Kruiz edited
No Compunctions
Ash Wednesday
6 March 2019
People can perpetrate evil with no compunctions. "Compunction" is derived from a Latin word that means to experience a prick of conscience. In medieval theology, the word was used for the most minimal embarrassment or discomfort arising from sin. Now we use the word only to refer to those scruples of conscience so trivial they are hardly worth considering. These days people only have "no compunctions" about everything. When is the last time you heard someone expressing their compunctions about any wicked deed, evil thought, or hurtful act? We are so morally anesthetized that we no longer feel the most minimal sorrow over sin.
 
It is no wonder that Ash Wednesday is almost incomprehensible to us, on this background of a life with "no compunctions." Ash Wednesday is a day when we plead guilty to all our sin. Here is something we ought to do with no compunctions: repent. There ought to be no regrets about confessing fully and truthfully our own wicked mouths, hands, and hearts. Hearts most of all! Here is the hatchery and home of all sin and filth. Repentance is not merely regret about being caught or restrained in our wicked behavior. Everyone is truly repentant by that definition. The sexually promiscuous person dying of AIDS is at least that repentant. Jussie Smollet was at least that sorry when he was found out by the Chicago Police. But this is hardly godly repentance.
 
Repentance without compunctions means that we are willing to be humbled before God and those whom we have offended by saying what we have done that is offensive to the divine will and order and therefore hurtful to other persons, and to God. Our pride, self-righteousness and all our compunctions keep us from true repentance. Certainly, there is nothing easy or comfortable about repentance. God the Holy Spirit must wring it out of our hardened heart by crushing our self-righteousness with the law. We must hear the word of the preacher: "You are the man!" (2Sa 12:7).
 
A guest to our church confessed to me that she had been made uncomfortable by the service of the Lutheran Church. I simply replied, "What makes you think you should be made comfortable by attending our church?" Ash Wednesday should be a profoundly uncomfortable day for us. Some of the most important things you will ever do include great discomfort: sitting by the bedside of a dying parent or spouse, undergoing physical therapy following a car wreck, or standing naked of all claims to goodness in the presence of God and saying, "I a poor miserable sinner confess to You all my sins and iniquities with which I have ever offended You." God the Lord has accepted the discomfort of suffering and death in our place that our iniquities might be absolved. The called servants of that crucified Christ proclaim to those who are troubled by their sin: "I forgive you." He had no compunctions about dying for us, no compunctions about forgiving sinners.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   Martin Luther
"Even the wicked are sometimes pricked in conscience, as they used to say formerly in the schools, not that they are truly pricked or are seriously repentant, but they pretend repentance and grief for their sin. I also held this opinion at one time. Therefore, David's word to Nathan (2Sa 12:13), "I have sinned," must be understood altogether differently than the word of Saul, who likewise said to Samuel (1Sa 15:24): "I have sinned." It is indeed the same word, the same voice and face of compunction or repentance, but the hearts are very different.
 
"For the repentance of the evil is such that they grieve more about the prohibition of their wicked desires and sins than about the mortification of their corrupt desires and sins. These are acts of repentance according to the Law, which we usually call the repentance of the gallows. For if he were free of the fear of the cross and punishment, the thief would much prefer to steal than to abstain from another's property. Therefore, he grieves that he is restrained by the fear of punishment. In this way Laban is also described not as truly repentant nor as coming to his senses, but he grieves that by the power of God a curb has been placed on his lusts and furious passions (Gn 31:22-25). It is a superficial repentance, just as Saul says (1Sa 15:30): "I have sinned; yet honor me now before the elders." He is concerned about a bad reputation and disgrace among the elders, not about the fact that he has offended God.
 
"But a truly repentant heart is so affected that it dreads nothing else but the wrath and indignation of God, taking no account of disgrace among men, provided it knows that God is propitious, even as David expresses this feeling and sense of sin in Psalm 51. But it must be observed that hypocrites remain true to form. When they are not permitted to vent their anger according to their liking, they nevertheless make a show of their rage and special power, lest they seem inferior to those whom they hate and persecute."

 Martin Luther,
Lectures on Genesis, 31.24
Psalm 51:1-19

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.
 
Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. Do good to Zion in your good pleasure; build up the walls of Jerusalem; then will you delight in right sacrifices, in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings; then bulls will be offered on your altar.  
(ESV)
Prayer
Almighty and everlasting God, You despise nothing You have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent. Create in us new and contrite hearts that lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness we may receive from You full pardon and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
 
For Larry Poffenberger, that the Lord Jesus would watch over him and that his family would be strengthened in their service to him
 
For the safety of all professional pilots and air crews, that they would be kept under the care of the holy angels
 
For all in need of repentance, that they would be led to contrition for their sin and iniquity
Art: GRÜNEWALD, Matthias  Isenheim Altarpiece (c. 1515)
Memorial Lutheran Church
smurray@mlchouston.org
http://www.mlchouston.org
© Scott Murray 2019
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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