In honor of the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation this October, we will be studying the three major parts of the Catechism for the fall months. All children and youth will receive their own copy of Luther’s Small Catechism: Study Edition, and adults may purchase them for themselves through the church. May God bless our time of study as we return to our Lutheran roots during this Pentecost fall season of growth!
The Fifth Petition of the Lord’s Prayer
Forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
What is this? or What does this mean?
We ask in this prayer that our heavenly Father would not regard our sins nor deny these petitions on their account, for we are worthy of nothing for which we ask, nor have we earned it. Instead we ask that God would give us all things by grace, for we daily sin much and indeed deserve only punishment. So, on the other hand, we, too, truly want to forgive heartily and to do good gladly to those who sin against us. (Luther’s Small Catechism: Study Edition pg. 39)
Devotional Questions from the ELCA’s Book of Faith Initiative:
What scares, confuses, or challenges me about this petition and its meaning? What do I have questions about? It is the second part of this petition that challenges me. We ask for forgiveness, contingent on our ability to forgive others? This seems like a recipe for disaster. In “The Freedom of a Christian,” Martin Luther describes faithful Christian people as those “prepared for willing service to the neighbor, which takes no account of gratitude or ingratitude, praise or blame, profit or loss” (page 524). In other words, when we are acting from Christ’s point of view, we are free to do good to others, to forgive, to be scandalously generous to all people whether they deserve it or not. Forgiven people are forgiving people, and this is a challenge as I strive to live into my Christian identity here on earth, as a sinner among sinful people.
What delights me about this petition and its meaning? What do I like about it? What is the good news here? The word of forgiveness here is truly mind blowing to me. Have you ever been forgiven of something major? You might have a taste of what full, true, complete forgiveness feels like. The fact that God loves me so much that I continue to be forgiven, day after day, week after week, year after year (not to mention hour after hour), is some of the best news that I have ever heard. And yet, I continue to need to hear it. Over and over again. Like a broken record that I never get tired of hearing: I forgive you. I forgive you. I forgive you.
What stories or memories does this petition and its meaning stir up in me? You might remember a time when you felt truly forgiven, or were able to reach out in forgiveness toward someone else, for example.
At this point in my life, I am the mother of three young children. They are, for me, the greatest examples of giving and receiving forgiveness. When I mess up and ask for their forgiveness, there is nothing sweeter in this world than have them leap into my arms and cover me with kisses. I am washed clean by their sticky enthusiasm and willingness to forgive and forget. As I struggle with forgiveness in other relationships, I look to the example of my children to lead the way.
What is God up to in this petition and its meaning? What is God calling you to do or to be because of this? In this petition, we are acknowledging the position of God and others in our lives. God gives us undeserved forgiveness and empowers us to reach out in forgiveness to all of the other forgiven sinners that we are in relationship with (that is, all of them). In this prayer, we accept it as our Christian mission to be agents of forgiveness, just as we have first been forgiven.
This is our last month of our Reformation 500 celebration, and I am looking forward to delving even more deeply into the Small Catechism with you as the weeks draw to a close. Thanking you for continuing to walk with me as we seek out God’s mission for us, here and now and in this place.