“Living in the Shadows”
Out of the corner of your eye, you notice something move behind you. You suspect someone is following you. You keep walking until you think it is the right moment to turn around. You turn around. Nobody is there! You were right, though. Something was following you–your shadow. Shadows are hard to lose.
Harder yet for each of us to lose is a spiritual shadow that casts itself over us. Like King David, we can identify with the unwelcomed companionship of our guilt and shame: For I know my transgression, and my sin is always before me (Psalm 51:3).
Is there a sin that weighs especially heavy on our conscience? The same David who wrote of his bottled-up guilt also penned these words intended to bring great comfort to each of us today dealing with the dark and shadowy figure of our sins: Then I acknowledged my sin to you…and you forgave the guilt of my sin (Psalm 32:5).
Martin Luther stressed how confession of sin is to be met with the wonderful news of full forgiveness from God, freely offered through the merits of God’s own Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. This is what we have offered in the reading and hearing of the Gospel, in absolution, in Baptism, and in the Lord’s Supper.
Every sinner–no matter how scary one’s self-shadow–is to know and believe without any doubt that the holy life of Jesus and his holy blood have completely covered each and every one of our transgressions. Echoing David, Luther drew attention to the dual aspect of repentance for daily strength: “Repentance embraces both the terrors of conscience and faith; that is, it teaches that Christ helps a sinner at no cost when he is close to despair and nevertheless buoys himself up through faith and cries, ‘Have mercy on me, O God, for the sake of Christ, in whom I trust and who suffered for me’ And if you persevere in this faith, you will certainly be saved” (LW 8:332).
We live in a very visual world. As a result, it is difficult–if not impossible–to erase from our minds unwelcomed scenes of hatred, violence, lust–the list of sins is endless. The shadows of our own sins easily can impress themselves vividly into the recesses of our minds.
Yet another welcoming shadow is with us constantly as believers in Christ. It is a wonderful shadow that gives us instant repose. The psalmist David pictures for us the resting pose of repentant sinners under the protection of our Savior. He writes: How priceless is your unfailing love! Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings (Psalm 36:7).
Lord Jesus, who dost love me, O spread Thy wings above me!
Rev. John A. Moldstad, ELS President