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“Beseeching and Imploring and What-not”

8June2012

Since our move to a new home and ministry last Fall, Patti and I have been downsizing and re-organizing our personal library. So yesterday I came across the Service Book and Hymnal (1958) which brought back memories from my youth. Back then, we observed silence before the service, in order to pray and prepare our hearts for worship. There was a lot of beseeching and imploring God back then, which seems too desperate now for modern, sensible Christians like us, who just need a little help being “more spiritual” and navigating the challenges of a fast-paced world. 

 

For example, consider this anachronistic phrase from the Confession: “… we poor sinners confess unto thee, that we are by nature sinful and unclean… Wherefore we flee for refuge to thine infinite mercy.” Even most church folk today will bristle at the words “poor,” “sinful”, and unclean.” Imperfect, maybe. But certainly not flawed in some fundamental way. 

 

Yet, as Luther and others have reminded us, we are not sinners because we sin. We sin because we are sinners. Because something is broken in us that no amount of striving or “turning over a new leaf” can fix. We rebel against the notion of Divine authority, the idea that there is One above us who has set boundaries and limits for our own protection and well being. Hence, our tendency to push those limits. To transgress those boundaries. Which makes us unclean in God’s sight, like kids who have been playing outside in the mud all day, insisting that they don’t really need a bath.

 

So I like some of the words in this old Confession, circa 1958. It bestoweth wisdom, and reminds us of some things that are important, albeit in Elizabethan English. For example, part of the prayer asks that the Lord would “increase in us true knowledge of thee and of thy will, and true obedience to thy word, that by thy grace we may come to everlasting life.” Too many Lutherans today believe that talk of obedience diminishes justification by grace through faith. But our ancestors didn’t see it that way. They didn’t compartmentalize salvation and holy living, because they saw both as God’s work in the believer.

 

Which brings us to this option for the Absolution, proclaimed by the Minister: “The Almighty and merciful God grant unto you, being penitent, pardon and remission of all your sins, time for amendment of life, and the grace and comfort of his Holy Spirit.” Amendment of life suggests that God won’t leave us where we are right now. And that though we cannot be perfect, we will be empowered and transformed. As a poor, unclean sinner. That’s what I need most.

 

Beseeching, Imploring, and Fleeing,

 

JAM@CCD

 

 

  1. All quotations from Service Book and Hymnal of the Lutheran Church in America, 

    pp. 1-2. Augsburg Fortress Publishing House, 1958.

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