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Posts Tagged ‘penitence’

1. Lord, to Thee I make confession;

I have sinned and gone astray,
I have multiplied transgression,
Chosen for myself my way,
Led by Thee to see my errors,
Lord, I tremble at Thy terrors.

2. Yet, though conscience’ voice appall me,
Father, I will seek Thy face;
Though Thy child I dare not call me,
Yet receive me to Thy grace.
Do not for my sins forsake me;
Do not let Thy wrath o’ertake me.

3. For Thy Son did suffer for me,
Gave Himself to rescue me,
Died to heal me and restore me,
Reconciled me unto Thee.
‘Tis alone His cross can vanquish
These dark fears and soothe this anguish.

4. Then on Him I cast my burden,
Sink it in the depths below.
Let me know Thy gracious pardon,
Wash me, make me white as snow.
Let Thy Spirit leave me never;
Make me only Thine forever.

Hymn #326
The Lutheran Hymnal
Text: Ps 139: 7-10
Author: Johann Franck, 1649, cento
Translated by: Catherine Winkworth, 1863, alt.
Titled: “Herr, ich habe missgehandelt”
Composer: Johann Crueger, 1649
Tune: “Herr, ich habe missgehandelt”

Note:  this hymn study is not of the music since I am musically illiterate!  This is a study of the hymn’s words as they reflect confessionally the Scriptures for our edification.

About Johann Franck:  He ranks second only to Paul Gerhardt (Lutheran Service Book, LSB, #334, # 360, etc) as a hymnwriter, was one of the writers who marked the transition from the objective German “church song” to a more personal and mystical kind of poetry, yet Franck’s hymns  are based on  the solid rock of God’s  Word of Law and Promise, as we can read and sing in his hymn above. He was also a writer of secular poetry of some renown during his time, but it is his hymns, finished in form and of earnest faith and simplicity, that have survived. Of these he wrote 110. Franck’s most known  hymns are both in  Lutheran Service Book (LSB):   #636, “Soul, Adorn Thyself with Gladness and #743, “Jesus, Priceless Treasure”.  

Born June 1, 1618, at Guben, Brandenburg, Germany, Franck was two years old when his father died and he was adopted by an uncle. He received his education at the University of Konigsberg, the only German university not disrupted by the Thirty Years’ War. There he formed a friendship with Simon Dach and Heinrich Held (LSB #352). He became a lawyer, as was his father, and after some travel, returned to Guben, where he became a councillor, a mayor, and finally a representative of the province to the Diet of Lower Lusatia. He died June 18, 1677. (adapted from Hymnal Companion to the Lutheran Book of Worship, Augsburg-Fortress Publishing).

LSB lists these Scripture passages as the basis of “Lord, to You I Make Confession’:

  • Psalm 51: 5-11
  • 2 Corinthians 5: 18-20
  • Isaiah 59: 12
  • Psalm 32: 5

The Lutheran Confessions summarize Confession and Absolution,as taught in the Scriptures and the texts above:

 Now, repentance consists properly of these   two parts:  One is contrition, that is,  terrors smiting the conscience through the knowledge of sin; the other is faith, which is born of  the Gospel, or of absolution, and believes that for Christ’s sake, sins are forgiven, comforts  the conscience, and delivers it from terrors. Then good works are bound to follow, which are the fruits of repentance. (Augsburg Confession, Article XII: Of Repentence)

 Franck’s hymn is precisely what every Christian knows:  contrition, sorrow over sin leads the Christian to seek in faith in Christ to  taking hold of His forgiveness, the Absolution, the Word of promise, by Christ’s Work and Word, after the terror over sin from God’s just judgment:

 “Led by Thee to see my errors,
Lord, I tremble at Thy terrors”.

We do not know what Franck’s precise sin(s) that prompted him to write this hymn.  Does it matter?  He did not make his confession, as many do today in the courts of public opinion to be accepted by  sinful suspect culture.  This kind of ‘confession’ is simply a continuation into sin:  

I have multiplied transgression,
Chosen for myself my way.

It is man seeking his own way. There is only One who can forgive and  to be forgiven in the courts of the Lord’s House:  Christ.  Absolution does not come from the Gallup polls but by God’s promise alone fulfilled in His Son.  “I can’t forgive myself”:  that’s right.  Advising someone to forgive themselves is choosing one’s own way, going the wrong way, back into the sinful heart, not outward to the Lord and the only Way of mercy.  Johann’s  confession was between himself and his confessor. The confessor would have been  authorized by Christ to be Johann’s pastor to speak God’s Word of freedom into his ears into his fearful heart.  Johann Franck did not even claim to be God’s child with proprietary rights supposedly entitling him to forgiveness:

Though Thy child I dare not call me,
Yet receive me to Thy grace.

Implied in that stanza that it was the Lord Himself who so claimed him as a child and you as well, by His grace alone.  He did so for all to see, and for thee  upon the Cross.  

For Thy Son did suffer for me,
Gave Himself to rescue me,
Died to heal me and restore me,
Reconciled me unto Thee.
‘Tis alone His cross can vanquish
These dark fears and soothe this anguish.

 Then on Him I cast my burden,
Sink it in the depths below.
Let me know Thy gracious pardon,
Wash me, make me white as snow.
Let Thy Spirit leave me never;
Make me only Thine forever.

It is a shame that  our hymnals no longer include the sung Amen as they once did. Nevertheless:

♫Amen♫

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By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,
Secretary of State

Two comments:

1. Can you image any President in our day writing such, calling the nation not only to give thanks but to penitence?  

2. A blessed Thanksgiving to you and  to your families and friends He has called you to serve!

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In the first centuries of the Church, after Ascension and Pentecost, when a person was reborn a Christian in the waters of Holy Baptism, she left the futile ways of her forefathers. She ceased being a pagan. She ceased being an idolater worshiping many gods and began to worship the true and living God who sent His Son into the world to save us in this world for the life of the world to come.  (1 Peter 1:17-191 Thessalonians 1:8-10;   1 Corinthians 6: 9-11) 

Worship was and is the line of demarcation between the world and the life of the world to come.  In the Orthodox Church, their liturgy begins

Blessed is the kingdom of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages.

Crossing the border from the world as it is into world as is shall be, the Kingdom coming into the world through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  The foretaste of the reign of God first accomplished by Him, when the People of Israel crossed the Jordan, after bondage in Egypt, and 40 years of the journey through the desert into the land of Promise:  crossing the Jordan.

At a border, there is a border check, customs.  In many countries, as our own, a visitor, or a returning citizen cannot bring in contraband, items considered dangerous to the welfare of the nation.    We have a border check in the Lutheran Church called Confession and Absolution, which begins the Divine Service. “Absolution” is from the word “absolve” and its synonym is “forgiveness”.  But I think it is important, even crucial,  to use “absolution” because His absolution is absolute, as real as the nails piercing His sinless hands and feet for your purification.

In the Old Testament, when Isaiah saw the Lord in glory, Isaiah cried out I am a man of unclean lips.  He knew he could not so stand in the Presence with such a dangerous tongue.  The Lord purified Isaiah.  (Isaiah 6: 4-8) As it was to Israel, sin is dangerous to the welfare of His Church, which is, “…a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”  (1 Peter 2: 9) We lay aside the sin that so easily entangles our selves, our families, the various countries the Church dwells at the confessional border crossing.  (Hebrews 12:1-3He disentangled us not easily in His crucifixion. He frees us in His forgiveness to live as freed citizens of the Kingdom of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

When I went in the ‘70s to Eastern Europe and the then Soviet Union, on a  trip from Concordia Senior College, as we crossed from Poland into the USSR in the dead of night, the train was stopped to change the undercarriage of the train because Poland had a different track gate.  It was a convenient time for the Soviet soldiers to come on board, with automatic weapons, to rifle through our baggage, lift up our compartments seats and look us over.

  • A pastor is no Soviet border guard!  The Lord already has found you out and does so to find you in His all-encompassing forgiveness. He found you out in His Law, from Him no secrets are hid, nothing we can hide.  We cannot bring the dearest souvenir of hell into heaven. This is why we begin with Confession and Absolution.
  • A pastor’s vocation is also to hear private confession, when the burden is great for the penitent.  A pastor’s vocation is to hear confession but not to talk at all about what he has heard.  He is not tell anyone about the confession’s content, even his wife, so that you may again live as the Lord’s freed citizen, His son or daughter.
  • When the Israelites crossed the Jordan the first thing they were commanded to do was celebrate the Passover, and we do in the once and for all Passover of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world: This is My Body, this is My Blood.  The Lord Jesus has so commanded the new Passover for the forgiveness of sins, in communion with Him and His people.

Confession and Absolution is crossing the boundary, the Jordan and it is a return to the forgiveness granted in Holy Baptism, the washing and regeneration in the Word, the Lord’s Name, Father, Son and Holy Spirit (St. Matthew 28:18-20).  This is why the sign of the cross is encouraged at the beginning of Confession and Absolution with the Invocation, In the Name of the Father, and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, because it is in His Name we are baptized.  Further, it is encouraged that Confession and Absolution be led from the Baptismal Font.   We see this in Dr. Luther’s ordering in The Small and Large Catechisms:  his explanation of Holy Baptism is followed immediately by the doctrine of Confession and Absolution.  From The Large Catechism:

…here you see that Baptism, both in its power and signification, comprehends also the third Sacrament, which has been called repentance, (i.e. Confession and Absolution) as it is really nothing else than Baptism. For what else is repentance but an earnest attack upon the old man [that his lusts be restrained] and entering upon a new life? Therefore, if you live in repentance, you walk in Baptism, which not only signifies such a new life, but also produces, begins, and exercises it. For therein are given grace, the Spirit, and power to suppress the old man, so that the new man may come forth and become strong.

Almighty God, by our baptism into the death and resurrection
of your Son Jesus Christ, you turn us from the old life of sin:
Grant that we, being reborn to new life in him, may live in
righteousness and holiness all our days; through Jesus Christ
our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Addendum:

The sections from Luther’s Small Catechism are reproduced below from The Book of Concord website.

IV. The Sacrament of Holy Baptism

As the head of the family should teach it in a simple way to his household.

First.

What is Baptism?–Answer.

Baptism is not simple water only, but it is the water comprehended in God’s command and connected with God’s Word.

Which is that word of God?–Answer.

Christ, our Lord, says in the last chapter of Matthew: Go ye into all the world and teach all nationsbaptizing them in the name of the Fatherand of the Sonand of the Holy Ghost.

Secondly.

What does Baptism give or profit?–Answer.

It works forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.

Which are such words and promises of God? Answer.

Christ, our Lord, says in the last chapter of Mark: He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

 Thirdly.

How can water do such great things?–Answer.

It is not the water indeed that does them, but the word of God which is in and with the water, and faith, which trusts such word of God in the water. For without the word of God the water is simple water and no baptism. But with the word of God it is a baptism, that is, a gracious water of life and a washing of regeneration in the Holy Ghost, as St. Paul says, Titus, chapter three: By the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghostwhich He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christour Saviorthatbeing justified by His gracewe should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is afaithful saying.

Fourthly.

What does such baptizing with water signify?–Answer.

It signifies that the old Adam in us should, by daily contrition and repentance, be drowned and die with all sins and evil lusts, and, again, a new man daily come forth and arise; who shall live before God in righteousness and purity forever.

Where is this written?–Answer.

St. Paul says Romans, chapter 6We are buried with Christ by Baptism into deaththatlike as He was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father,even so we also should walk in newness of life.


V. Confession

How Christians should be taught to confess.

What is Confession?*

Confession embraces two parts: the one is, that we confess our sins; the other, that we receive absolution, or forgiveness, from the confessor, as from God Himself, and in no wise doubt, but firmly believe, that our sins are thereby forgiven before God in heaven.

What sins should we confess?

Before God we should plead guilty of all sins, even of those which we do not know, as we do in the Lord’s Prayer. But before the confessor we should confess those sins alone which we know and feel in our hearts.

Which are these?

Here consider your station according to the Ten Commandments, whether you are a father, mother, son, daughter, master, mistress, a man-servant or maid-servant; whether you have been disobedient, unfaithful, slothful; whether you have grieved any one by words or deeds; whether you have stolen, neglected, or wasted aught, or done other injury.

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