Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
In the movie, Return of the Jedi, as part of their complicated relationship, Darth Vader says to his son, Luke Skywalker, “Your thoughts betray you.” How often the person who feels guilt over some dark deed has thought or said, “I don’t feel forgiven.” Our thoughts and our feelings betray us constantly. Our thoughts and feelings betray us by causing us to doubt or disbelieve what God’s Word has proclaimed. Where do Christians go with troubled consciences? To the cross. For it is at the cross that we hear that “It is finished!” The debt for sin has been paid by Christ, our Lord!
When we are burdened by guilt over sin, we confess our sin and trust the Word of Absolution spoken to us. To the adulterous spouse, God pronounces forgiveness through the pastor. In the rite for “Individual Confession and Absolution” from Lutheran Service Book (p. 292), the pastor says to the penitent, “Do you believe that my forgiveness is God’s forgiveness?” The penitent is invited to affirm that belief. The pastor then responds by saying, “Let it be done for you as you believe.” Likewise, the son or daughter does not say, “I’m sorry,” but “I have sinned.” The parents do not say, “That’s okay,” but “You are forgiven for the sake of Jesus.”
Each week the pews in church are filled with people who do not feel forgiven. But we trust not in ourselves and our own feelings, but the Word of God that brought all things into being and by which Jesus healed the sick and raised the dead. The Word of Absolution that the pastor speaks is ultimately God’s Word and it accomplishes what He intends. Even if the pastor himself does not feel forgiven, He speaks the Word for the sake of his hearers and himself and trusts not himself, but the One whose Word it is, who gives the Word its power. So the person whose thoughts and feelings keep recalling their sin and shame are directed to Christ, His cross and His Word. For we trust that our transgressions are forgiven and our sins are covered, for the sake of Him who died and rose again in our place, Jesus Christ. Don’t let your thoughts and feelings betray you! Believe Christ and His Word. Your sins are forgiven for His sake. Let it be done for you as you believe!
Blessing – Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit, soul, and body, be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it. Go in peace. Your sins are forgiven!
Fraternally in Christ,
President Lee Hagan