Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A Reminder I Carry in My Prayer Book

Some of the best advice I received as a young seminarian was that, whatever devotional prayers I elected to use in preparation for and celebration of the Eucharist - once elected - I should never fail to pray them. I have in years since discovered his discipline to be the invitation to a space of great joy and nearness to Jesus, especially when so much of the liturgy can feel (and this is not by itself a bad thing) like performance. So I have this collection of prayers taped on the inner cover of my prayer book. I have long since committed them to memory, but should memory ever fail me, I won't have an excuse for laxity. I cherish this inner prayer life.

Recently, I added what is not so much a prayer, but what very much shapes my prayers. It is Luther's exhortation to "sin boldly", in context. Beautiful context. It is too long to fit taped on an inner cover, so I carry it as a book mark. The literary context is the end of a letter to his dear friend and collaborator Phillip Melanchthon. The liturgical context, as my bookmark, is in the preacher's preparation to proclaim the Word, remembering the daunting and bewildering words of the Second Helvetic Confession: "The preached Word of God is the Word of God." Here it is:

"If you are a preacher of grace, then preach a true and not a fictitious grace; if grace is true, you must bear a true and not fictitious sin. God does not save people who are only fictitious sinners. Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly, for he is victorious over sin, death, and the world. As long as we are here [in this world] we have to sin. This life is not the dwelling place of righteousness, but, as Peter says, we look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. It is enough that by the riches of God's glory we have come to know the Lamb that takes away the sin of the world. No sin will separate us from the Lamb, even though we commit fornication and murder a thousand times a day. Do you think that the purchase price that was paid for the redemption of our sins by so great a Lamb is too small? Pray boldly - you too are a mighty sinner."

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