May 6 Sixth Sunday of Easter
Acts 10:34–48, Psalm 98, 1 John 5:1–8, John 15:9–17
The pastor walked up the aisle, stopped before going up the platforms to the alter, turned to the congregation and said, ‘Let us confess our sins.’ He turned to the front and started with the familiar words: ‘I confess unto you that I am . . . ‘ The congregation followed. At the end he turned to the congregation, stepped next to a man along the aisle and said “It’s okay”, went a bit farther down and stopped at a lady on the pulpit side and said “don’t worry about it”, went a little farther down and stopped at someone else “don’t give it a second thought”, and ended at another parishioner saying “I forgive you, I just don’t want anything to do with you anymore.”
The pastor walked to the front, turned, and replied “Isn’t that what we say to others?”
Now to his credit, the pastor had not gone into the altar area at all – purposely; had not began with the first words of the liturgy -- purposely. So, before he continued he explained that the message was on forgiveness, what we say and do, what we should say and do. So, he once again turned to the altar, bowed, stepped on the first landing of 3, turned to the congregation and started with these words: ‘In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.’ The liturgy began in earnest. The confession came, the pronouncement of forgiveness proclaimed, then the sermon was injected early – yes, out of order - purposely.
I tell this story because I am so very guilty of saying “it’s okay” when someone apologizes to me. Often it is not a big deal. But, it is always a teaching moment.
And, guess what. Sin is not okay! Sin should be worrisome! Sin is something we need to give a second thought! Sin can be forgiven, but he pronouncement of not wanting anything further to do with the sinner, is that really forgiveness?
Sin costs. Sin costs you. Sin costs God. There is a price to be paid. When someone sins against us our reputation can suffer, we may suffer monetary damage, it may be simply our feelings are hurt. God certainly is not glorified in sinful behavior. God is not pleased with sinful behavior. God required payment – blood sacrifice.
I don’t know about you, but when I think about what to cook for a meal it usually includes some sort of meat. I go to the store and have at least a selection of beef, chicken, and pork to choose from. The meat is wrapped in clear plastic for me to see and so no one else touches it. The meat sits on a nice tray so I can lift it easily to look it over. When I get it home, for the most part, the little blood left is soaked up in the paper under the meat. It is a fairly clean process. Yet, a cow had to die for me to live. A pig had to have its life taken for me to continue mine. A chicken was bled out so that I could have clean hands when I take it out of the package. In our modern age we are removed from the consequences of our living. We do not usually see or hear the struggle of an animal in the slaughter house. We do not fully appreciate the consequences of our hunger for meat.
God demands blood sacrifice. Just as with Abraham with Isaac, God supplied the sacrifice. He sent His Son to purchase and win me back, a lost and condemned creature. Jesus was pierced for my transgressions, and by His wounds I am healed. It costs me nothing. I only need to repent. I only need to believe.
The Psalmist (Psalm 98:2a) says that “The Lord has made known his salvation.” Peter tells us in Acts 10:43b that “everyone who believes in Jesus receives forgiveness of sins.” In John 15:17 we are told “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” Not only do we receive the gift of love and forgiveness, we get to pass it on, big time.
Next time in church when you start the words “I confess unto you . . .”, will you be satisfied after with Pastor Mike saying “aw, don’t worry about it.” Will that reassure you? Or do you long for more?
Next time someone says to you “I’m sorry”, will your response be “it’s okay.” Or, will you be joyful in saying “because Christ died for sin, I have good news for you”?
Why do we have confession/absolution of sins very near the start of worship?
Is all sin forgivable?
Is all sin equal in value? Who defined the levels?
What is the difference between confess and repent?
Do you have to feel like forgiving to forgive?
When should you forgive? When did/does God forgive you?
When should you pronounce forgiveness? When did/does God pronounce His forgiveness?
We often forget that God can leave consequences of sin even as He forgives. Think on an example from Scripture. Hint, David and Bathsheba and Nathan and Uriah. How about in your life with your children/spouse/co-worker/friend/yourself?
Why, if we are forgiven, are there earthly consequences?
A wise friend of mine frequently reminded me that if a sin has heavenly consequences it should be dealt with on earth. What do you think he meant?
Did you know:
The hymnal has several prayers to be utilized upon entering the church, for before confession, for before and after communion, for blessing on the Word. Very first page.
The hymnal has the Small Catechism in it for reflection before communing. At the very least look at the 10 commandments, read the meanings. It is a good place to start reflecting.
Heavenly Father, we come before your throne as both sinners and saints. We take responsibility for the sin. We give You the glory for the saint. We give you praise for the gift of your Son and the indwelling of Your Spirit to give us the faith we need to cling to Your forgiveness. Strengthen and preserve us steadfast. Holy is Your Name. Amen
"Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted"
by Thomas Kelly, 1769-1854
Text: Is. 53:3-5
1. Stricken, smitten, and afflicted,
See Him dying on the tree!
'Tis the Christ by man rejected;
Yes, my soul, 'tis He! 'tis He!
'Tis the long-expected Prophet,
David's Son, yet David's Lord;
Proofs I see sufficient of it:
'Tis the true and faithful Word.
2. Tell me, ye who hear Him groaning,
Was there ever grief like His?
Friends through fear His cause disowning,
Foes insulting His distress;
Many hands were raised to wound Him,
None would interpose to save;
But the deepest stroke that pierced Him
Was the stroke that Justice gave.
3. Ye who think of sin but lightly
Nor suppose the evil great
Here may view its nature rightly,
Here its guilt may estimate.
Mark the Sacrifice appointed,
See who bears the awful load;
'Tis the WORD, the LORD'S ANOINTED,
Son of Man and Son of God.
4. Here we have a firm foundation;
Here the refuge of the lost;
Christ's the Rock of our salvation,
His the name of which we boast.
Lamb of God, for sinners wounded,
Sacrifice to cancel guilt!
None shall ever be confounded
Who on Him their hope have built