Lenten Midweek V
March 28, 2012
Text: Psalm 143; Catechism: Which [sins] are these?
Christians should confess their sins to God and be absolved, forgiven on account of the blood and death of Jesus Christ. That has been the point of our Lenten midweek series dealing with God’s gift of forgiveness. As we noted, this happens in a general way at the beginning of each Divine Service. But we also have this wonderful gift of Individual Confession and Absolution wherein we can confess our specific sins to God and hear from our pastor that those sins we have just confessed, along with every other sin, are forgiven in the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. As I said, you can look at this rite for yourself on p. 292 of your hymnal, and you can come to me to make use of this gift any time.
Such confession of sins necessarily requires a little bit of self-examination. Because there is built right into the script of Individual Confession and Absolution an opportunity for you to confess the sins you know and feel in your heart, whatever sins particularly trouble you. There are a few words in this liturgy that you have to come up with on your own, namely, the sins you desire to name before God. So Luther asks in the Small Catechism, “Which [sins] are these?” Again, I invite you to turn to the inside front cover of your bulletin and recite this with me… “Consider your place in life according to the Ten Commandments: Are you a father, mother, son, daughter, husband, wife, or worker? Have you been disobedient, unfaithful, or lazy? Have you been hot-tempered, rude, or quarrelsome? Have you hurt someone by your words or deeds? Have you stolen, been negligent, wasted anything, or done any harm?”
Notice that in the tool Dr. Luther gives us here to examine our lives, he doesn’t list what we might consider particularly “big sins.” Of course, those we would want to confess, too. But here he lists the sins we all commit in our daily lives and vocations. Consider your place in life. Consider the relationships God has placed you in to love and serve others. Consider the tasks your Lord has given you to do. How have you been unfaithful in those relationships? How have you been negligent or lazy in those tasks? Have you spoken sharply to your spouse? Have you gone looking for a quarrel? Have you been rude? Have you disrespected your parents? “Have you picked a verbal fight with a co-worker or friend because you didn’t get your way? Have you hurt others by your words or deeds? Have you stolen from your employer by not working as you should? Have you wasted the gifts God has given you? Have you stolen from God by not giving to the Church?” Repent. Confess those sins. And believe the Word God speaks to you through your pastor, that all your sins have been forgiven in Christ Jesus, your Savior.
The devil would love to convince you that the sins we’re talking about here aren’t really sins, or at least that they’re small potatoes compared to the really big sins of other sinners. Or, if he can’t convince you of that, then he’ll try to convince you that your sins are SO big that they can’t possibly be forgiven, that Jesus’ blood cannot cover them. Either way, it’s a lie. And the devil uses such lies against you so that he can rob you of your faith in Jesus Christ and your longing for forgiveness by His death and resurrection. King David understood this. King David writes of the devil in our Psalm this evening, Psalm 143, “For the enemy has pursued my soul” (v. 3; ESV). He pursues your soul by these lies. And the last thing he wants is for you to confess your sins and be forgiven in Holy Absolution. He hates that. Because that means that not only are you aware of the seriousness of your sin, that it separates you from God and damns you, but you also know that you have a Savior, Jesus Christ, who died for you and is risen from the dead for you and pronounces your forgiveness through the lips of your pastor. David prays that in spite of the devil, God would make him know the way he should go, that God would teach him to do His will: “Teach me to do your will, for you are my God! Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground!” (v. 10). What is the will of God? Jesus says: “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:40).
So consider your place in life according to the Ten Commandments, and then tell the truth to God about who you are and what you’ve done. It’s not as though He doesn’t already know. You’re confessing for your sake, so that you face the truth. And then know this: God will deal truly with you. He will speak the truth to you. Your sins have been blotted out. They have been erased by Jesus’ blood. You are absolved. You are free. Believe it. It is yours. God cannot lie. The big sins, the small sins, all your sins, the very corruption of your nature, dear sinner, all forgiven for Jesus’ sake. And what this does is it frees you to go love and serve your neighbor in your vocations without the threats of the Law and the accusations of the devil. Just go love and serve for the joy of it. For God has declared you righteous for the sake of His Son. And His Word is final. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
 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).
 Luther's Small Catechism (St. Louis: Concordia, 1986).
 Quotation from the sample sermon in God's Gift of Forgiveness.