Rev. Dan Suelzle?
"Remember me," pleads the thief on the cross, "when you come into your kingdom" (Luke 23:42). These are words spoken from sinner to Savior-words which cling to life even in the throes of death. "Remember me."
Lent is a season that brings these words into sharp focus. It is a season when we plead for God to remember His promises in Christ. It is a season when we look more intentionally at what our sin deserves, and how sin's fatal reward is delivered in the flesh of Jesus on the cross. Luther calls the cross of Jesus an "earnest mirror", for when we look at it, we see staring back at us, not mere physical pain and suffering, but even more, the wrath of God being poured out upon our own sin. At the cross, we see what our warring with God truly deserves-which is something we often forget. But our response to such a reality is not to make excuses for our sin. Nor is it to make empty promises to God that we will get a handle on our sin and do better next time. No, our response is simply to confess our sin for exactly what it is: hell-deserving enmity with God.
Of course, God does not leave us there in our sin. Jesus says to the thief, "Today you will be with me in paradise." Through Christ's death and resurrection, God is faithful and just to forgive our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). The paradise of forgiveness and eternal life is yours today and every day, not because you deserve it, but because your God is a God Who remembers. He remembers, not your sin, but His promises in Christ. He declares to you, "I forgive you all of your sin on account of Christ alone." These are words spoken from Savior to sinner-words that give life by destroying sin and death; words proclaimed from pulpit, font, and altar.
Such is the rhythm of Lent and is the rhythm of the baptized life: words of confession spoken from sinner to Savior. Words of pure absolution are spoken from Savior to sinner. We confess our hatred of Him; He promises His love for us. We plead for His mercy, and He freely doles it out. We remember our sin; God remembers His Son, whose merciful work on the cross separates our transgressions from us as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12).
Rev. Dan Suelzle is pastor of Grace Lutheran Church in Eugene, Oregon.
Created: March 17th, 2016