Daily Devotionals after the 5th Week after Pentecost

For the next several weeks of devotions we will do a simple review of the main parts of Luther’s Small Catechism: Ten Commandments, Creed, Lord’s Prayer, Baptism, Holy Communion. Don’t forget the video message each weekend at www.mlchapel.org. Saturday morning Zoom Bible study resumes this week at 10 AM. Contact mlcemail@gmail.com for the link.
 

Thoughts from Martin Luther on Learning the Catechism

Luther recommended a simple, but disciplined approach to basic Christian teaching. Learn first what is right and wrong—what God commands and forbids. Then, learn about the true God and what He has done for us out of love. Next, learn from Jesus how to pray. Last, see what the Word tells us about Baptism, the Sacrament of the Altar, and also Absolution.
 
 

                                                Suggestions for Daily Prayers in the Home

Begin, “In the name of the Father and + of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Pray for the Holy Spirit to guide you in this time of devotion. Then read the Scripture selection aloud slowly. Reflect on or discuss its meaning. Then close with the Lord’s Prayer and your own heartfelt prayers. As you pray, confess the sins you know, asking God’s blessing for all His people and for all the world. Remember especially those in great need. Then go about your day in peace and joy.
 
 
 

 

Monday, July 6, 2020                           Holy Baptism—Part IV
 

What Baptism Shows Us

     What does such baptizing with water indicate? It indicates that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new person should emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.

     Where is this written? St. Paul writes in Romans chapter six: “We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” [Romans 6:4]

     When you observe a Baptism in our church today, you usually see an infant being splashed with water three times. Sometimes the child cries as the water is splashed over her or his face. You may have seen other baptisms, when a person—usually older—is pushed under in a pool of water or perhaps a stream.  

     The child who is frightened by baptismal water or the person pushed under may serve to show us that Baptism is not only a washing—as we heard it described in Titus 3—but also something more. Baptism is a sign of death and resurrection. God’s forgiveness in Christ indicates my death as a sinner. My sinful nature has been condemned to die. Only the “new me”—the forgiven child of God, has the promise of eternal life and salvation with Christ.

     As you remember your Baptism, remember that, and push your sinful impulses and desires away. Drown them!

 

Prayer for the day: Heavenly Father, You have us, rescued us from eternal death, and promised us a resurrection with Your Son. Strengthen us to daily put sin to death and to trust Your promises so that our Baptisms are one day fulfilled in the resurrection of the body to life everlasting; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
 

 

Tuesday, July 7, 2020                               Confession—I
 

What Is Confession?

Confession has two parts. First that we confess our sins, and second, that we receive absolution, that is forgiveness, from the pastor as from God Himself, not doubting, but firmly believing that by it our sins are forgiven before God in heaven.

Confession is an important word in the Bible. On the most basic level, a confession is a statement of agreement. It can be agreement in a positive way. When we “confess our faith” in the words of a Creed, we are saying, “I agree with this.” “This is true.” “This is what I believe.” In a more sobering way, we also “confess” our sins. That is also a statement of agreement. We are saying, “You are right and I was wrong, God.” “You’re right, I have sinned.” “I admit that I am wrong and I have done or said or thought something that is wrong.”

The Catechism reminds us that there is something more to the church practice of confession. We don’t confess our sins and then leave them hanging, as if there is no hope for us.

Absolution follows confession in church. Absolution is a statement of forgiveness. The voice you hear in the absolution is a pastor’s voice. But the words and the forgiveness come from God. That’s why the pastor doesn’t speak of forgiving until after he reminds us that he isn’t speaking on his own. He is speaking under Christ’s order and command (he is “called and ordained”) and only by Christ’s own authority.

  

Prayer for the day: Father in heaven, you show us our sin, but you also show us that forgiveness and salvation come through Jesus Christ, our Lord. We praise you for your mercy. Amen.
 

 

Wednesday, July 8, 2020                        Confession—II

How Should We Confess Our Sins”

            What sins should we confess? Before God we should plead guilty of all sins, even those we are not aware of, as we do in the Lord’s Prayer; but before the pastor we should confess only those sins which we know and feel in our hearts.

Which are these? Consider your place in life according to the Ten Commandments: Are you a father, mother, son, daughter, husband, wife, or worker? Have you been disobedient, unfaithful, or lazy? Have you been hot-tempered, rude, or quarrelsome? Have you hurt someone by your words or deeds? Have you stolen, been negligent, wasted anything, or done any harm?

There’s an old saying that confession is good for the soul. We might question the thought. When you are trying to follow Jesus, you can’t help but see how many ways you are different from him. It feels a bit unfair—he’s the sinless Son of God. I’m a stumbling and self-oriented ordinary human being. It’s like Bryce Harper having a hitting contest with a two-year-old. . . . Confession can be a downer.

But the truth is, confession of sins is always the road to recovery. A ball player doesn’t improve if he decides that it’s okay that he keeps missing the pitch. If I fail a thousand times, the fact is that I need to admit the failure.

So, we plead guilty, again and again, when we compare ourselves to Jesus, or to the Ten Commandments as he teaches them. The commandments simply run through the ways we are responsible for our behavior—toward God and toward others. Confession admits the truth of our failures, but it knows that our Lord is strengthening us for the next pitch—or whatever lies before us today. 

 

Prayer for the day: Our Father in heaven, our sins are too obvious, especially as we look at our life in the light of Christ. Forgive us, for his sake. Amen.

 
 
 
Thursday, July 9, 2020                               Confession—III
 

Forms of Confession

In the Lord’s Prayer we have an example of confessing sins in personal prayer. Jesus teaches it in this way: “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” 

From that example, confession has made its way into our public worship services. It is there as we repeat the Lord’s Prayer. It is also there in another, more explicit way when we confess our sins aloud—usually at the beginning of the service.

That isn’t the whole of confession in Christian life, however—or it shouldn’t be the whole of it. Hopefully we all try to practice confession in the presence of others—confession as we say, “I’m sorry” for the things that have hurt or offended others. Without such willingness to admit our faults, our relationships will have real problems! So also, when another confesses to us, “I’m sorry,” it is vital that we forgive them. You can see why Jesus adds those other words: “as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

One more form of confession must be mentioned: private confession with the pastor. Our church highly values this kind of confession, even though it is not widely practiced. No one should be compelled to confess, but private confession is a treasure. In it, we share our failures. More importantly, as we confess, we are able to hear the word of Christ’s forgiveness spoken specifically to us.

 

 

Prayer for the day: Gracious Father, thank You for inviting us to admit our sins, our faults, and our failures to you. Thank you for not coercing our confession in order to punish us, but inviting it graciously so that we can be forgiven and then guided once again into your ways of living as we follow Jesus Christ, our Lord, in whose name we pray. Amen.
 

 

Friday, July 10, 2020                                   Confession—IV
 

The Practice of Confession

The greatest benefit of confession comes when we recognize that every day is an opportunity for us to live our faith and that what we do today really matters. We can be a force for good, or for nothing at all, or, sadly, even for evil.

Confession is part of a life lived in the presence of God. I am his. I am baptized. I have an eternal destiny. I am here today because God has given me life and has given meaning to my life. Christ has called me to himself and wants to lead me through life, day by day.

Some of you may remember a long-ago Broadway hit called “Godspell.” It has a song called “Day by Day,” that includes these lyrics: “Day by day. . . Day by day. . . Oh Dear Lord, Three things I pray. To see thee more clearly; Love thee more dearly; Follow thee more nearly. . . Day by day. . . .”

That’s really a confession. It doesn’t detail any particular sins, but the repetition of “more” shows that the song admits that our lives are never perfect.

Far from it. When we take time to see Jesus in the Scriptures, to reflect on the Word in daily readings or in sermons, and to examine ourselves in the light of God’s commandments, we will also see our need for repentance and confession. But don’t think of this as a grim, sour thing. It is simply a way to look into a different kind of a mirror than the one we use to check our hair. In God’s mirror we see the places where “he ain’t finished with me yet.” Thank you, Lord!

 

Prayer for the day: Lord Jesus Christ, you show us our sin not to bury us in shame, but to forgive, reshape, and renew us day by day. We praise you! Amen.
 
 
Saturday, July 11, 2020                            The Keys of Heaven
 

The Office of the Keys

Closely connected with confession is an important reality that was mentioned a few days ago. In God’s forgiving work, he makes use of human instruments and earthly realities. Think of Baptism, where God uses water joined to his words to cleanse and forgive. And a man speaks those words, even though they are God’s words.

Jesus once said to his disciples: “I am giving you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind [lock] on earth, is locked in heaven. Whatever you loosen [unlock] on earth, is loosened in heaven” (Matt. 18:18). That’s a clear reminder that God wants to use his disciples—including each one of us—to set people free from sin and to unlock the door of heaven to them.

The image of keys that lock or unlock has resulted in titling church teaching about this with the curious name, “The Office of the Keys.” The Catechism uses that title and explains: “The Office of the Keys is 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.” That statement is followed by a quotation from John 20:22-23, where Jesus says, “if you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven.”

This is how we should think about pastors. Their job is to speak the words of Christ, telling us what he has said and done—always teaching on the basis of God’s Word.

This is also how each of us should think of ourselves. We have “the key to heaven”—which is this simple truth. God has forgiveness and new life for everyone in Jesus Christ. Come to him!

 

Prayer for the Day: God, our Father, you made us your servants, letting us share your Word. Help us do it faithfully; in Jesus’ name. Amen.