Speaking Sin Into Silence
Friday after Pentecost
9 June 2017
American Quakers conduct what are called "silent meetings." They are called silent meetings because the object of the gathering is to await immediate enlightenment from the Spirit. When that enlightenment falls upon a member of the community he or she stands up in the meeting and enlightens everyone else as to the content of the spiritual message. Normally, entire meetings would remain unenlightened and not a single word would be uttered. After several hours of silence the community would disperse. Quakers so completely identify the Spirit of God with the human spirit that human spiritual poverty is taken for divine silence.
 
God is not silent. He has spoken. God has spoken for a specific purpose. God needs to overcome our spiritual poverty by His speech. There is no knowing the heart of our Lord Jesus Christ apart from His speaking to us in the divine Word. We have the Spirit and we have life whenever and wherever God speaks. "The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life" (Jn 6:63). We need not sit twiddling our thumbs awaiting a flash of spiritual insight from God, we need only attend to the preaching of the Word, the reading of Scripture, or have holy absolution pronounced over us. God is not a silent God, and therefore silent meetings are not necessary. In fact, when silence silences God, it is downright harmful.
 
Our Lord Jesus discloses His heart to us in the intimacy of holy absolution. We have laid our burdens below His cross by pitching out our sin in speech from the heart. What comes out from us is sin (Mk 7:20), not Spirit. But Jesus apprehends our sin and takes it away from us. Our sin is silenced as our voice trails off in remorse. His speaking in absolution cuts off the echoes of our sin-sodden voice. He says a new word (Is 43:19), in which He speaks into silence our sin. If there is silence, it needs to be imposed on our wicked hearts so that God might speak, as He desires passionately to be known in the speaking of His Word. He places its living essence in the mouths of our pastors and gives them the power to speak sin into silence. Speak, Lord! Your servant is listening (1Sa 3:9).

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Martin Luther
 
"Since absolution or the power of the keys, which was instituted by Christ in the gospel, is a consolation and help against sin and a bad conscience, confession and absolution should by no means be allowed to fall into disuse in the church, especially for the sake of timid consciences and for the sake of untrained young people who need to be examined and instructed in Christian doctrine.
 
"However, the enumeration of sins should be left free to everybody to do or not as he will. As long as we are in the flesh we shall not be untruthful if we say, 'I am a poor man, full of sin. I see in my members another law,' etc. (Rm 7:23). Although private absolution is derived from the office of the keys, it should not be neglected; on the contrary, it should be highly esteemed and valued, like all other functions of the Christian church.
 
"In these matters, which concern the external, spoken Word, we must hold firmly to the conviction that God gives no one his Spirit or grace except through or with the external Word which comes before. Thus we shall be protected from the enthusiasts, that is, from the spiritualists who boast that they possess the Spirit without and before the Word and who therefore judge, interpret, and twist the Scriptures or spoken Word according to their pleasure. Münzer did this, and many still do it in our day who wish to distinguish sharply between the letter and the spirit without knowing what they say or teach. The papacy, too, is nothing but enthusiasm, for the pope boasts that 'all laws are in the shrine of his heart,' and he claims that whatever he decides and commands in his churches is spirit and law, even when it is above and contrary to the Scriptures or spoken Word.
 
"All this is the old devil and the old serpent who made enthusiasts of Adam and Eve. He led them from the external Word of God to spiritualizing and to their own imaginations, and he did this through other external words. Even so, the enthusiasts of our day condemn the external Word, yet they do not remain silent but fill the world with their chattering and scribbling, as if the Spirit could not come through the Scriptures or the spoken word of the apostles but must come through their own writings and words. Why do they not stop preaching and writing until the Spirit himself comes to the people without and before their writings since they boast that the Spirit came upon them without the testimony of the Scriptures?"

Martin Luther, Smalcald Articles, 3.8.1-6

1 Thessalonians 1:4-10

We know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come. (ESV)
Prayer
Lord Christ, You speak Your Word of forgiveness through holy absolution. Grant that I would be motivated by Your Spirit to open the heart of my sin to my pastor, that he would open the heart of Your grace to me. Amen.
 
For all Christian families, that God might continue to keep them together by the power of His Holy Spirit
 
For the work of Mekane Yesu Church in Ethiopia, that God our heavenly Father would give success to the word through the Holy Spirit
 
For all the schools of the Concordia University System, that God would grant them a clear understanding of their calling to be a Lutheran university system
Art: DYCK, Sir Anthony van Pentecost (1618-20)
Memorial Lutheran Church
smurray@mlchouston.org
http://www.mlchouston.org
© Scott Murray 2017
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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