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The Limit of a Pastor’s (or Priest’s) Authority…


20170124_103703Devotional Thought of the Day:
28  When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29  for he taught with real authority—quite unlike their teachers of religious law. Matthew 7:28-29 (NLT)

14  When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, 15  the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. 16  I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17  Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18  And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Ephesians 3:14-19 (NLT)

Confession has two parts:
First, a person admits his sin
Second, a person receives absolution or forgiveness from the confessor, as if from God Himself, without doubting it, but believing firmly that his sins are forgiven by God in Heaven through it.

The pastoral work of our parishes should involve reflection, logistics, planning, etc., but only in order to dedicate more quality time to the important task: works of charity.

Thus he discoursed gravely and paternally; in default of examples, he invented parables, going directly to the point, with few phrases and many images, which characteristic formed the real eloquence of Jesus Christ. And being convinced himself, he was persuasive.

The other day a lady from our community called me and asked if we helped people other than Christians. I replied that we do, and then she proceeded to describe needs that couldn’t be met by a church 50 times larger than the one I pastor.  But she demanded that I demand my people to meet the need she had. 

She said I had the authority to do so… and was disappointed and angry that I couldn’t. 

But it got me thinking about the church and the authority it invests in those that it calls pastors, or ministers, or priests. 

I think the perfect portrayal of a pastor is found, not in theology books, but in the priest/bishop described in blue above.  The quote is from Les Miserables, and the Bishop is the one who forgives the sins of Jean Valjean, giving him the silver he stole.  He talked directly, and with authority, the authority that is proper for one in ministry, the authority to be merciful, the authority to reconcile, the authority that is persuasive, because the pastor is convinced himself.

Not of his authority, for that is simply delegated.  

We are (or we should be) convinced of God’s mercy toward us.  We need to be convinced that though we can never fully understand His love, we can experience it, and lead people to experience His love. The authority is seen most clearly when we realize that we are the ones who have been forgiven, we are the ones who God has saved from the brokenness we chose. 

It is that conviction that leads us to wield the authority we are delegated, the authority to pour out the grace of God upon broken people, assuring them of the healing of God found as He cleanses them of their sin.   We can speak for God about this, in fact, we must speak for God in this way.  For He commands it.  

This is our vocation, this is our call.  Somewhere along the line, we picked up other hats, other roles, especially administrative ones, but our only God-given role is that we are overseers and caretakers of souls.  Mercy is what we’ve been authorized to distribute.  Love as well, for in reality, they are the same thing.  Or to use the word that combines them, charity.   The more we can delegate the other stuff, the more time we spend doing what we are called to do, the more the church will come alive, as is it freed from the sin which so ensnares us.

If you are a pastor/priest, find ways to preach and teach God’s word, revealing to people God’s love, and administer the sacraments as often and faithfully as you can.   If you are not, turn to your pastor/priest for such care often, and do what you can to free him up to use this special gift to bless others.

And at all times, praise God for providing this minsitry of reconciliaiton ot us all! 


Luther’s Small Catechism: Developed and Explained.

Pope Francis. A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. Ed. Alberto Rossa. New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013. Print.

Hugo, Victor. Les Misérables (English language) (Kindle Locations 438-439). Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition.

It’s Time to Get Up, and Know you are Free from Sin!

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.

Can we take sin seriously, that we may rejoice in being forgiven of it?

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!

Luther Bible, 1534

Luther Bible, 1534 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)







(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.


The Sacrament of Confession & Absolution/Reconciliation: Finding the Freedom from Masks the Suffocate Us…

Discussion thought of the day:

In our Bible Study last night – we talked of a description of some religious leaders in Israel’s history who “whitewashed” that which was being built, before it was completed.  They made it look pretty and nice and completed.  The problem, they whitewashed everything without checking to make sure the job was done write.  In our Bible Study this morning, ( a different group) we were in Hebrews 6, where it talks about the difference between believers and others, one produced a crop that was a blessing, the other produced thistles and thorns (my paraphrase – roses) that might have nice flowers and an incredible smell, but were not just inedible, but would actually injure a person.

At the end of devotions today, I came across this quote:   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! (1)

It is one of the mysteries of life why we hide that which needs healing, and why that which is broken we cover.  Having a five year old – it seems that this isn’t something we learn, but something that is part of our DNA. We don’t like going to doctors or dentists or auto-repair shops or having our houses or workplaces inspected, never mind having a review done.  And in hiding the the broken in us that needs healing,, we must hide our hearts, our souls, we must cover them, and put on a mask that has a bright smile.  That mask can, and does suffocate us, the false front we have to put up will slowly cause us to fade out, to expire.

The answer is simple – in Ezekiel – God will tear down the walls, or as St. Josemarie describes it – “laying open your soul”.  St Peter talks of this as the Holy Spirit cutting their hearts open.  For surely the strength to be honest and to deal with sin comes not from our internal instinct.  We would continue to hide, to continue to pretend we are okay, covering up our brokenness with false smiles and quick, “I’m fine”.

The answer seems painful, it may cause anxiety the first dozen plus times, yet.. the freedom of letting those things be dealt with by God is amazing, it is wondrous, it breaks bondage and washes away anxiety and drives away the darkness, leaves us knowing God’s peace. To hear the words, yes, God forgives you your sin, you are cleansed, you are healed – to know that what was broken – God has put back together.  If it seems to good to be true – remember this is God’s desire, as St Peter tells us:

3:9 The Lord is not being slow in carrying out his promises, as some people think he is; rather is he being patient with you, wanting nobody to be lost and everybody to be brought to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9 (NJB)

and as St John tells us, it is His promise

” If we say, ‘We have no sin,’ we are deceiving ourselves, and truth has no place in us; 9 if we acknowledge our sins, he is trustworthy and upright, so that he will forgive our sins and will cleanse us from all evil.”  1 John 1:8-9 (NJB)

and one more promise for good measure, from St. James:

5:16 So then, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you will be healed. The prayer of a good person has a powerful effect. James 5:16 (TEV)

So open your lives, find a pastor ( I know where one is waiting in Cerritos) or a priest- and hear for yourself – regarding those sins you don’t even want to admit to your self – that they are forgiven.

Lord have mercy, and show us that we can open up out hearts – that the mercy will cause us great joy!


(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 644-647). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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