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Luke 5:17-26

 

As he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with him to heal. And behold, some men were bringing on a bed a man who was paralyzed, and they were seeking to bring him in and lay him before Jesus, but finding no way to bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus. And when he saw their faith, he said, "Man, your sins are forgiven you."

 

And the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, saying, "Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?" When Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answered them, "Why do you question in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven you,' or to say, 'Rise and walk'? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins"- he said to the man who was paralyzed- "I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home."

 

And immediately he rose up before them and picked up what he had been lying on and went home, glorifying God. And amazement seized them all, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, "We have seen extraordinary things today." (ESV)

 

Dare to Forgive

Thursday of Pentecost 24

7 November 2013

The congregation I serve will call an Associate Pastor. When he has accepted the congregation's call, the installation of a new pastor encourages both pastors and congregations to consider the meaning of the ministry ordained by God and its relationship to the bride of Christ, the holy church. Pastors have the power of the keys, so that they can forgive sins. However, that statement alone is enough to touch off great battles about the authority of our pastors. How can we dare to say that our pastors have the power to forgive sins in the congregations? Many people are deeply offended by the claim to this kind of power. They often ask the question of Jesus' opponents in the Gospel, "Who can forgive sins but God alone?" (Lk 5:21). The simple answer is that the people to whom God confers the right of forgiving have the power to forgive, in His name.

 

Christ confers the power to forgive on His church. The power of forgiving is given with all the good gifts that come with the Word: preaching, absolution, baptism, and the supper. He breathes on them and in that breath there is every good gift. The Spirit is given with the divine kiss of speech (Gn 2:7). Christ leans over the corpse of humanity (1Ki 17:22) and resuscitates it with the divine breath. Now the dead live by every breath that proceeds from the mouth of God. When our pastors speak for God by sharing the divine word of forgiving He continues to give life where there was none. Earth and heaven touch. The Spirit's breath breathed by our pastors recreates humanity in our little churches. Eden's door is opened again. Jesus sends his disciples even now and says to them, "Whoever hears you hears me" (Lk 10:16). God's speech does what God says it does, because it is God's speech, not just the speech of our pastors. We should never listen to them for the sake of their own person, but for the sake of Christ, who has sent them to us.

 

Perhaps you've seen an action movie in which the hero saves someone from drowning. He buys time for the drowning person, who is trapped underwater, by shuttling back and forth between the surface and the trapped victim. At every turn, he breathes his breath into the mouth of the trapped person. This gives him time to free the trapped person before he drowns. Our pastors are doing this when they speak for God. They are taking the breath that hovers upon the surface of the deep (Gn 1:2) and speaking it into the mouths and hearts of people drowning in their own guilt. Our pastor does not make the air, he only breathes out what the Spirit has breathed in. He brings the saving breath to those trapped in the guilty deep created by their own sinfulness. The power of the keys frees from the shadow of death. Our pastors dare to forgive. You should dare to believe them when they speak.

 

Augsburg Confession

 

"The authority of the keys (Mt 16:19), or the authority of the bishops, according to the gospel, is a power or commandment of God, to preach the gospel, to forgive and retain sins, and to administer sacraments. Christ sends out His apostles with this command, 'As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you ... Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you withhold forgiveness from anyone, it is withheld.' (Jn 20:21-23). And in Mk 16:15, Christ says, 'Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.'

 

"This authority is exercised only by teaching or preaching the gospel and administering the sacraments, either to many or to individuals, according to their calling. In this way are given not only bodily, but also eternal things: eternal righteousness, the Holy Spirit, and eternal life. These things cannot reach us except by the ministry of the Word and the sacraments, as Paul says, 'The Gospel...is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes' (Rm 1:16). Therefore, the church has the authority to grant eternal things and exercises this authority only by the ministry of the Word. So it does not interfere with civil government anymore than the art of singing interferes with civil government. For civil government deals with other things than the gospel does. Civil rulers do not defend minds, but bodies and bodily things against obvious injuries. They restrain people with the sword and physical punishment in order to preserve civil justice and peace (Rm 13:1-7)."

 

"The Augsburg Confession," 28.5-11
 
Prayer

Lord Christ, Your Church has the authority to grant eternal things and exercises this authority only by the ministry of the Word. Help me to hear the voice of Your pastor when He absolves me, that I would hear You. Give me the faith to receive Your body and blood from his hand never doubting that such external things come from You and give me forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. Amen.


For those who are threatened by inclement weather, that the Lord Jesus watch over those who will feel its effects, so that life, health, and property would be kept safe

 

For the people of Nigeria, that the violence gripping their community would be quelled, and that they would live in peace and safety

 

For the people of Memorial Lutheran Church, that the Lord God would keep them in the palm of His hand
Art: Eyck, Jan van  The Adoration of the Lamb (1425-1429) 

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Memorial Lutheran Church | 5800 Westheimer Rd. | Houston | TX | 77057