Grace, mercy and peace be to you …
Be honest. Do you really feel like a poor, miserable sinner? Like we said in tonight’s confession … some of our liturgies ask us to confess together … saying… “I, a poor, miserable sinner…”
Truth is … as we learn from God’s Word… as redeemed Children of God … we are both saint and sinner. So why does it sometime seem like we play up that sinner part of us… like it’s the only part of us that matters?
That’s a good question. I’ve searched all the Gospels … and no where does Jesus compel His disciples to confess that they are poor, miserable sinners … although He did on several occasions question them about their faith and their doubts.
And if we were to have read the full text of what happened on Maundy Thursday from our Gospel for tonight, we’d hear that even in the Garden, Jesus called His disciples to account for their inability to keep the faith with Him in prayer without falling asleep.
So… where do these words: “poor, miserable sinner” come from? They come from Martin Luther. Why? Because Luther wanted us to realize as faithful Christians what a gift we have in the forgiveness of sins we’ve received in Christ Jesus.
You could almost say that our focus on our forgiveness of sins in Christ Jesus is a mark of the Lutheran Church… If you get into to other literature and Bible Studies … you get the sense that the cross and our forgiveness for Jesus sake is something like past history…
And then there seems to be a conscious effort to move on from our forgiveness to focusing our attention on living the Christian life. The problem is… neither the Bible, nor life, separates the two…. Forgiveness and the Christian life go together.
Now the warm fuzzy of the matter is this: And we’ve said this before… every one of our sins, past, present and even those in the future, were paid for and forgiven the moment Jesus died on the Cross.
So, when God sees us in faith … He sees us as Saints … not sinners.
We are the product of what’s called the Great Exchange: Jesus took our sins … and in exchange … we were given His holiness, His righteousness … His saintliness in God’s eyes. Once and for all. He became sin for us … and we became saints.
That being the case, why do we then confess that we are “poor, miserable sinners?” I can only speak for myself…
Have you ever made other people cry? … Not intentionally, perhaps … but that was the sum result of your words … or your actions? You can say you’re sorry about it all you want but … the damage is done, and sometimes it’s not something you or anyone else can fix… And it’s totally your fault…
Those things do happen. And if you have anything of a conscience … it doesn’t make you a happy camper. And what you feel is guilt. Loads of it.
And even if the other party forgives you … Life is not going to be the same in some ways… which will always be a reminder of what you did or said. …
It’s in times like that … I need to hear, as from God himself … that what I’ve have done is forgiven in His eyes.
It’s a both/and thing … Yes, God in His love gives us the assurance of the Gospel that all my sins have been forgiven for the sake of Jesus Christ …
AND He also recognizes my need for His personal assurance that even that thing that’s sitting like an elephant on my conscience is particularly forgiven by Him.
You see … what makes me “poor and miserable” in Luther’s words is not the condition of my soul … it is bathed in Christ’s righteousness … What is poor and miserable … is the state of my conscience when I look at my words and actions in the pure light of God’s Law.
And there I see what a poor and miserable representative of human race I am because of the way I treat Him and how I treat others … and I also see that I am poor and miserable because there is nothing I can do on my own to improve myself.
And so … to that end, God has given you and me His Word, and with that, both the Office of Private Confession and Absolution, and the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper … both of which to assure us individually of His forgiveness by His grace … and to strengthen our hearts and our faith by His Spirit,.
You see it’s both … I need to hear BOTH the objective Gospel that Jesus died for My sins … AND I need to have that applied to me, personally, as I receive His personal absolution in confession, and as I receive the every elements given and shed for my forgiveness in the Lord’s Supper.
Both the Objective Gospel … and The Subjective means of grace. God leaves nothing out, nothing to chance … nothing that I, as His child, may need.
Now … the trap that I don’t want to fall into is this: that somehow I don’t reckon my sin is forgiven until I feel that it is. …That I worry that my sin somehow still stands until I somehow sense that it is forgiven…
The absolute objective truth of the Gospel always stands … all my sins were forgiven on the Cross … even though my heart might not feel that way.
What’s bad is sometimes… in my poor, miserable sinfulness… I’ll punish myself by hauling a lot of false guilt around. And that’s another reason why God has His ways to give us His personal touch.
But you see, in all of this, God’s view of me has never changed. I stand forgiven for the sake of Jesus’ Sacrifice for my sins. But God knows I have a human heart that He made in the image of His own.
And having that kind of a heart … and having to live with sin in a sinful world … can make one feel pretty poor and miserable at times … as we unintentionally hurt others and are hurt by them in return.
And that’s why we can’t separate our forgiveness for Jesus sake from living the Christian life. The Cross and the Christian Life go together.
Just as God knew the Israelites needed daily bread, His manna, to survive in the desert … so He knows that we need the true Bread of Life, Jesus Himself, to survive on our journey to our promised land.
And that’s Who we receive tonight on this commemoration of the first Lord’s Supper. Jesus gives us His own Body, and Blood … those things given and shed for us … that we would know for certain… as poor and as miserable as our sins may be … that they are forgiven!
That’s what tonight’s all about. Come and see… the Lord is Good.