Devotional Thought of the Day”
John 20:21-23 (NLT) 21 Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” 22 Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
James 5:14-16 (NLT) 14 Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord. 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.
Article XI Of Confession they teach that Private Absolution ought to be retained in the churches, although in confession an enumeration of all sins is not necessary. For it is impossible according to the Psalm: Who can understand his errors? Psalms 19:12.(2)
45 You wrote to tell me that you have at last gone to confession and that you experienced the humiliation of having to open the sewer—that is what you say—of your life to “a man”. When will you get rid of that feeling of vain self-esteem? You will then go to confession extremely happy to show yourself as you are to “that man”, who, being anointed, is a Christ—Christ himself—and gives you absolution, God’s forgiveness. (2)
In the Church History class I am teaching, we talked a significant time about the third quote above. We were dealing with some of the issues at the dawn of what some call the Reformation.
Back then, people in the Roman Catholic Church, and in the Evangelical Church (what we now call Lutheran) understood the Sacrament of Reconciliation’s importance in the life of the believer, in the life on one who knows and follows Jesus. Melancthon, in writing the Augsburg Confession, was brief and short in Article XI. Private Confession and Absolution should never fall into disuse. it must be retained. Not because it is easy, not because pastors and priests just love to hear of the dark parts of your life. But because the result of having heard your struggle, we can assure you that you are forgiven. We assure you that God hasn’t abandoned you, that you are still His children, still loved, and that He is faithful to you.
That assurance is needed, it eliminates much of what troubles us, much of what causes us anxiety, the guilt and shame that stresses us out, and robs us of peace. To hear that God is committed to forgive you, to heal your brokenness. For as St Josemarie speaks of, though it is a brother in Christ, a fellow sinner (for all clergy still struggle with sin, from popes and mega-church pastors, to common priests and pastors in ordinary places) we speak for Him, in His stead, by His command. For that is why we are sent, that is our mission, our apostolate, the good news we preach – you who have been granted repentance, are forgiven in Christ.
You need this, and those around you need this – for the peace you know, having been assured that God will restore us in Christ. Having been assured of that, our relationships change. We find ourselves more patient, more willing to forgive, desiring reconciliation.
We find ourselves in the presence of God, in His peace, we find His rest….
A blessing that changes everything. …..
It is no wonder that Luther, and Melanchthon, and so many others throughout the church’s history talked of our need for this gift, this time……to hear of the depth of God’s love…for us.
(1) — Augsberg Confession, The
(2) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 415-420). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
In this month, as Lutherans celebrate the 495th anniversary of the start of the reformation, it is good to read this, coming from our brothers in the Roman Catholic Church:
“The upcoming Year of Faith is a “summons to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the One Savior of the world” (Porta Fidei 6). In other words, the Year of Faith is an opportunity for Catholics to experience a conversion – to turn back to Jesus and enter into a deeper relationship with him. The “door of faith” is opened at one’s baptism, but during this year Catholics are called to open it again, walk through it and rediscover and renew their relationship with Christ and his Church.” (from the USCCB website)