
Take on the sin of the world in your sermons pastor – just don’t hit me with mine. That’s right, go after the Fred Phelps, the homosexuals, those who are addicted to porn (well the hard stuff) those that fornicate outside of marriage – get them! Take on those politicians. Warn them all about hell!
My resentments? My lack of forgiving others,My inability to live at peace with those around me, my inability to love as I want to be loved? My anger issues, my self-defensive mechanisms? That just small stuff pastor, There are bigger sinners to fry.
We struggle with sin,OUR sin. We deal with it, much like we deal with death, or any issue where we find ourselves grieved….
We DENY it… we claim it isn’t sin, even though we know it is.
We BARGAIN – we want to make it seem less destructive. less of a sin than others sin…
We get DEPRESSED…. – we wonder if we would ever get past win the one that haunts us, the one we can’t overcome!
We get ANGRY… especially if someone questions us, or compares our sin to murder or adultery or gossip…
We ACCEPT it… we just give up – and continue letting sin dominate us, letting it rule over us, letting it wreck our lives, steal our peace, drive us nuts……..
Unless, in accepting it, we do what God tells us to do, to lay it at His feet. To let Him bring us healing, to allow those He has brought into our lives, to shepherd us through the dark times. We learn to accept our brokenness, not in despair, but because in doing so, in admitting it, confessing it, we can hear His voice, “Do not be afraid, do not be anxious…” When we, like the woman at the well, hear that God has sent us the Messiah, the Lord who will care for us, love us, cleanse us. When we hear like the man let down through the roof by his friends, and by the man at the pool, “your sins are forgiven.”
When like Peter along the lake, we realize what Jesus is asking, when we are more aware of our failures than His presence isn’t whether He knows whether we love Him, it is whether we know it….
Sin? Struggling with it isn’t in our job description. It’s above our pay grade… it is what Jesus did.
So don’t hide it, or minimize it, or despair over it, or get angry when you pastor meddles with it….
Let God deliver you from it, heal and restore you, and remind you that you are His Child, and He is your Loving Father.
Hear Him as He answers your cry, “Lord, have mercy!”
Come, confess your sins, and know He is faithful, they are forgiven, you are cleanse of all unrighteousness. AMEN!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 336-339). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
8 If we claim that we’re free of sin, we’re only fooling ourselves. A claim like that is errant nonsense. 9 On the other hand, if we admit our sins—make a clean breast of them—he won’t let us down; he’ll be true to himself. He’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing. 1 John 1:8-9 (MSG)
16 Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with. James 5:16 (MSG)
22 Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive people’s sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” John 20:22-23 (TEV)
The priest mentioned the sacrament of confession. That was new to me. The confessional in our parish church had been transformed into a storage room for buckets and brooms. I had always thought that confession had been abolished in the sixties. That evening, I asked the Carmelite sister about it. “On the contrary,” she said. “Confession has not been abolished at all. It’s one of the most beautiful sacraments there is!” “So… um… how does it work?” I asked. “Do you just tell the priest all your sins, and that’s it?” “It isn’t just about listing your sins,” she answered. “Confession is first and foremost an encounter with Christ. He loves you more than you know, and when you truly meet him, you start to discover what in your life stands in the way of that love. So you entrust all those obstacles to his mercy, and he takes them away.” “If that’s the case, I would love to go to confession,” I said. After all, I did like Jesus. I also knew that there were many things in my life that still needed to change to be able to deepen my friendship with him. “Just go see the priest, and ask him to help you. He will guide you through it. Don’t worry about a thing.” That evening, I made my first confession. The priest was friendly and listened to me with his eyes closed, as if praying. I do not recall what he said to me afterward, but I do remember vividly the moment he stretched out his hand and told me my sins had been forgiven. It was as if a ton of bricks just had been zapped to another dimension. I felt like I was walking on air— I was so light, so relieved, so incredibly happy. That night, I hardly slept. I felt overwhelmed by God’s love for me. My doubts had vanished. I didn’t just believe in God on an intellectual level— I sensed that I had just met him personally. (1)
As I was reading this book, I came across the above passage, and though a little long, it talks so well of something so needed. There are too many of us dealing with the repurcussions of sin, the guilt and shame from doing what we know we shouldn’t. The confusion we get when the games we play to avoid that shame come crashing down, and even the stress caused by the way we react to others sinning against us.
Roman Catholics call it the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we use a more common term, Private Confession and Absolution. Basically, whether very formal at the altar, or in my office, someone comes in, and shares about the guilt they feel, or some area where they know they’ve done wrong. As this happens, it is awkward, both for the person coming to me and for me. We talk, the person and I and God, and then a time as precious as we get occurs.
But I love Fr. Roderick’s description of what Lutherans call Private Confession above (see the 5th section of Luther’s Small Catechism) …and what Catholics call The Sacrament of Reconciliation (or commonly Confessin) that I had to share it. For even with our differences in our practice and application of this, the effect is the same. As God and the person and the pastor/priest are talking through the sins that afflct them, there is some holy and sacred and freeing that happens. As a pastor I see the burdens lifted, when I get to pronounce them free of the chains by wihich sin oppresses them. There is a great sense of joy and freedom. It’s hard to describe, either from the point of view of the person confessing, or as the pastor (and I think priests feel the same way) who speaks forgiveness as God has commanded us to speak. Even though I don’t get to serve people this way as often as they need. need,
Let’s face it, we all have a past, and we all still live in the present. We deal with sin daily, our own, the sins of those close to us, the sins of generations passed, as the divisions they cause impact our lives still. Too often, rather than obeying God and giving these heavy, heavy burdens to Him, we bury them and stew over them. The anxiety, confusion and grief burdens us more, divides us from others more, and can crush us…
If you are in that situaiton, I beg you, on God’s behalf, let God reconcile you to Himself. (2 Cor. 5:20) Come to one of us, those who know God’s forgiveness. With the Catholic Church and with some Lutheran churches- they often post times the priest/pastor sets aside for this. Others of us have an open policy – just call, drop in and let us know you need the peace and rest this sacrament brings. You will not be imposing… matter of fact, you will make our day. Don’t worry about us being shocked – St Paul has a good point when he says if God can save us, you guys are a peace of cake!
Dump that guilt and shame, be rid of that burden of grief, trust God as His word! And realize the depth of Christ’s love for you, that He would restore you and show you His love.
Vonhögen, Roderick (2013-09-09). Geekpriest: Confessions of a New Media Pioneer (Kindle Locations 658-674). Franciscan Media. Kindle Edition.
Devotional?Discussion Thought of the Day:
1 That is why we must hold on all the more firmly to the truths we have heard, so that we will not be carried away. 2 The message given to our ancestors by the angels was shown to be true, and those who did not follow it or obey it received the punishment they deserved. 3 How, then, shall we escape if we pay no attention to such a great salvation? The Lord himself first announced this salvation, and those who heard him proved to us that it is true. 4 At the same time God added his witness to theirs by performing all kinds of miracles and wonders and by distributing the gifts of the Holy Spirit according to his will. Hebrews 2:1-4 (TEV)
Domine!—“Lord!” Si vis, potes me mundare.—“If you will, you can make me clean.” What a beautiful prayer for you to say often, with the faith of the poor leper, when there happens to you what God and you and I know may happen. You won’t have to wait long to hear the Master’s reply: Volo, mundare!—“I will! Be made clean!” (1)
In Sunday’s sermon and in Sunday School where we took the passage a bit deeper – we heard Solomon’s words about prayer – and the primary use of the temple. It was that God would hear the words of believers (and unbelievers – but a different answer there) and when He hears them….
We talked of how powerful that forgiveness was – that as Christians we need the assurance that God will not abandon our souls in sin, that He will forgive, that He will call us back, that His desire is to be with us.
Yet it is amazing, how like little kids, we can’t take that forgiveness seriously, we don’t rejoice in absolution like we should. We ( and I mean the church – Lutheran, Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox ) don’t take advantage of private confession anymore – something Luther saw coming and dreaded!
The reason is, I believe, that we don’t take sin seriously anymore. We make take this sin or that seriously (watch the explosion over the recent election of a practicing homosexual in the ELCA as a BIshop) but will we take our own sins, the ones we commit, seriously. Or will we like act like little children and say,
1. “I didn’t know!” Somehow thinking that if we claim ignorance, we will be justified. Or
2. “It’s not fair/right” Somehow we think of God as some great kill-joy, a God who takes pleasure in making sure we don’t enjoy life, or get what “we need” from it.
3. “It’s their fault” How often do we try to find someone else to blame, some other sin that is worse, some other thing that would distract God from our sin, so that we could continue to enjoy it.
Why not just go – yeah – I sinned – and God please – please forgive me….
And hear His love pour out through the words, “Yes my child….”
Can’t we just cry out as St. Josemaria encourages us to pray, “Lord, make me clean!” and trust in His answer… “I will – be made clean!”
What joy there would be, if we took sin seriously – that we might hear that we are forgiven!
So my friends – no matter what the sin, (see the list below (2) let us rush to our Father, asking Him to revive and restore us in faith! If you struggle – even if you don’t – run to your pastor, your priest – and cofness your sins… and find yourselves healed. And then rejoice – like there is a tomorrow – walking always with God!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 463-466). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
(2) Romans 1:24-32 (NLT) 24 So God abandoned them to do whatever shameful things their hearts desired. As a result, they did vile and degrading things with each other’s bodies. 25 They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself, who is worthy of eternal praise! Amen. 26 That is why God abandoned them to their shameful desires. Even the women turned against the natural way to have sex and instead indulged in sex with each other. 27 And the men, instead of having normal sexual relations with women, burned with lust for each other. Men did shameful things with other men, and as a result of this sin, they suffered within themselves the penalty they deserved. 28 Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, he abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done. 29 Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip. 30 They are backstabbers, haters of God, insolent, proud, and boastful. They invent new ways of sinning, and they disobey their parents. 31 They refuse to understand, break their promises, are heartless, and have no mercy. 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.