Lectionary 24 C

No citations in the semicontinuous readings this week, but there's a picture! And several footnote citations, starting with the first one, which is also why the picture. And a strong emphasis on the challenge of language and our call and duty as preachers to diligently attend to the powers and pitfalls of words.

Exodus 32:7-14

Chapter 32 is cited in a quote in a footnote in The Small Catechism, Part 1: The Ten Commandments, The First Commandment (SC 1.1, n. 25). The footnote is a helpful reminder that The Small Catechism started out as a picture book with woodcuts for every part and section. The image below is the woodcut from the 1536 edition that shows the story of Moses receiving the Commandments while the Israelites worship the golden calf. The caption of this image cites Exodus 32.

Image from 1536 edition of the Small Catechism. Clicking on it will take you to the source, a PDF excerpt from an edition published by Augsburg Fortress.

Image from 1536 edition of the Small Catechism. Clicking on it will take you to the source, a PDF excerpt from an edition published by Augsburg Fortress.

Psalm 51:1-10

Verse 3 is cited in a footnote to Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article 1: Original Sin (SD 1.51, n. 42) providing the citations in Luther's Works where Luther writes of the sinful nature of humans. This section (SD 1.50-62) attends to the challenge of language, particularly when words or phrases have multiple commonly used meanings - in this case, "nature." This section calls us Lutheran preachers to carefully attend to the difference between the substance of our nature (as being created by God) and the accident of our nature (as sinners) in our preparation, but not to delve into these philosophical distinctions in our preaching. An interesting section that is worth reading through as a good reminder of the importance of clear theology in our own preparation, even if it is never preached.

Verse 4 is quoted in Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article 12: Repentance (AP 12.108) as part of the argument that the enumeration of particular sins in confession is not necessary because no one can successfully name all of their sins. Rather, the point of confession is to recognize that we have angered God and seek reconciliation through God's mercy.

An interesting rephrasing of verse 4 follows the quote that might be localized by congregations in place of the general order of confession and absolution, but please use significant pastoral discretion in discerning if this is appropriate in your context:

"I confess that I am a sinner and deserve eternal wrath. I cannot set my righteousness or my merits against your wrath. Accordingly, I declare that you are just in condemning and punishing us. I declare you to be in the right, although hypocrites judge you to be unjust in punishing them or in condemning those who deserve it. Indeed, we cannot set our merits against your judgement, but we shall be justified only when you justify us, one you regard us as righteous through your mercy." (AP 12.108)

Verse 5 is cited in Smalcald Articles, Part 3, Article 1: Concerning Sin (SA 3.1.3) along with several other scriptural citations to show that we need scripture and enlightenment from the Holy Spirit to see how sinful we are. Indeed, without such aid, we cannot see our own sinfulness.

Verse 10 is cited in Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article 2: Free Will (SD 2.26) along with several other passages in a long argument with many citations. Verse 10 is part of the argument that we cannot live in a way pleasing to God without the gift and presence of the Holy Spirit, who gives us new hearts.

Luke 15:1-10

Verse 2 is cited in a footnote to Smalcald Articles, Part 3, Article 2: Concerning the Law (SA 3.2.4, n. 81) along with several other citations showing evidence of people murmuring against God because the encounter with the law only makes us aware of God's wrath, and so such people "are terrified, humbled, desponded, and despairing" because they "desire help but do not know where to find it."

Verse 7 is partly quoted in Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article 5: Law and Gospel (SD 5.7) as an example of the distinction between meanings of repentance. This verse, along with others, is lift up the entire person being converted (repentance in the general sense). The other meaning is the particular  instance of seeing your own sin and being moved to repent (repentance in the specific sense). 


It is always helpful to be reminded of the complexities of language. The changing reality of words calls preachers and all Christians to attend to the context in which we find ourselves. Also helpful is the reminder that we cannot see our own sin but need the other, be it scripture or the Spirit present and speaking through someone else, to see that and how we have sinned. There is a connection here in the way we can use the gift of language to keep ourselves safe from seeing our own sin. And also we might, caught up in our own self-righteousness, use words to accuse others of sin, and so be caught in sin ourselves.

  • How do we give people time to be moved by the Spirit to repentance by recognition of their own sin?
  • How do we attend to language as it is used in our various contexts so that God's declaration of forgiveness of sin might be heard as good news?