Forgive Us Our Trespasses


The Small Catechism tour resumes this week with a consideration of the Fifth Petition in the Lord’s Prayer. The request goes, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” And Luther’s explanation reads, “We ask in this prayer that our Father in heaven would not hold our sins against us and because of them refuse to hear our prayer. And we pray that he would give us everything by grace, for we sin every day and deserve nothing but punishment. So we on our part will heartily forgive and gladly do good to those who sin against us.”

We are not always aware, but our greatest need is the forgiveness of sins. We more readily cry out for help in response to the perceptible distresses in our lives, such as pain, illness, hunger, thirst, loneliness, grief, poverty, fear, being under some kind of attack, and the like. But all these miseries have their basis in sin!

Adam and Eve’s first sin unleashed a chain of disastrous consequences. Shame, blame, discord, envy, suspicion, and alienation are some of those consequences. Tragically, along with pain in child bearing and labor by the sweat of one’s brow; sickness, dying, and death (returning to the dust) are where the consequences culminate! Adam and Eve were ushered out of Paradise. They no longer had access to the Tree of Life!

Our redemption involves absolving the sin problem. As Luther says elsewhere in the Catechism, “where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.” And good for us, the forgiveness of sins is the main element of the Christian Faith! Jesus came to forgive sinners! That’s what his death on the cross is all about.

We ask for forgiveness of sins, because he promises to forgive! We are to continually ask, because unfortunately, we continue to sin. And our willingness to forgive others is proof positive that we recognize our own need for forgiveness, and that we are grateful for having been forgiven.

Since You Asked…

What is the significance of the Epiphany and the Season that follows?

The word Epiphany means “manifestation” or “a revealing”. Since light helps to reveal and make manifest, on January 6 we recall the Magi led by the light of the star to the manger to worship Jesus, “the Light of the World” given birth by Mary. We will go on in the Season that follows to commemorate the manifestation of the Trinity at Jesus’ Baptism in the Jordan River, where the voice of the Father spoke, and the Holy Spirit descended and alighted on Jesus as he came forth from the river. The voice identifies Jesus as God’s Son in whom the Father is well pleased. The Season after the Epiphany closes with the Transfiguration whereby a future glimpse of the Resurrected glory of Christ was revealed.