Herrenhuter readings for Friday, the 19th December 2014

Joseph&angelThe Lord promised: “For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” (Jeremiah 31:34) and the Angel proclaimed to Joseph: “And Mary will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins. (Matthews 1:21)

That’s the big difference of our Lord and God has made in human history – not counting their sins against them and us, but rather forgiving the iniquities and remembering them no more. And there is a lot to forgive and lot’s to forget even as we look back on last week, last year and those things in our life, which just don’t go away like the mist in the morning or the dark of night at dawn and at the approach of the radiant son. Things we broke, corrupted or just left undone. Bad words said and good words swallowed. Evil devised and good ignored. How many opportunities wasted and how much that should rather just be left behind – if we but could!

Well, the Lord does just that. He does not deal with Israel and the gentile nations by counting up their faults, wrong doings and sins, but rather forgives them through Jesus Christ born of the virgin Mary and named by Joseph – Jesus – for he saves his people from sins. This promise created hope, trust and faith in the prophet Jeremiah and the little remnant spared in the doom that struck Israel in retribution for all their disbelief, idolatry and faithless ways. God’s gospel promise kept that flickering flame of faithful confession going even in exile and literally down in the pit and bogs.

Jesus did this forgiving business when he started off his saving ministry amongst God’s people, forgiving people and bringing them back into a new and favourable relationship with their God and heavenly Father by seeking them in their sinful existence and restoring them by his mighty and authoritative absolution and thus bringing about peace and goodwill amongst men. Glory to God in the highest!

Even today Jesus Christ, the true son of God and brother of all mankind has not given up on this his saving and forgiving mission. He sent out his apostles and those, he would properly call and ordain into the pastoral office of his holy Church with the divine mandate and in his own institution: Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” (John 20:21-23)

That’s the wonderful institution of the office of the keys, that “special authority which Christ has given to His church on earth to forgive the sins of repentant sinners, but to withhold forgiveness from the unrepentant as long as they do not repent.” (Martin Luther in the Small Catechism on “Confession: What is the Office of the Keys?” LSB 326) 

And so “I believe that when the called ministers of Christ deal with us by His divine command, in particular when they exclude openly unrepentant sinners from the Christian congregation and absolve those, who repent of their sins and want to do better, this is just as valid and certain, even in heaven, as if Christ our dear Lord dealt with us Himself.” (ebd) Thanks be to God for Jesus – Amen.

1 Jesus sinners does receive;
Oh, may all this saying ponder
Who in sin’s delusions live
And from God and heaven wander.
Here is hope for all who grieve
Jesus sinners does receive.

2 We deserve but grief and shame,
Yet his words, rich grace revealing,
Pardon, peace, and life proclaim;
Here their ills have perfect healing
Who with humble hearts believe
Jesus sinners does receive.

3 Sheep that from the fold did stray
Are not by the Lord forsaken;
Weary souls who lost their way
Are by Christ, the shepherd, taken
In his arms that they may live
Jesus sinners does receive.

4 Come, O sinners, one and all,
Come, accept his invitation.
Come, obey his gracious call;
Come and take his free salvation!
Firmly in these words believe
Jesus sinners does receive.

5 I, a sinner, come to you
With a penitent confession.
Savior, show me mercy, too;
Grant for all my sins remission.
Let these words my soul relieve
Jesus sinners does receive.

6 Oh, how blest is it to know,
Were as scarlet my transgression,
It shall be as white as snow
By your blood and bitter passion,
For these words I do believe
Jesus sinners does receive.

7 Jesus sinners does receive.
Even I have been forgiven.
And when I this earth must leave,
I shall find an open heaven.
Dying, still to him I cleave
Jesus sinners does receive.

Erdmann Neumeister, 1671-1756 tr Lutheran Hymnal 1941

Melody: Meinen Jesus lass’ ich nicht…

About Wilhelm Weber jr

Rector of the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Tshwane
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