Kruiz edited
Need for Absolution
Thursday of Lent 4
15 March 2018
In the pronouncement of holy absolution through the merits of Christ there are no demands, and no expectations from God. This is all pure gift. This is why Christians seek to exercise the Office of the Keys in their daily lives. Through these keys the ministers "absolve those who repent of their sins and want to do better, and this is just as valid and certain, even in heaven, as if Christ our dear Lord dealt with us Himself" as the Small Catechism says.

What Christian would not want to hear that his sins have been absolved for Christ's sake? What Christian would not want to know that God's faithfulness and justice works itself out in deliverance from sin? Who doesn't need the comfort of this proclamation telling away our sin by the power of the Word of God? Who wouldn't want to be strengthened in their faith when we hear the express words of God telling us that our sins have been loosed and sent away as far as the east is from the west and drowned in the depths of the sea? To hear and believe these things is to be nothing other than a Christian.
But so easily we act like small children when confronted with these blessings and we respond whiningly to God: "Aw, God, do we have to?" As though He were an unkind parent or wicked stepfather. As though He would give us a scorpion rather than bread.

Confession and absolution presumes the need. What is the need? That we have no righteousness in and of ourselves. On his deathbed Dr. Martin Luther confessed, "We are beggars. This is true." Here is the true state of things in the presence of our God from the moment of our baptism, until we take our last breath. Our spiritual poverty should be confronting us every day as we live in repentance. But this is especially the case during Lent when we are called on to repent and believe in the gospel by our Lord Jesus. To believe in this gospel is nothing other than to hear the word of God proclaiming that our sin has been taken away through the merit of Jesus Christ, who died for us. To believe this gospel is to hear the absolution as from Christ Himself, "I forgive you all your sin."
What beggar has to be driven to the dinner table when the householder wants to give him a free meal? What starving person needs to have the police roust him out so that he would go to a feast were his hunger is satisfied and his thirst slaked? Yet this is how we act. We are starving to death and acting like we were full. We are beggars in the sight of God acting like we are rich men. But despite our wickedness our Lord still gives us all that we need, He kindly begs us to come for the feast that he sets before us in mercy and forgiveness. "Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."

He's crying out to you not to bear the burdens that weigh down your soul. He wants to comfort you by clearing your conscience with absolution. He's calling you out of self-centered love of your sin into the gift of his gracious speaking away of your depravity. And in the face of that invitation, in the face of that desperation on the part of a gracious God, we find ourselves blasé, bored, uncertain, and even unbelieving about the value of what God is saying to us. Wrongheadedly, we will excuse our neglect of this gift by claiming it some kind of Roman Catholic tradition to confess and receive holy absolution. It is nothing of the sort! Any more than reading the Bible out loud in the Christian gatherings is a Roman Catholic tradition. Scripture plainly says that whatever the servants of Christ forgive is forgiven to those to whom it is proclaimed.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   Martin Luther
"We should hold in high and great esteem God's Word in the absolution part of confession. We should not proceed as if we intended to perform and offer Him a splendid work, but simply to accept and receive something from Him. You dare not come saying how good or how bad you are. If you are a Christian, I in any case, know well enough that you are. If you are not, I know that even better. But what you must see to is that you lament your problem and that you let yourself be helped to acquire a cheerful heart and conscience.

"Moreover, no one may pressure you with commandments. Rather, what we say is this: Whoever is a Christian or would like to be one is here faithfully advised to go and get the precious treasure. If you are no Christian and do not desire such comfort, we shall leave it to another to use force on you. By eliminating all need for the pope's tyranny, command, and coercion, we cancel them with a single sweep.

"As I have said, we teach that whoever does not go to Confession willingly and for the sake of obtaining the Absolution, he may as well forget about it. Yes, and whoever goes around relying on the purity of his act of making confession, let him stay away. Nevertheless, we strongly urge you by all means to make confession of your need, not with the intention of doing a worthy work by confessing but in order to hear what God has arranged for you to be told. What I am saying is that you are to concentrate on the Word, on the Absolution, to regard it as a great and precious and magnificently splendid treasure, and to accept it with all praise and thanksgiving to God." 

 Martin Luther, An Exhortation to Confession, 18-22
Psalm 130

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord! O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy! If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared. I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning. O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption. And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.
Almighty, everlasting God, for our many sins we justly deserve eternal condemnation. In Your mercy You sent Your dear Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who won for us forgiveness of sins and everlasting salvation. Grant us a true confession that, dead to sin, we may be raised up by Your life-giving absolution. Grant us Your Holy Spirit that we may be ever watchful and live true and godly lives in Your service; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

For Michael Koutsodontis, that the Lord Jesus would give him courage and strength as he bears the crosses the Lord sends

For Anastasia Krumwiede, that the Lord God would grant her healing

For the clergy of the church, that they would lead God's people to treasure holy absolution as God's perfect reply to a broken and contrite heart
Art: GRÜNEWALD, Matthias  Isenheim Altarpiece (c. 1515)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2018
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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