Forgiving and Retaining Sins   1 comment

Confessional

Above:  The Confessional Booth, the Church of the Nativity, Menlo Park, California

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = HABS CAL,41-MENPA,2–15

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The Collect:

Mighty God, you breathe life into our bones,

and your Spirit brings truth to the world.

Send us this Spirit,

transform us by your truth,

and give us language to proclaim your gospel,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 36

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 37:1-14

Psalm 104:24-34, 35b

John 20:19-23

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You send forth your Spirit, and they are created;

and so you renew the face of the earth.

–Psalm 104:31, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Ezekiel 37:1-14, the Vision of the Dry Bones, is an allegory of the restoration of the people Israel.  Subsequent interpretations include a literal reading regarding the physical resurrection of the dead, hence the pairing with John 20:19-23, an account of a post-Resurrection appearance of Jesus to ten of the eleven surviving Apostles.  There our Lord and Savior says:

Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.

–John 20:22b-23, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

The use of the passive voice leaves room for ambiguity in that saying.  (The active voice is stronger and more definitive.)

If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them,…

is clear for the sentence identifies “them” as the forgiven party, but

…if you retain the sins of any, they are retained

is vague.  Who retains the unforgiven sins?  One might interpret the passage to mean that, via the Holy Spirit, the Church has the authority to forgive sins and to refuse to do so.  That might be accurate.  If so, the one who committed the sins retains them.  But what if refusing to forgive sins means that the one who refuses to forgive the sins retains them?

Forgiving can be quite difficult; I know this firsthand.  I also know that, according to the Gospels, there is a relationship between one’s willingness to forgive and God’s willingness to forgive one.  (The measure one gives will be the measure one gets.)  I am also aware that a grudge is too heavy a burden to carry.  It might not even lead to any harm of its target(s), but it injures the one who hauls it around like too much luggage.  I have retained the sins of others to my detriment, but letting those sins go has improved my life and been something I should have done much sooner.

According to an old story, two monks (Monk #1 and Monk #2, I call them) were traveling when they came to a river.  Waiting at the river was a prostitute, whom Monk #1 carried on his shoulders as he crossed the river.  On the other side of the river the monks and the prostitute parted company.  The monks continued their journey, during which Monk #2 complained repeatedly about Monk #1 having carried the woman.  Monk #1 replied,

I put her down at the river, but you are still carrying her.

Here ends the lesson.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 13, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PLATO OF SYMBOLEON AND THEODORE STUDITES, EASTERN ORTHODOX ABBOTS; AND SAINT NICEPHORUS OF CONSTANTINOPLE, PATRIARCH

THE FEAST OF SAINT HELDRAD, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINTS RODERIC OF CABRA AND SOLOMON OF CORDOBA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/03/13/devotion-for-wednesday-after-pentecost-sunday-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Posted March 17, 2015 by neatnik2009 in Ezekiel, John 20

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One response to “Forgiving and Retaining Sins

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  1. Pingback: Devotion for Wednesday After Pentecost Sunday, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary) | ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS

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