Monday, October 30, 2023

One Little Word

"A Mighty Fortress Is Our God" has been called the "Battle Hymn of the Reformation."  The text and tune are both by Martin Luther.  I wrote this devotion years ago and believe it bears repeating annually.  Someone else said that it bears repeating daily.

Luther's great hymn, "A Mighty Fortress," contains the line at the end of the third verse: "One little word can fell him."  Many know this line, but few may know the one little word Luther had in mind.  What would you say it is?

In a writing called "Against Hanswurst," Luther explained that the one little word is, "You lie."  Luther writes:

"For all such books written against me, even if there were as many as thousands of them written every day and every hour, are very easily refuted with the single word, 'Devil, you lie,' just as that haughty beggar Dr. Luther sings so proudly and boldly in those words of his hymn, 'One little word shall fell him.'"

Now to simplify and make it just one word, we could say, "Liar!"  In John 8:44, Jesus says about the devil, "When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies."  Luther believed that deeply.

We know that Psalm 46 formed the basis for "A Mighty Fortress."  But Luther must also have had in mind the story of David and Goliath.  In the first place, the devil is our Goliath.  In the second place, the one little word (Liar!) is just like the one little stone David used.  And in the third place, that one little word "fells" the giant.  "One little word can fell him."

Now try it, and use it often.  This one really works!  Next time that temptation comes, that discouragement, that fear, reach into your bag for one little word.


And spread the word!

Monday, October 9, 2023


"Then David said to Nathan, 'I have sinned against the Lord.'  And Nathan said to David, 'The Lord also has taken away your sin; you shall not die'" (2 Sam. 12:13).

Frequently Asked Questions about Individual Confession:

1. You mean, Confession is part of the Lutheran Church?  I thought that was Roman Catholic.  It is part of the Lutheran Church.  It is the fifth chief part of the Small Catechism.  But the reality is that most Lutherans do not take advantage of it.  Let us pray for that to change.

2. Must I go to Confession?  No.  Let's be clear about that.  But a better question is, May I go to Confession?  Yes.  But the best question is, Am I invited to Confession?  Very much so!  It is here for you!

3. Where does it take place?  Although it may take place anywhere, and even over the phone, usually it takes place in the privacy of the pastor's study (sitting, not kneeling).

4. When does it take place?  Anytime by appointment.  Or the pastor will announce times for Confession, such as the Wednesdays during Lent.

5. How long does it take?  Typically no more than five minutes, or even less.  A very good confession can be done in two minutes.

6. How will I know what to say?  That's easy.  A simple, beautiful order is provided in Lutheran Service Book, page 292.  The pastor will have it ready for you to use.

7. Would the pastor ever share my sins with others?  Absolutely not.  Under no circumstances.  There is no exception to this rule.

8. How often should I go?  Start with once.  After that, plan to go once a year or maybe twice.

9. Does my pastor go to Confession too?  Believe it or not, your pastor is the congregation's first sinner.  He will drive to see another pastor for Confession.  This is one reason he wants to offer Individual Confession and Absolution to the members of his congregation: he knows firsthand the spiritual benefits (peace, joy, and a renewed love).

10. But won't he look at me differently after hearing my confession?  Far from it.  The pastor loves you unconditionally, and compassionately - he feels what you are carrying.  He is sent by God to shepherd and to help you.  One of the main ways he helps is by hearing your confession and pronouncing forgiveness.

The words which absolution give
Are His who died that we might live;
The minister whom Christ has sent
Is but His humble instrument.
(LSB 614:5)