Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Struggling with the Catechism

Luther's explanation to the second article includes:  That I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness...  The first part of that is easy enough since we all want to belong to the Lord, to have a place of refuge to run to like running home to mom and dad, and so that He can fight all my battles for us... but that is not where it stops.  In fact, the problem with this is that the that I may be His own  is defined by the "and" -- namely -- live under Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness...

This is the problem... I may want a place to run to for solace when the things of my life become too big for me to face or bear or handle on my own but to live under Him in His Kingdom and serve Him in righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, this is a problem.  I may want a place to run to when I need to but normally I want God to come at my beck and call, to do my bidding, to provide for me what I want, and to fix my slip ups.  It is not God's kingdom that I want to live in but God to come into my kingdom and make it mine -- so that I may be the lord I want to be, ruler of all that is mine and definer of my own destiny.  This is the rub.  I want God to live under me -- a reliable and faithful genie to grant me my wishes and fulfill my commands.

And then there are those words so foreign to our vocabulary.... righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.  I do not want to be righteous -- except for a few moments out of the week in Church or perhaps when I am caught in my own guilt and shame... but really, if I wanted righteousness I would be a Pharisee.  I know Pharisees, and, let me tell you, Larry is no Pharisee.  I am a publican and a sinner who frets about admitting it -- either to God or to those around me.  My heart has not sought after righteousness and when I am righteous it is because I am forced to be.  My heart is stained with the sinful desires that will not go away and will not be silenced.  I want the Lord to be my righteousness precisely so that I do not have to be righteous myself.  Yet what Luther is telling me is that if the Lord is my righteousness, I am to live under Him IN righteousness...

Innocence?  I may be naive about some things and stupid about others and downright ignorant of other things... but I am not innocent.  I deal with a devious nature that seeks to set up things and set up people so that I look good.  I think about how I look as much as how I should look to others.  I may not be smooth and savvy at evil like some are but even if I am not slick it does not mean I am innocent.  Luther's explanation of the eighth commandment is a daily haunt -- to put the best construction on everything?!  That is what my heart does not want to do.  I delight in the spicy details of the foibles of those I do not like and even do not know.  No, innocence may be my calling but guilt, duplicity, and guile are things I know too very well.

Blessedness...gadfry what does that word mean anyway?  Blessed are the.... what does that mean -- happy are the, say, poor in spirit?  Happy?  Content?  At peace?  My heart can be a raging river of discontent.  Sometimes I am an enemy of every one and everything because I am also my own enemy.  Peace is my prayer but how can you have peace when you look in the mirror every morning and see exactly who you are and who you are not?  Peace, peace, there is no peace.... that is the Bible passage for my day.  You know the old expression s_ _ _  happens -- well I know its truth only too well.  I count on it.  I am surprised when the day goes well.  Blessedness is not an apt description of me and my heart.

If you want to know how I read the Catechism, this is how I read it.  Its words both convict and encourage me.  They speak to my heart exposing the hidden evil within to the light of God's Son and provide me the agenda for my work with the Spirit to repent, change, transform, and become the new and different person that my Lord has declared me to be in my baptism.

Where is the Gospel in this?  Where it always is.  The Gospel is Jesus Christ... the Jesus who is for me in His incarnation, suffering, death and resurrection and in me applying His gifts and grace and supplying me with the power of His grace to do what I cannot by my own reason or strength... from the faith that first believes and hopes to the change that is His work and the fruit of His Spirit present within me just as He has promised. 

Which Jesus Christ?  The Jesus Christ that is true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with his holy, precious blood and with his innocent suffering and death...Every day when I realize who I am apart from Christ I am driven into the arms of Him who claims me as His own and into the power of the Spirit who can do what I cannot... Everyday is a struggle to say with confidence and trust... that in addition to the picture of me that I know is so real and true, there is another vision of me to see through the eyes of the Father and the blood of His Son and for me to believe that this image of me is as true of me as is the image I see in the mirror of my sin.  And then to trust what God has declared to be true even more than what my conscience knows to be true of me...  "This is most certainly true..."


Janis Williams said...

Luther knew how to face his own sin, and how to instruct others to face it. Then how to heal those wounds with the balm of the Gospel.

Yes, s___ happens. The really hard part is facing the fact that either you ARE or you manufacture that selfsame s___. Then as if that wasn't difficult enough, you must confess it. To God, and your father (pastor).

Karyn said...

Pastor Peters,

I just had to leave a brief comment on this one to say that although this is not particularly presented as a homily here, after reading it, one of my first reactions is the thought that this might be one of the best Lutheran sermons I've heard or read (aside from Martin Luther's.) I guess it's only my opinion, but I think you communicated the law and gospel effectively, and without offending persons of one classification more than another. Well done.