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Psalm 25

 

To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul. O my God, in you I trust; let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me. Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame; they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous. Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long. Remember your mercy, O LORD, and your steadfast love, for they have been from of old. Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for the sake of your goodness, O LORD! Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way. All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies. For your name's sake, O LORD, pardon my guilt, for it is great. Who is the man who fears the LORD? Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose. His soul shall abide in well-being, and his offspring shall inherit the land. The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant. My eyes are ever toward the LORD, for he will pluck my feet out of the net. Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. The troubles of my heart are enlarged; bring me out of my distresses. Consider my affliction and my trouble, and forgive all my sins. Consider how many are my foes, and with what violent hatred they hate me. Oh, guard my soul, and deliver me! Let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you. May integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for you. Redeem Israel, O God, out of all his troubles. (ESV)

The Right Thing, Time, Way

Jerome, Translator of Holy Scripture 

30 September 2014

Pastors often find themselves saying the same things over and over again. For those of us who struggle to know what to say, this is a great blessing. The main reason why pastors repeat the same things to God's people is that when they are in crisis they need to hear a proclamation of the gospel. No more and no less. They actually need to hear the same old thing. The preachers need to deliver the message that for Christ's sake their sin has been remitted to them. They aren't expecting anything but the consistent and consistently comforting message that God has taken their flesh in Christ and for that reason He knows fully and intimately what they are going through, having Himself experienced the full gamut of suffering for us poor creatures upon whom He has had compassion.

 

This is all very evident. The hard part comes in the actual application of the law and gospel in the secret corner of the confessional where hearts are poured out in sobbing whispers to a trembling pastor. How can the pastor formulate the right words that will break through the horrible human timidity that causes the penitent to doubt that God could be so gracious as to forgive a sinner as wretched and hopelessly damned? How can he turn the brokenhearted away from the yawning abyss which opens upon the righteous wrath of a holy God? How can he keep those in crisis from sliding down to despair? In every experience they see signs of God's anger and portents of imminent and just judgment. How can he silence the cacophony of judgment howling all around?

 

He must hold the cross of Christ before the eyes of those troubled by their sin. He must turn them away from their own works and to Christ. They must see Him as their only hope for life and as their only Savior from despair. And so, while the pastor is saying the same thing and proclaiming the same unchangeable gospel, he must apply it sensitively to the specific soul that confronts him. Here is the challenge; to choose the right way to say the right thing at the right time. To have Christ ready when the conscience can see nothing but death.

 

Martin Luther

"It is impossible for law and grace to exist together. Either we must be justified by faith and lose the righteousness of the law, or we must be justified by the law and lose grace and the righteousness of faith. It is a bitter and tragic loss when we retain the law while losing grace. On the other hand, it is a blessed and saving loss when we keep grace while losing the law.

"Seeing that Paul set this forth with the greatest care, we must unremittingly labor to show clearly the difference between law and gospel. This is very easy as far as the words themselves are concerned. For who does not see that Hagar is not Sarah and that Sarah is not Hagar? Or that Ishmael neither is nor has what Isaac is and has? That is easily determined. But in profound terrors and in the agony of death, when the conscience struggles with the judgment of God, then to be able to say with firm confidence: 'I am not a son of Hagar, but of Sarah, that is, the law does not apply to me at all, because Sarah is my mother, who gives birth, not to slaves but to free children and heirs,' this is the most difficult thing of all." 

 

Martin Luther, Lectures on Galatians, 4.27
 
Prayer

Lord Christ, put Your gospel in the mouth of my pastor. Make it his meat and drink that he can proclaim it to me when I am in crisis. Amen.

 

For Randy Golter as he begins a new position in the Office of the President of the LCMS as Special Assistant to the President, that he would be a blessing to the church in his new work

 

For Kim Cheng, who continues to undergo therapy for cancer, that she would have strength and confidence in the gracious care of Jesus her Lord

 

For the pastors of the LCMS, that they might find ways to proclaim the gospel to the brokenhearted who seek their counsel 
Art: Crucifixes  Uppsala Cathedral (medieval)

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