Nineteenth Sunday after trinity.
"And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." Matthew 16:19.
We hear from these words of the Savior from Matthew 16:19 that the keys of the kingdom of heaven were given to Peter, although he was an empty sinful person and lacking in so many ways. We have also heard, how Peter used these keys of the kingdom of heaven: He admitted repentant and doubting ones into the kingdom of heaven, but shut out unrepentant and hypocritical ones, who forced themselves into the kingdom of heaven. He forgave sins to the repentant and believing ones; but to hypocrites, who did not have true penitence or living faith, he said thus: "Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee." (Acts 8:21,22.) But the Pharisees, who followed the wisdom of natural reason, were always of that belief, that no one but God can forgive sins. And the same belief can be seen in the present day Pharisees. They say that nobody has been given that power or authority that he can forgive sins. Nevertheless the outward belief has been in the congregation, that the keys of the kingdom of heaven have been given to the clergy, who in God's behalf pronounce sins forgiven to communion guests and also to those who are judged by the punishment of the church. But the punishment of the church in these times has changed to hypocrisy, and happens only because of custom. For now a whore or a thief is given-forgiveness of sins, although he feels nothing to repent of and has no intention of repentance. Not many can believe that a thief has become a Christian from this, that he has suffered the punishment of the church. Nevertheless the punishment of the church means this, that one has become a Christian, who has suffered this punishment. For in the first Christian congregation the church punishment was considered a great grace, when a penitent sinner got to suffer the punishment of the church or was considered possible to receive sins forgiven and become a member of the Christian congregation. But now such a thing is kept as a shame and a punishment, which then was a great grace and a good work to sinners. If now this thing is kept as a shame and a punishment, which in the first Christian congregation was a great grace of God; if it is now a great shame, what was then a great honor, can we not presume that some error has come into cur faith; when the keys of the kingdom of heaven, which the Savior gave to Peter and to the other disciples, and were then great gifts of grace, are now kept as a shame and a punishment. One evildoer keeps this as a shame and a punishment, that the kingdom of heaven is opened to him, but he does not keep this to be a shame and a punishment that the devil's kingdom is opened to him through his shameful works, because of which he is judged to suffer the punishment of the church. Then the penitent ones thanked God from the heart, that they were granted the great grace of God, and it was seen possible for them to be taken into the Christian congregation as members. They thanked God for this, that the Christians kept them of this value, that they confessed them to be brothers. But now many would thank God, if they would escape the punishment of the church. Has not the magician turned our eyes around, when we see that as evil which is good? We keep that which we receive of the church to be punishment, which is one great grace of God, We think, that it is a great shame, which is a great honor. If the enemy has gotten to turn people's eyes around so, that one great grace of God is kept to be punishment, then certainly also in many other matters the eyes are turned around.
When the enemy has turned people's eyes around, then they see that as mockery of God, which has happened as a glory to God. This we hear in today's gospel, when Jesus said to one palsied man: "...thy sins be forgiven thee" then the Pharisee said, "This man blasphemeth (God)". So has the enemy reversed their eyes that they see all things backwards. Forgiving sins was in their opinion blaspheming God. According to their understanding, Jesus was a Samaritan and he had a devil: the disciples were the apostles of the devil, Christians were possessed of evil spirits. When a person is himself under the rule of the devil, then he sees all spiritual matters backwards. Then the sorrowless condition becomes the graced condition. Natural man keeps himself to be a Christian and sees Christians to be false prophets. When now the Christian takes the keys of the kingdom of heaven from the Savior's hand and admits one penitent and doubting soul into the kingdom of heaven through that grace which Jesus has earned with His blood for penitent sinners, then the Pharisees and hypocrites say that it is blasphemy of God. But when the Pharisees themselves get the keys of the kingdom of heaven into their hands, then they open the kingdom of heaven to the sorrowless, to the grace thieves, and to the naturally meek; but the truly penitent and sorrowful souls they shut out of the kingdom of heaven. Do they not steal the keys of the kingdom of heaven, those who judge Christians as false prophets, hypocrites, and Pharisees? They who themselves are false prophets., hypocrites, and Pharisees always think that true Christians are false prophets and hypocrites, but themselves the sorrowless and Pharisees keep to be Christians and children of God.
Hypocrites and confessors of dead faith think that they have a true faith but Christians have one false faith. When now hypocrites and confessors of dead faith, and also other sorrowless people think that they have a true faith, but Christians have a false faith, then they have by their own permission received the power, that they hate the Christians and judge them according to their wrong thoughts; they judge Christians because of hatred and not because of love. But this hatred of the people of the world, it is one sure illustration of this, that they have received the keys of the kingdom of darkness but not the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Those who have visible hatred in their heart and who because of this spiritual hatred condemn Christians, as the Jews condemned Jesus and His disciples, these possess none other than the keys of the kingdom of darkness, although the magician has made them so blind that they see all spiritual matters wrongly. They think that the keys to the kingdom of darkness are the keys to the kingdom of heaven. They think that they do service to God when they hate the Christians, although through this hatred they do service to the devil. They make themselves and others to believe that Christians are false prophets, hypocrites, and Pharisees. All those who themselves are blind and think they are Christians, make others believe that Christians have a false faith. Such ones have the keys to the kingdom of darkness with which they open the bottomless pit to themselves and to their children and to all others who believe their doctrine.
Today we should consider and question, who has authority to open the kingdom of heaven and who does not. But may the Heavenly Father, who in old days would open the kingdom of heaven to penitent and sorrowful souls through the reconciliation which is prepared with his own blood, change the minds of the sorrowless people and may He move the sorrowful with locking of living faith and with the assurance that He has the keys to the kingdom of heaven which He can give to whom He will. Hear our sighs, Thou God of Peace! Our Father and so forth.
Gospel: Matthew 9: 1-8.
We heard in today's gospel that scribes kept it to be blasphemy when Jesus said to the man sick of the palsy,"thy sins be forgiven thee." Following this we must consider: Why do the people of this world always reprove Jesus and the confessors of His name, that they are blasphemers of God when they in God's behalf assure penitent sinners of the grace of God, but do not promise the grace of God to the sorrowless and impenitent? It is said briefly thus: The people of the world cannot suffer that grace is promised to the penitent souls and not to them. If grace would be promised, confusedly, both to the penitent and to the impenitent, then the children of the world would be satisfied with that, because the sorrowless and impenitent would like this much, if to them also would be promised grace, not only to the penitent. But God's grace is promised to the penitent, and not to the sorrowless. Then the world's sorrowless people become very angry and say: "This (man) mocks God. Who has given you this permission? Are you a forgiver of sins?" The Jews were of this belief, that God did not give the keys of the kingdom of heaven to anyone. But those who have grown up in Christian faith have a lot to contend in this; do people have permission to forgive sins and to bind? The Pope says: "The Savior gave the keys to the kingdom of heaven to Peter, and Peter was the first bishop of the city of Rome. And when Peter suffered martyrdom because of faith, he gave the keys of the kingdom of heaven to the bishop of Rome. So always a succeeding bishop of Rome receives the keys of the kingdom of heaven from him who had previously been bishop. In this way the keys of the kingdom of heaven come like an inheritance from one Roman bishop to another, from the first to the last." In this way the keys of the kingdom of heaven are supposedly with the Pope. And the Pope also bravely owns the authority to himself that nobody can bypass him into the kingdom of heaven. He lets in now whom he will, and shuts out whom he will. But we know, that the Master does not give keys to thieves. The Pope is one thief of grace; he has stolen the keys to the kingdom of heaven; and that is an old saying, that thieves keep stolen goods cheap, because they have gotten them with little trouble. The Catholics offer stolen grace to lice; both to penitent and to unrepentant; they allow sheep and goats, lambs and wolves mixed into the sheepfold. There is not the question in the Pope's kingdom about true penitence, but whoever comes to the Catholic priest and confesses sins, to him the priest is obligated to give the forgiveness of sins, although there be no sign of penitence. Forgiveness is also given for such sins, which a person has not yet committed, but afterward intends to commit. If then a person intends to commit murder or steal or commit adultery, so he first goes to the priest and says: "Can I receive that sin forgiven if I do it?" "Yes!" says the priest, "What would prevent you from receiving (forgiveness) whatever you would do?" Lo! Then is the grace of God very cheap! There a person feels like living, when God's grace is so cheap: there nobody needs to be sorrowful or doubting; not one needs to be in spiritual warfare or beg; but all who intend to do something evil do not need anything else but go to the priest and ask: "Can I receive forgiveness of sins if I do that?" "Yes! you certainly can." Go all you into the Pope's kingdom, all you who want to get to heaven easily. Go there, you thieves of grace, and say to the Pope, can we also receive forgiveness if we drink, curse, and fight, keep a liquor business, love the world, and so forth? "Yes! you certainly can, what would prevent you?" Then says the Pope to the priest: "Admit this soul into heaven He has not transgressed so greatly."
But Luther, who himself has been in true penitence, and has learned in the school of the Holy Spirit that the grace of God is so dear and precious that no man can earn it, although he would give all his possessions to the poor, although he would whip himself to pieces, and although he would give himself to burn: Luther, say I, began first to argue with the Catholics about the grace of God and the forgiveness of sins, and he began very truly to question: by whose permission did the Catholics allow swine, bucks and goats into the sheepfold?
He began very truly to question: from where did the Pope get that permission, that the impenitent, sorrowless and hardened ones are allowed into the kingdom of heaven? The more Luther considered this matter, the more he became assured of this, that the Pope was one big thief, who had stolen the keys to the kingdom of heaven, but with those keys turned the wrong lock and opened the wrong door: namely he opened the bottomless pit to the sorrowless but not the kingdom of heaven. And from this Luther's war with the Catholics came to us the beginning of Luther's faith, which we pretend to confess with our mouth, but Catholic faith remains in our heart so long as we will force ourselves past penitence into the sheepfold. Luther's faith was this, that the grace of God did not belong to any others, but only to the penitent and broken hearted ones. But now, when Luther's faith has long since died in the hearts of men, and is left like a silk scarf around the brain and like cotton batting around the heart of old Adam; now all confessors of dead faith argue, that nobody knows who is penitent and who is sorrowless, and therefore the priest must, into whose hand the keys of the kingdom of heaven are given, twist those keys both to the right and to the left side when he begins to open the door in this way in confession or release from sin: "If your confession of sin is honest, your penitence true, and your faith guileless, etc." But this twisting to the right and to the left is not the right twisting. Penitent souls fear that they will not get in, when the keys to the kingdom of heaven are twisted so, that both doors are open at the same time, both of darkness and light, both to the bottomless pit and to the kingdom of heaven.
There is yet that belief rooted in the skull of man, that the keys of the kingdom of heaven are not valid otherwise except in that office: when the office of the clergy has the gown, then he can open the kingdom of heaven and close it, but otherwise he does not have any power to open or to close. In this way there is more power in clothing than in the heart, and the outward functioning of the office has greater value than experiences of the heart! Does this have to be believed, that the keys to the kingdom of heaven fall from the priest's hand as soon as he strips off the robe? Isn't it better to be believed, that the spiritual priest carries the keys to the kingdom of heaven everywhere, but the sorrowless priest does not get these keys to move otherwise than in performance of the office.
Luther's belief concerning the right penitence and repentance is thus: that God's congregation must assure the penitent ones of the forgiveness of sins, and that one right penitence of sin is known by these, if a person has the right sorrow of the heart and horror of the conscience, and that a person must rightly know his sins. (Augsburg Confession Art.12) From these words we hear that every buck and goat does not get into the kingdom of heaven, but one penitent sinner who has the right sorrow of the heart and the horror of the conscience. From where can one sorrow-less person get these signs of penitence? Sorrow and grief do not come from the air. I think that this is the best counsel to all sorrowless ones, who fear distress of conscience, that they go into the Pope's kingdom and that they give one penny into the Catholics' beggary purse, in this way way they can get into the kingdom of heaven without sorrow and without distress. What do sorrowless ones have to do in Luther's congregation? Luther demanded true penitence and horror of conscience; he demanded that the penitent ones must rightly know their sins and then he demanded true, living and saving faith. From where will all these come to the sorrowless? They cannot themselves force or bend their heart to regret sin, and who has the right sorrow of the heart and horror of the conscience, he also cannot accomplish by his own strength that fear of death and that emptiness, before God gives him that power that he can believe. To such penitent souls the congregation of God must give that knowledge, that God is gracious to him. For this reason the keys to the kingdom of heaven are given to God's congregation, that he must open the door to penitent souls. But the sorrowless he must shut out of heaven. This is the faith of Luther.
But this teaching is not fitting in any way to the wise of the world and to the meek, and to the confessors of dead faith. The worldly wise say thus when a separation is made between the penitent and the sorrowless: "God has not given anyone the authority to shut out people from that common grace, and the wise of the world also say: "God does not long for sorrow and grief, but He only longs for correction of life, and who here has not had time or gotten to correct his life, supposedly to him will come some advice in the other world"; and yet the wise of the world say: "God is not so hard that He will destroy people in hell." Isn't this teaching of the wise of the world as sweet as sugar to the world's sorrowless and slaves of the flesh, who feel that they cannot fight with old Adam and to whom comes distress to suffer the chastisement of the Holy Spirit. These because of shame do not care to go to the kingdom of the Pope, to ransom their soul from hell with one penny, they can go to the wise of the world to ask what they must do. The wise of the world do not speak of penitence, nor anything of faith, but improvement of life they certainly demand; and who is not able to improve his life here, supposedly there will be some counsel in hell. Isn't this good advice? Supposedly the wise of the world have gone to hell to see how people get along there, when they think that there will be some counsel there. Catholics again say thus. "If you confess all your sins before the Pope, those that you have committed and also those sins which you have not yet committed, but intend to commit henceforth, then the priest will forgive you them all." This also sounds like good advice to the sorrowless; because in the kingdom of the Pope they do not need to regret their sins, but only confess them, and then they get in. But Luther, who himself was in deep penitence, demanded true penitence and living faith. But since one penitent soul cannot believe of himself, so Luther yet demanded this, that the congregation of God must assure him of God's grace and the forgiveness of sins. When now the congregation of God through the priest or through some other Christian says to one penitent soul: Thy sins be forgiven thee; then first the scribes or worldly wise become angry and say: "this (man) blasphemes God; you do not have any authority to forgive sins; God has not given the keys of the kingdom of heaven to you". Naturally meek people also become angry and say: "God and my conscience testify that I am innocent; I do not need any grace from the congregation." Those also become angry, who have dead faith in the skull and they say: "Certainly God knows that I have made repentance, no one needs to try my heart". And for what reason do all of these become angry? For this reason they become angry, that the congregation of God or the true Christians will not confess pagans to be brethren in faith. True Christians must not promise grace to the naturally meek, because they do not need any grace, not from God or from man. Also Christians must not promise grace to the dead faith; because he has a faith of his own; he himself can believe what he wants to. And he who is trusting on dead faith, he does not know how he began to believe. He does not know this either, how he has repented of his sins: he thinks that he has repented of his sins, but it has happened so accidentally that he has not noticed it. Sometimes he thinks that it has happened in a dream; sometimes he figures that it happened in childhood. Is than Luther astray? Or had he seen a dream when he demanded such signs of penitence, which not one other can feel to be necessary, but only those who themselves have been penitent? He demanded sorrow of the heart and horror of conscience. Can this happen unnoticed, that a person would not know of it himself? But we are assured of this, that Luther is not astray nor has he seen a dream, but he has rightly understood Scripture, when he has put forth true penitence as necessary for all people. And we are also assured of this, that Luther has understood Scripture correctly when he has demanded true and living faith. But the keys to the kingdom of heaven he has not stolen or robbed when he would open the door to the penitent and to the sorrowful souls, but shut out the impenitent. Very certainly all worldly wise ones, all naturally meek and confessors of dead faith become angry when they are not allowed inside. They certainly can be of that belief that it is blasphemy of God when it is said to penitent ones: Thy sins be forgiven thee. Nevertheless the penitent souls have no other shelter, than God's grace , which Jesus has merited for souls. If the enemy would only get that much for them, that they could flee into the lap of Jesus, then the worldly wise could live in their wisdom, naturally meek could live in their meekness, and confessors of dead faith could live in their faith if they would be able. It is written in the Holy Scripture that the righteous shall live by faith; and he who has living faith he can live and die with that, that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins, not only through the office of the clergy but through every person who himself has received grace. It is one unshakeable truth , whether the Pharisees believe it or not.
And now, you palsied ones, who with other people's help are carried to Jesus, when you don't have that strength that you are able to go yourself! When the Son of Man sees from your condition and appearance that you have one sorrowful and broken heart, then the Son of Man says: Thy sins be forgiven thee. And now take up thy bed, arise and walk; if yet the scribes and Pharisees grumble and say: "This (man) blasphemes God", there are yet anyway some who dance, who thank God, who has given that authority to men, that the man sick of the palsy has received his sins forgiven, that he is saved from his palsy. And you palsied one, who yourself have not been able to travel the road of Christianity from that time when this sickness of the palsy came upon you, take up now your old bedding of self-righteousness and carry it out, and remember! That you have received sins forgiven just then, when you got to hear these sweet words of grace from the mouth of Jesus: "Thy sins be forgiven thee," and do not henceforth go to commit sin, that something worse would not befall you, Thou palsied man! when the Son of Man has said to you: "Thy sins be forgiven thee", then you do not need to doubt anymore of the forgiveness of sins, although the Pharisees doubt, because at that moment that you believe, you receive that power to arise and walk the road of Christianity, but only to the palsied ones He has said: Thy sins be forgiven thee. So believe now, you palsied one, that your sins are forgiven. Amen.