Monday, January 3, 2011

A sample "Snippet" from Myrtle

I just wanted to cross-post one of Myrtle's "Snippets" here.  This is the kind of work she does in writing the daily e-mails in connection to the Lutheran confessions sent out from the site anyone can sign up to receive the mails.  I believe that Pastor Stuckwisch tries to go over most of them before they go out.) Today we have her thoughts on the restricting of the word of absolution, which should be God's grace freely and abundantly poured out for the penitent.

It strikes me personally, because I think I can be quite harsh myself on others, not understanding all the distress others are in.  Myrtle likes to read Psalms to people with their names in them, as has been done for her.  It is an interesting experience.  She has also done it for me choosing Psalm139.  I encourage you to try it sometime, too.

Tyranny: arbitrary or unrestrained exercise of power; despotic abuse of authority.
To teach that the pope and only the pope has the ability to forgive or withhold the forgiveness of sins is tyranny. It is tyranny made even more egregious when considering the anguish soul burdened by his sin, burdened by the choices/actions she has made, laboring further beneath the weight of such cruelty,teaching that forgiveness is at the whim of man, not the free gift of God.
A while back, I was with a woman who was being held under observation because she had gone a wee bit crazy. Well, actually, she had lost sight of who she was in Christ, became convinced that she was evil and needed to be punished, and set about doing so. She was heartily sorry for what she had done and was quite fearful of the spiritual consequence of her actions. I prayed the Psalter with her and spent time talking about forgiveness, even though sometimes I barely even understand it myself.
With great tears welling in her eyes and constant wringing of hands, she told me she was quite certain her Catholic priest was not going to forgive her for what she had done, especially since this was not the first time she had forgotten the truth of who she is in Christ. At least, she said, not until she had worked a long time at the things he would surely set her to do to show herself worthy of that forgiveness. She was weary and worried that she would not have the strength to earn her forgiveness.
I tried to tell her that even if her priest, the man, did not offer her forgiveness, the Living Word, one of the means of grace God has given us, had already spoken that forgiveness to her. To my immense sorrow, I watched as her heart quickened at what I was telling her about how God only sees her through Christ and therefore already sees her as forgiven only to then lose hope at the thought of the large penance she would surely be set.
Her terror was so great that she could not hear the Gospel I was speaking to her, but she craved the Living Word that fell from my lips into her ears. For hours, she asked me to read another “forgiveness” psalm to her with her name in it as I had done when I first came upon her because she was fearful that she might never have the Word of Absolution spoken to her again.
Her anguish…her fear…her despair is exactly why Luther worked so hard to strip out the things of man that had crept into the things of God. The Office of the Keys is an office God gave to the church, not merely to one man or the men beneath his civil authority. The Office of the Keys bestows the very Word of Absolution from Christ Himself because the called and ordained servant is holding the position of undershepherd to our Good Shepherd, upon whose righteousness our forgiveness is based. Yet the Office of the Keys are just one of the means of grace, just one of the ways our Lord bestows forgiveness on His children. He washes us in it. He speaks it in our ears. He places it in our bodies. This is why Luther clung so fiercely to the pure doctrine. For he knew our foe has a serpent’s head. When he finds the smallest opening, the whole body will follow (LC, III, 111).
Let not one word--especially the Word of absolution--be distorted, but rather may the pure Gospel be taught and taught so as to point us to the riches God gave us on the cross rather than to the futile dross that is our own effort at earning forgiveness.
Smalcald Articles, Part III, Article VII
The Keys
The Keys are an office and power given by Christ to the Church for binding and loosing sin. This applies not only to gross and well-known sins, but also the subtle, hidden sins that are known only to God. As it is written, “Who can discern his errors?” (Psalm 19:12). And St. Paul himself complains that “with my flesh I serve the law of sin” (Romans 7:25). It is not in our power to judge which, how great, and how many the sins are. This belongs to God alone. As it is written, “Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you” (Psalm 143:2). Paul says, I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted” (I Corinthians 4:4).

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