Reading Ramblings – October 16, 2016

Reading Ramblings

Date: Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost, October 16, 2016 ~ Confession ~

Texts: 2 Samuel 12:1-23; Psalm 6; 1 John 1:5-10; Mark 9:14-27

Context: ** We continue our alternate text selections for the remainder of the liturgical year in order to preach through Luther’s Small Catechism ** The role of confession as a sacrament in Lutheran circles is a complex one. Luther includes it in his Small Catechism, but does not address it in the Large Catechism as a separate subject, though an exhortation to confession from Luther is included in some editions of the Large Catechism. There he asserts that confession is free and voluntary, but speaks in harsh terms about any Christian who might imagine that they could therefore avoid it. Clearly Luther sees it as imminently beneficial – less so for our confession which is always sin-filled and incomplete, but more so for the pronouncement of absolution, which is the sure and certain Word of God. He acknowledges both corporate (public), generic confession as well as individual (private), specific confession. He wants us to recognize it as a beautiful gift rather than an obligatory action, the emphasis being on the work and Word of God just as it is in Holy Baptism and Holy Communion.

2 Samuel 12:1-23David’s adultery with Bathsheba and subsequent murder of her husband, Uriah, are exposed by the prophet Nathan. Rather than lie or seek to avoid his guilt, David admits his guilt freely. Nathan then assures him of the Lord’s forgiveness. While there will be ramifications for his actions, David does not need to fear the Lord’s unwavering anger. So it is with our confession. As we admit our sin to God, we recognize that there are oftentimes temporal ramifications, despite our firm confidence that, through faith in the atoning death and resurrection of the Son of God, our sins are wiped away in the eyes of God. In this case the repercussions are clearly linked as a punishment from God for his sin. In our lives, the lines may be blurrier, and we should not unnecessarily wonder about cause and effect. We are blessed that God the Father does not respond to each and every one of our sins with divine judgment, and should instead take comfort in all situations with his assurances of forgiveness through his Son.

Psalm 6 – We can well imagine David composing this psalm, perhaps as his son lingers between life and death (although the concluding verses lend themselves to a different situation). The agony of guilt, of recognizing the rightness of God’s divine wrath against our sin is overwhelming and crushing. The speaker seems to worry that perhaps his guilt will lead to his death (vs.4-5), and the majority of the psalm focuses on the depth of the speaker’s guilt and suffering. Yes the psalmists concludes in confidence. Those who might cause him to question the Lord’s forgiveness and goodness are to depart – the Lord has heard his cries for mercy. As such it is his enemies or adversaries that will have cause to lament and be troubled, not the speaker. So with us, it may seem as though the world will get the better of us, and we may begin to doubt the Lord’s love and care for us when we consider the depths of our sinfulness. But we, like the psalmist, should be confident that when the word of forgiveness is spoken to us by a friend or pastor/priest, it is the promise of God that we truly are forgiven!

1 John 1:5-10 – John exhorts us to walk in the light of God, never making the mistake that our sins are no big deal to God, or that God understands and accepts certain levels and types of sins. God is perfect holiness and righteousness and light, and there is no blemish, no stain of darkness in him, therefore no sin can be seen as anything less than wholly foreign to God. Walking in the light does not mean that we are without sin, since we are assured in v.7 that we are washed from our sin by the blood of Jesus. Rather, walking in the light is the humble willingness to allow the Word of God to shine on and through us, illuminating our sins so that we might admit them and repent of them. It is the honesty of confession that is not just ritual repetition but an honest self-examination that allows the Holy Spirit to show us our sin and guide us in repentance away from it in the future. Refusing or neglecting such confession is dangerous, as we grow callous or ignorant of our sin, and then eventually even indulgent of it, angered that God would have an issue with it. The light is blinding, but we must allow it to shine on us fully.

Mark 9:14-27 – The man’s confession here is beautiful, though perhaps not the kind of confession we typically think of. Yet it remains appropriate for us today. While we may enumerate our sins in confession, the sin of doubting the power and will of God for our lives may escape our attention. Our inclination to trust other sources of power and authority other than the revealed and Incarnate Word of God certainly is something that we should constantly be aware of in confession.

Jesus’ reaction to the man’s confession is beautiful. He understands that we are helplessly wound about in our belief and unbelief, tangled and unable to free ourselves perfectly and completely. We struggle with doubt and worry that our doubt will somehow cause God the Holy Spirit to distance himself from us. Yet He does just the opposite. He draws near to us in every situation and circumstance, abides within us and intercedes on our behalf through. It is the will of God that we should be freed from the debilitating power and mastery of Satan. He breaks that mastery in baptism, reinforces and strengthens us in our faith through Holy Communion, and draws us to him in confession so that we might face our sinfulness and seek not just his forgiveness but his strength and power to fight against that sin in our lives.

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