Friday, June 8, 2012

Retaining - the Alien Work of the Pastor

A Preacher's job is to forgive sins.  That's what he does.  That's my job.  I forgive sins.  When I preach - I absolve people.  That's what forgiveness does.  When I conduct the liturgy, I absolve people.  This is true of the general absolution, this is true of the times I proclaim God's grace and favor.  "The Peace of the Lord be with you always" - and the Word of God is living and active and there is peace.  When I speak to people, when I counsel and visit or commune someone - I absolve them, I forgive them.  I am to be a herald of God, absolving sin.

"Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

My job is to forgive sins.  The Son of Man did not come to condemn the world but to redeem it.  Likewise, a Pastor is not sent to be a retainer of sins -- he may have to, but that is not his job.

I am not an inspector.  I am not to sit in judgment over my congregation or my parishioners retaining their sins until they have proven they are enough.... holy.... repentant... sorry... whatever... and then and only then forgive them.  I do not have to some how protect Jesus from accidentally letting His Word of forgiveness being spoken to someone who is hiddenly unrepentant.  He has already taken all the sins of the world upon Him -- even the sins of those who do not repent, even the sins of the unfaithful.  All sins He has born for us.

Now, I do have an alien work.  When one of mine has fallen, I will retain their sins -- that is, I will say to them, "You have denied your Lord, you are acting in open gross disbelieve, you have taken your sins back from Christ and they are placed upon you."

That is a fearful and terrible thing.  And it's only done when I'm damn well sure that it's true.

I am glad I do not have to do my alien work often.  I am glad I normally simply get to preach and proclaim forgiveness.  

But what of the faithless who hear that forgiveness?  What of the impenitent who have hidden hypocrisy -- how can I speak that forgiveness to them?  Well, of them it is spoken "hearing they do not hear and seeing they do not see."  So be it.  They follow their idols.  God grant them repentance.  But I preach Christ and Him Crucified for the forgiveness of sins -- and the fear of the impenitent will not hinder that.  A lack of trust in the Law to do it's work will not alter that.  An assumption of being the "Congregational Watch" seeking to keep everyone in line will not supplant my duty.

I forgive.  I preach.  I absolve.  I commune.  I forgive.   

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