Sunday, March 9, 2014

Confessions of a Lenten Heart

"I said, 'I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,' and You forgave the iniquity of my sin" (Ps. 32:5).

Ash Wednesday brings with it a renewed emphasis on confession, and that spirit endures through all of Lent.

It may be helpful to distinguish three types of confession toward God: corporate, individual, and personal.  I'll say just a word about each one.

Corporate - Most Lutheran Divine Services begin with corporate confession.  The congregation makes confession together as one body.  But at the same time, members have in mind and heart their own individual sins.  Corporate confession is always followed by corporate absolution, that is, the Word of forgiveness spoken by the pastor to all and to each.

Individual - This confession takes place in private between one person and the pastor.  It usually makes mention of one or more sins that are troubling the person.  It needn't take more than several minutes.  It is sealed in holy confidentiality.  It gives great spiritual relief and refreshment!  Ask your pastor to say more about individual confession and absolution, including an easy-to-use order the two of you may follow.

Personal - Perhaps also called "daily confession," this type goes on at all times in the Christian heart.  You may use the Lord's Prayer (Fifth Petition), other prayers, psalms, or hymns.  This is where I teach my congregation to practice saying the Fourteen Words:

"God, be merciful to me, a sinner."
 
"Take heart, child, your sins are forgiven."
 
Seven and seven, these fourteen words represent a deep form of personal confession and absolution.  They come from Luke 18:13 and Matthew 9:2.
 
The Lord of Lent help, bless, and strengthen us through the gift of confession and absolution!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Fruitful

On February 23 the church remembers St. Polycarp.  I'm still thinking about him.

He was a disciple of John, he was the bishop of Smyrna (in today's Turkey), and he was martyred in the year 155 or 156.

We have a letter he wrote to the Christians in Philippi, and we have an authentic first-hand account of his death.  The latter is only thirteen pages long and should be required Christian reading.  Read it devotionally and it will strengthen you.  For me the lessons learned are: Be brave, be loving, and be faithful - all things we need today, and all things God will work in us!

But the standout thing for me is the meaning of the name Polycarp.  It is Greek and means "much fruit" or "fruitful."  Very interestingly (remember that John was Polycarp's teacher) the name Polycarp may be found in the Gospel of John.  John 12:24 reads, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit."

The witness of Polycarp has encouraged countless Christians, and all these years later he is still bearing fruit.  God is living him up to his name - Fruitful!

For Polycarp we praise You,
Who did not fear the flame
But filled with joy and courage
Confessed Your holy name.
Lord, give Your Holy Spirit
To our timidity
That filled with joy and courage
We too may fruitful be!

Like to have a copy of the Martyrdom of St. Polycarp sent to you?  Contact Wanda at 760-743-2478 or office@gdlc.sdcoxmail.com.