Bible Readings and Devotion for May 15, 2020
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Devotion for May 15, 2020
By Pastor David Tinker
One of the great struggles of public life in our nation and in the world today is denial. It happens with some, but not all, politicians of various stripes and parties. A politician will be caught up in a scandal or criminal behavior. When the citizens or the news media confront him or her about it, the first line of defense is denial. Some legal counselors will urge this policy on their clients: “Deny. Deny. Deny.” Whether or not the politician has actually done the wrong or scandalous thing becomes irrelevant. The hope is that the people or the press will eventually give up, and the politician can go his or her way.
In today’s reading from John chapter 8 we have a scene which seems to include either gross denial or great ignorance of history. Jesus is teaching when the following scene happens: “Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, ‘You will be made free’?””
The response of these Jews has long baffled me. It also makes some sense knowing human sin or an assertion of faith. The Jews say that they, “have never been slaves to anyone.” The baffling comes from their ignorance of their history. The central story of the people of Israel has been slavery. For most of their 430 years in Egypt they were crushed under the slave masters of Egypt. The Covenant at Mount Sinai, the core Israelite agreement with the Lord, is prefaced by a reminder that the Lord saved the people from slavery in Egypt (Exodus 20:1-2). Then many of them were enslaved by their own King Solomon who needed forced labor to complete his massive building program. In the 500s BC the Jews were dragged off into exile and slavery in Babylon. In the middle of the First Century BC the Roman Empire captured the Holy Land, and they controlled the people with threats and slavery, if needed. In the time of Jesus, the Jews were still under the threatening thumb of Rome. In all times and places, people have been slaves to the power of sin.
Human sin would possibly cause the people to deny that they have ever suffered loss due to their past sin. Their exile in Babylon was a judgment against the people for persistent and unrepentant sin. On the other hand, maybe they were asserting that, despite the harsh treatment by their enemies and their own king, the people were free under the Lord’s loving care.
People in all times and places try to deny their situations as relates to sin. It is hard to admit that we are wrong. Our pride often gets in the way of acknowledging our sin. Sometimes we believe that some action we like to do is not really wrong. No matter how we slice it, we are still denying our sinfulness. We today don’t really like admitting our sin. This is not a new idea. The Apostle John notes the following in his first letter, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. f we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” (1 John 1:8-10).
We actually benefit from admitting our sin. It is an important way to respond to the calling of God for us. The great Fred Rogers, the Mister Rogers of Public Television, was Presbyterian Pastor as well as a children’s television host. He got human sin. One time he noted this about feelings, but it can also be about sin: “Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable.” When we tell God that we know how we have sinned, it makes us more able to work with God or manage our lives in light of God’s love.
There are some normal Lutheran, Christiian options for recognizing our sin.
1) Praying the Lord’s Prayer – forgive us our sins and we forgive those who have sinned against us.
2) Public, corporate confession of sin, such as in our worship services.
3) Individual Confession. Here is what Martin Luther noted in the Small Catechism regarding this opportunity.
How people are to be taught to confess
What is confession?
Confession consists of two parts. One is that we confess our sins. The other is that we receive the absolution, that is, forgiveness, from the pastor as from God himself and by no means doubt but firmly believe that our sins are thereby forgiven before God in heaven.
Which sins is a person to confess?
Before God one is to acknowledge the guilt for all sins, even those of which we are not aware, as we do in the Lord’s Prayer. However, before the pastor we are to confess only those sins of which we are aware and which trouble us.
Which sins are these?
Here reflect on your walk of life in light of the Ten Commandments: whether you are father, mother, son, daughter, master, mistress, servant; whether you have been disobedient, unfaithful, lazy, whether you have harmed anyone by word or deed; whether you have stolen, neglected, wasted, or injured anything.
4) When receiving Holy Communion, pray to God and confess to him your sin.
5) Pray the psalms. Psalm 51 is especially appropriate for confession of sin before God.
Confession is the daily, first step in getting the go on board with helping you, “work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” (Philippians 2:12b).
There are other ways, but these can get you started. Remember, Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt. The less we deny that we are sinners, and begin honestly acknowledge our sin, the more we can tap into the beautiful grace and forgiveness of God in Jesus Christ.
Merciful God, I confess that I have sinned in thought, word, and deed, by what I have done and by what I have left undone. I repent of all my sins, known and unknown. I am truly sorry, and I pray for forgiveness. I firmly intend to amend my life, and to seek help in mending what is broken. I ask for strength to turn from sin and to serve you in newness of life.Amen
Prayer from Evangelical Lutheran Worship. Copyright © 2020 Augsburg Fortress. All rights reserved.