Thursday of Pentecost 16 – Romans 14:1-12

As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. 10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; 11 for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
    and every tongue shall confess to God.” 12 So then each of us will give an account of himself to God. There are six chief parts to our catechisms, and the fifth one, the section on the Office of the Keys, needs a more attention in these days. Luther, who wrote the catechism, had been shaped by his time as an Augustinian friar. As a friar, Luther would have been expected to confess his sins regularly, perhaps daily. He took this seriously. He tells of the time his confessor told him to go out and commit some real sins before he came back to confess again. While Luther thought that the rite of penance or confession and absolution needed to be reformed in his day, he also maintained throughout his life that the rite was valuable and good for people. He was not speaking of the general confession and absolution which we do in Church. He was speaking of a face to face conversation with another human being in which you confessed your own sins to that person. This rite has largely fallen on hard times in modern Christianity. Not many come on a regular basis to be absolved individually by their pastor. If they have committed some great sin, perhaps some would come. Many would not. There is a rite for this in your hymnal. You should look it up and consider asking your pastor for an appointed time to meet. But if you do, there is something to keep in mind. You might call it the first rule of confession: You may only confess your own sins. You cannot confess the sins of someone else. All your statements really need to start with “I” as the subject of the verb. Your confession cannot speak of what he or she did, only the deeds and failures of you, the one making confession. I think we should revive this salutary practice, if for no other reason than the final verses of this reading. If more of us remembered that we stand before the judgment seat of God, this world would go a little better. That awareness gives one a measure of empathy for the weak. When you rely upon the forgiveness of Christ, you tend have a little more patience with the neighbor who has fallen or whose faith is weak and deformed. It is hard to stand before that divine judgment seat. How often I have heard myself or another sinner try to confess the sins of others to excuse the sin which really belonged to me or the speaker. God will have none of that, nor should we. I may or may not be able to understand the sins of another person, but understanding sins makes nothing truly better. Only forgiveness makes things better and I can forgive both the reasonable and unreasonable sins because Jesus died for them all.

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