Reflections: August 26, 2020
Wednesday of the 11th Week after Trinity
By Mark Buetow
Where is this written? This is what St. John the Evangelist writes in chapter twenty: The Lord Jesus breathed on His disciples and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven." (Small Catechism: The Office of the Keys)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. What is the Office of the Keys? It's the authority Christ gives to His Church to unlock the gates of heaven by pronouncing forgiveness on sinners! Wait a minute. How can someone forgive sins? Can't only God forgive sins? Well, what does Jesus say? He tells His apostles, human men, to go and forgive sins.
Here's the thing: When your pastor forgives your sins, he's not saying that he's God! He's saying what God has told him to say. He's speaking as a herald and ambassador of Jesus. "Hear ye! Hear ye! I declare to you that you have been pardoned by the King!"
What makes this announcement possible, and what gives it power and truth, is that Jesus died for your sins. He shed His blood for them. That's forgiveness: God doesn't count those sins against you. But since just reading it from the Book can make it sound too good to be true, God has given us real men, guys with voices and hands to tell us right into our ears that this forgiveness is ours.
You as a Christian can even pronounce that forgiveness to others. You can tell them, "Your sins are forgiven because Jesus died for them." People know that the world will pile on. They know that there's nothing out there but more guilt heaped up. Not for the followers of Jesus, though!
Whether it's someone who is troubled by sin and goes to their pastor or one of your family or friends who comes to you, the Good News is the same: "Jesus forgives you!" Not because we say so, but because His Cross, empty tomb, and He Himself say so! In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
When ministers lay on their hands, Absolved by Christ the sinner stands; He who by grace the Word believes The purchase of His blood receives. ("'As Surely As I Live,' God Said" LSB 614, st. 6)
-Rev. Mark Buetow is the pastor of Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church and School in McHenry, Illinois.
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