Wednesday of the Last Week of Pentecost
28 November 2018
The Reformation was launched when an enterprising printer copied down Martin Luther's "95 Theses" in 1517 and sold them to eager Germans. Within six weeks of their being posted on the Castle Church door in sleepy little Wittenberg, the 95 Theses were being read and debated everywhere in Europe. The first of those statements for debate was "When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, 'Repent' (Mt 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance." Without intending it, Luther had just fired a shot across the bow of the medieval church's officialdom, which had captured repentance in sanctioned and official church activity in the "sacrament of penance." As long as one orally confessed and carried out the penitential act of satisfaction required by the church, one could be reasonably certain that God's favor was earned, at least for the moment.
Luther's first thesis protested against this official diminishment of the Bible's teaching about repentance. Repentance cannot be reduced to a transaction brokered by church officials. It is a way of life. It is a complete self-denial. It is even a hatred of the self. It is a recognition that I am nothing in God's presence apart from God's mercy. It means that there is a complete transformation of the self so that there is a true recovery of who and what we are.
This is still the meaning of repentance, even in the modern church where the idea of repentance for my sin is pooh-poohed as bad for my self-esteem. As H. Richard Niebuhr said, the modern church lamentably confesses "a God without wrath [who] brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross" (Kingdom of God). We need to hear the clarion call to repentance and the self-denial that it implies once again with all of its attendant cross-bearing. Our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ still says to us "Repent!"

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   Martin Luther
"When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, 'Repent' (Mt 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.
"This I assert and in no way doubt. I shall prove the thesis for the sake of those who are uninformed, first from the Greek word metanoeite itself, which means 'repent' and could be translated more exactly by the Latin transmentamini, which means 'assume another mind and feeling, recover one's senses, make a transition from one state of mind to another, have a change of spirit'; so that those who hitherto have been aware of earthly matters may now know the spiritual, as the Apostle says in Romans 12, 'Be transformed by the renewal of your mind' (Rm 12:2). By this recovery of one's senses it happens that the sinner has a change of heart and hates his sin.
"It is evident, however, that this recovery or hatred of oneself should involve one's whole life, according to the passage, 'whoever loses his life for my sake will find it' (Mt 10:39). And again, 'Whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me' (Mt 10:38). And in the same chapter, 'I have not come to bring peace, but a sword' (Mt 10:34). In Matthew 5, 'Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted' (Mt 5:4). And Paul in Romans 6 and 8 and in many other places orders us to mortify the flesh and members of the body which are upon earth. In Gal 5:24 he teaches us to crucify the flesh with its lustful desires. In 2 Corinthians 6 he says, 'Let us show ourselves in much patience, in many fastings, etc.' (2Co 6:4-5). I produce these citations so extensively because I am dealing with those who are unacquainted with our teachings."

Martin Luther, Explanation of the Ninety-Five Theses, 1
Matthew 10:34-39

Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person's enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (ESV)
Dear Lord God, I cannot count the sins that I have done and still do. I have forgotten most of them and no longer feel my guilt. All that is in me and all power that is not grace is sin and is condemned. My own works and powers only make me despondent. I do not know what else to do but to hope and pray for Your mercy. As grace and faith control me, I am devout through Christ. Where these fail me, I know and confess that nothing good is left in me. No matter how long I live, it will never be different. Even if I had all the human-generated holiness in the world, there would still be nothing good in what I think, speak, live, and do, if I did not have Your divine grace and power. All my sins are forgiven out of Your pure grace. This is the joy and comfort which You gladly grant to me, a poor sinner. Amen.
For Diane Lamberson, as she undergoes surgery, that the Lord Jesus would be with her giving her complete health and healing
For all those who need to be led into true repentance, that the Word of God might take away their self-righteousness and grant them the righteousness of Christ
For those who labor for LCMS World Relief and Human Care, that they would be strengthened as they provide help and hope for hurricane-stricken people on the Gulf Coast of Florida
Art: Albrecht DURER, The Adoration of the Trinity (1511)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2018
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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