Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Lenten Midweek IV

Lenten Midweek IV: “But You, O Lord, Are Enthroned Forever”[1]


March 21, 2012

Text: Psalm 102; Catechism: What sins should we confess?

Confession can be a scary thing. Confessing your sins makes you vulnerable. You may even find it embarrassing. You admit to God, to yourself, to you pastor, what all of the above already know about you: You are not perfect. Far from it. You don’t have it all together. You are not righteous. You’re a mess. You are a sinner, full of actual sins, sins that are very real. To confess your sins is to speak them aloud, to stare them in the face, and to give them all up to God to be dealt with in Christ.

This is so important, because sin separates you from God. Just as your sins against other people separate you from them, driving a wedge between friends and family, breaking relationships, so your sin separates your from God. And that is the definition of hell. It is separation from God. It is separation from the One who alone is good and is the source of all good. Sin separates you from God, and only God can do something about that. That is why He sent His Son to die for you. For God cannot simply overlook sin. Not if He is just. God cannot simply sweep sin under the rug. The holy Law of God is clear. Sin must be dealt with. Sin must be punished. Out of great love for you, at just the right time, God sent forth His Son, to be born of a woman, born under the Law to redeem those who are under the Law (Gal. 4:4-5) by His innocent suffering and death. He was punished for you. He was separated from God for you, in your place, when He cried out from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34; ESV). There, in the sinless Son of God, your debt for sin was paid in full. And now you have the invitation: Confess your sins and be forgiven as God, in Holy Absolution, applies all the benefits of our Lord Jesus Christ’s suffering and death to you, covering your sin with His blood, and raising you to new life in Him.

The Psalmist prays: “Do not hide your face from me in the day of my distress! Incline your ear to me; answer me speedily in the day when I call” (Ps. 102:2). When you repent of your sins, when you confess them and ask for forgiveness, your God does not hide His face. He assuredly inclines His ear. And just to make sure you understand that He is listening, He has ordained your pastor’s ear to be the receptacle of your confession. Your pastor’s ear is the tomb of your sins. Though Christ is risen, and you, too, will rise on the Last Day, your sins can never be resurrected from that grave. Your pastor is never to speak of those sins to anyone. You haven’t told them to your pastor, you’ve told them to your God. Nor will even God bring up those sins on Judgment Day. He has buried them forever, separated them from you as far as the east is from the west (Ps. 103:12). Because He doesn’t just listen to you. He speaks. He speaks His Almighty Word, which always accomplishes what it says. He has ordained your pastor’s mouth to speak His Word: “I forgive you all your sins, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.” He is not silent. He answers you speedily in the day when you call. By His Word, your God obliterates your sin and guilt.

So, when your sins trouble you, run to Confession beloved, to be absolved by the power of God’s Almighty Word. What sins should we confess? Luther answers this in the Small Catechism, and again I invite you to recite this with me as printed on the inside front cover of your bulletin: “Before God we should plead guilty of all sins, even those we are not aware of, as we do in the Lord’s Prayer; but before the pastor we should confess only those sins which we know and feel in our hearts.”[2] It is impossible to enumerate every sin you’ve ever committed. Nowhere does Scripture require this of you. Otherwise Confession would be a torture. Before God you should plead guilty of all sins, even those you are not aware of. You do this each day as you pray the Lord’s Prayer, “Forgive us our trespasses.” You also do this in the general Confession at the beginning of each Divine Service. You know that because you daily sin much, you are not aware of most of your sins. So you confess that to God. He knows every little sin of which you are guilty. And He forgives you those sins on account of Christ. Individual Confession and Absolution is not about the enumeration of every sin you’ve committed since you last confessed. Individual Confession and Absolution is about confessing those sins that particularly trouble you. The Psalmist prays in our Psalm tonight about sins that trouble him deeply. “I forget to eat my bread,” he says (Ps. 102:4). “I lie awake; I am like a lonely sparrow on the housetop” (v. 7). The Psalmist is keenly aware of his guilt before God. He knows that his sins have separated him from God. His heart is troubled. He has lost his appetite. He can’t sleep. He repents: “For I eat ashes like bread and mingle tears with my drink” (v. 9). But then he remembers: God is still God! He is gracious and merciful! “But you, O LORD, are enthroned forever… you will arise and have pity on Zion” (vv. 12, 13). He runs to God for forgiveness and life. He confesses his sins and is absolved.

That is what you do when you are troubled by your sins. You run to God. You confess those sins that you know and feel in your heart. And you hear God’s Word of Absolution and cling to it in faith, for God cannot lie. He gave His Son into death to win that Absolution for you. “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32), including the forgiveness of sins and eternal life.

So don’t be scared, beloved. Don’t be embarrassed. You, your pastor, and God all already know that you are sinful. And there is no condemnation for those who confess. There is only forgiveness. For God has promised it. And He cannot break His promises. Rejoice! The LORD hears your pleas for mercy. He sent His Son. He sends His Word. You will not die, but live. Because you are forgiven. And God loves you with an everlasting love. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

[1] The theme and many of the points made in this year’s Lenten series are from God’s Gift of Forgiveness (St. Louis: Concordia, 2011).

[1] Luther’s Small Catechism (St. Louis: Concordia, 1986). 

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