CATECHESIS NOTES FOR THE WEEK—Martin Luther Teaches Concerning Private Confession and Absolution--"If anybody does not go to confession willingly and for the sake of absolution, let him just forget about it. Yes, and if anybody goes about relying on the purity of his confession, let him just stay away from it. We urge you, however, to confess and express your needs, not for the purpose of performing a work but to hear what God wishes to say to you. The Word of absolution, I say, is what you should concentrate on, magnifying and cherishing it as a great and wonderful treasure to be accepted with all praise and gratitude." (Large Catechism, “A Breif Exhortation to Confession,” Tappert Edition)
CATECHESIS NOTES FOR THE WEEK—“A Lover’s Word”—This week we begin two weeks of meditation on Confession and the Office of the Keys. These headings from the Catechism might sound dry and sterile to some, but these sections are all about receiving “a Lover’s Word.” Jesus’ Word of forgiveness is a Lover’s Word—the Word of Him who loved us, His bride, so much that He laid down His life in death to cover the ugliness of our sin and rebellion against God. Just as the words of our beloved in marriage strengthen our relationship with our spouse, so the words of absolution from our Lover Jesus strengthen our relationship with Him. Even more than this, His Word of forgiveness makes us beautiful, strengthens faith against sin and temptation, and gives us comfort. What woman doesn’t want to hear the word of him who loves her? This is how we should view the absolution, and why we should learn to value it and long to hear it from our pastors.
CATECHESIS NOTES FOR THE WEEK—The Baptismal Life--What is the “baptismal life”? According to the catechism Baptism has daily significance in the life of every Christian. It defines who we are: Sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. But it also teaches us that we have the Old Adam, our sinful flesh, constantly about us who is an enemy of this faith. The Old Adam must be drowned and die. The New Man, Christ Himself, must rise up in us. This happens through the ministry of the Word, the preaching of repentance and the forgiveness of sins. The Old Adam is killed each time we hear the Law and say “Amen” to it: this is the sinner I am. The New Man arises in us each time we, as broken and contrite sinners, hear the Word of Absolution and believe it. When we hear that our sins are forgiven we are taken back to the central truth of our Baptism. This truth is not merely repeated as a bit of information, it is the power of God in our lives each day. This is what it means to live in our baptism daily.
CATECHESIS NOTES FOR THE WEEK—The Power of the Word in the Water -- The Catechism states that “the Word of God in and with the water” of Holy Baptism is what gives Baptism its power to work “forgiveness of sins, rescue from death and the devil, and give eternal salvation to all who believe this.” Take away the Word and you have nothing but water; but with the Word you have life-giving water, rich in grace, and the washing of the rebirth in the Holy Spirit. Many Bible Stories highlight the power of the Word in, with, and under the water of Baptism. By the Word of the Lord the heavens were opened for forty days and forty nights in the divine judgment of the great flood, and Noah and His family were saved through water. By the Word of the Lord, God saved the children of Israel through the water of the Red Sea and destroyed Pharaoh and his armies. By the Word of the Lord, the waters of the Jordan parted and Israel was drawn into the promised land. By the Word of the Lord, the water of the Jordan cleansed Naaman of his leprosy and even brought him to the faith that confessed that the God of Israel was, indeed, the Lord and the only true God. In all of these stories there are two common themes. First, the water was very very real, it was no symbol, and it carried both the condemnation and the salvation of God. Second, the Word of God itself was real and God joined Himself to the water by His Word in order to accomplish His saving work. To despise the water was to despise the Word. To despise the Word was to reject the water. The water and the Word were inseparably joined together by God. Why is this so important? It is by the Word in tangible water that we come to receive salvation and that we come to know that salvation with absolute and unshakeable certainty.
CATECHESIS NOTES FOR THE WEEK—The Large Catechism Speaks on Holy Baptism– “Baptism is a very different thing from all other water, not by virtue of the natural substance but because here something nobler is added. God Himself stakes his honor, His power, and His might on it. Therefore it is not simply a natural water, but a divine, heavenly, holy, and blessed water—all by virtue of the Word, which is a heavenly, holy Word which no one can sufficiently extol, for it contains and conveys all the fullness of God … ‘He who believes and is baptized shall be saved.’ To put it most simply, the power, effect, benefit, fruit, and purpose of Baptism is to save…To be saved, we know, is nothing else than to be delivered from sin, death, and the devil and to enter into the kingdom of Christ and live with him forever. Faith must have something to believe—something to which it may cling and upon which it may stand. Thus faith clings to the water and believes it to be Baptism in which there is sheer salvation and life, not through water, as we have sufficiently stated, but through its incorporation with God’s Word and ordinance and the joining of His name to it. When I believe this, what else is it but believing in God as the one who has implanted his Word in this external ordinance and offered it to us so that we may grasp the treasure it contains?” (Excerpts from the Large Catechism, Tappert Ed.)
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