Outing Sin
Pentecost Monday
5 June 2017
I see it in their eyes. Faces ashen with shame. Tears make rivulets of cleansing salt. Breath comes not evenly, but in gulps. Their sin stings. Hearing confession is an agonizing discipline for both penitent and confessor. The confessor is anguished for the sheep and feels intimately his own sin (1Co 10:12). The sheep feel deeply the penalty that sin extorts from them. The shepherd shares that with them. As necessary as confession is, anyone who enjoys being on either end of a confession is truly warped. No one enjoys surgery either, but sometimes it is necessary. Excising a tumor from the body or lancing an infection is never any fun, but the cleansing afforded by the surgeon's plunging scalpel brings the first momentous step toward healing. The damage done by the incision and excision will heal, and what is hurting us is out. Our sin needs to undergo such an excision. We need to "out" sin in confession.
Why does sin cause so much hurt? And why does it hurt so much when we confess it? Sin's power is in the law, which points out our wickedness and perversity to us. Perhaps our sin would remain quiescent within us if the law did not wake its rage (Rm 7:7-9). Maybe it wouldn't hurt so much if the law could just remain quiet. A great deal of what passes for Christian preaching is an attempt to silence the law by turning it into friendly advice. But the law cannot be silenced. It is God's, not ours. God's law will always work wrath upon us.
Is not the law of God good and holy? How then does the law give strength to sin so that together they work death? Yes, the law of God is good and wise, but it has a terrible function. God sends it to lay bare the human heart and display the corrosive cancer of sin. The scalpel of the law plunges deeply cutting out our dying sin-sick heart. And it feels like there is no anesthesia. The law is a bullet too hard to bite. God's wrath cannot be endured, only suffered unto death. Only then can we receive a new heart from the gospel (Ez 36:26). Just as the excision is God's, so the healing also comes from Him. The heart is Christ's and is transplanted within us all at once. We are entirely new. His blood is transfused into our mouths and the heart that pumps must be His. The confessor speaks back together the jagged edges of our sin shredded lives with the Word. "Your sins are forgiven." How different God makes everything when the law has done its terrible work and then God speaks the gospel. 

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Martin Luther
"Where does sin come from? Or how does it happen that it is so very strong and able to kill and slay? St. Paul says: 'I shall tell you: "The power of sin is the law"(1Co 15:56).' Who has ever heard that said about God's commandment and law, which, after all, was given and instituted as holy and good by God? And still St. Paul can say that sin would be feeble and dead and could effect nothing if it were not for the law. The law renders sin alert and strong and prompts it to cut and to pierce. If it depended on us, sin would very likely remain dormant forever. But God is able to awaken it effectively through the law. When the hour comes for sin to sting and to strike, it grows unendurable in a moment. For the law dins this into your ears and holds the catalog of your sins before your nose: 'Do you hear? You committed this and you committed that in violation of God's commandments, and you spent your whole life in sin. Your own conscience must attest and affirm that.' In that way sin already shows its power. It frightens you so that the whole world becomes too confining for you. It agitates and strikes until you must despair. And there is neither escape nor defense here. For the law is too strong, and your own heart incites it, which itself denounces you and condemns you to hell. Therefore sin requires nothing else than God's law. Where that enters the heart, sin is already alive and able to kill man if it wants to, unless he lays hold of this victory, which is Christ, our Lord.
"If the law has such bad results, why, then, did God issue it? Would it not be far better if there were no law? To be sure, it would be better for us. And yet it cannot be dispensed with. For it is incompatible with God that He should be pleased to let us have our way and do as we wish. It is true that He is longsuffering with us all before He manifests His wrath. He permits many people to follow their own way, who never feel the law and sin or ever think of God's wrath, but, instead, disdain the law and sin and, moreover, mock them, no matter how one threatens them with death and hell. But finally God is constrained to show them what both the law and sin are able to do, to deter them from making sport of it. To be sure, God may wink at this for a while, but when the hour comes in which the law really raps at your door to find you at home and demands an accounting, it will not be so easy to ignore it. Then one begins to lament and wail: 'Alas! What did I do? What will become of me now?' Then we observe the meaning of the words: 'The law is the power of sin.' That is why St. Paul elsewhere (Rm 7:6; 2Co 3:7) also calls it a law of death and an office of death, which proclaims death and is the cause of death. Even if there were no other sermon or rule, the entire world could be preached to death solely with this."

Martin Luther, Commentary on 1 Corinthians 15, 56-57
Romans 7:18-25

For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. (ESV)
Collect for Pentecost Monday
O God, who gave Your Holy Spirit to the apostles, grant us that same Spirit that we may live in faith and abide in peace; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

For all the catechumens of Memorial Lutheran Church, that the Lord Jesus would strengthen them to confess the faith of the holy church before many witnesses
For doctors, nurses, technicians, and other health professionals, that they would be encouraged and supported in their calling to help and not harm
For President Dale Meyer and the faculty of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, that the task of preparing a new generation of faithful men to lead the church as pastors would be granted success
Art: DYCK, Sir Anthony van Pentecost (1618-20)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2017
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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