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Our Father in Heaven, we confess that the Church is Your Bride. The Church is Your body. We confess that ordinarily there is no salvation outside of the visible Church. O Lord, how many people never darken the door of a Church and yet believe that because they made a decision or walked an aisle that they are going to Heaven. Unless men love the Church, how can they believe that God loves them. Cursed be the thought. Give us a love of Thy Church as deep as our love for Thee.
We confess that the Church is weak and sometimes ugly. She sometimes persecutes the righteous and rewards the wicked. She entertains heresy and often appears like nothing more than a reflection of the world. It is the Church that baptizes us. It is the Church that marries us, and it is the Church that buries us. It is the Church that feeds us so that we want no more. It is the Church that protects us with the preaching of the Word, the administration of the sacraments, and discipline when we stray away. It is Christ that justifies us. It is the Church that saves us. So regardless of her condition, we love the Church.
Lord, help us to love one another and to consider ourselves as nothing. Help us to deny our wants so that we might give toward the needs of others. Lord, help us to consider our brothers as better than ourselves.
Lord, help us to remember that even though the world denies it, there will be a day of judgment for all men. Men hate this truth. They fight against it all their days. They die believing a lie. As sure as there is death, there will be a day of judgment. Every wrong will be righted. Every lie will be exposed. Every broken promise will come before Thee. Man must give an account of every idle word, every lustful gaze, every sinful thought, every remark that disparaged Your holy name and Your holy will. Every criticism will be tested. Every complaint will be reviewed. Every grievance will be redressed. Nothing shall escape Your notice. You make no mistakes. You make no errors. Thy word will be final. There will be no recourse. There will be no protest. There will be no appeal. Lord, help us to live as if tomorrow we shall die, and be called before the Judgment Throne of God.
Lord, good works and a good conscience are the fruit of a true and living faith. We do appeal to the comforting doctrine that we are justified by faith alone, but if any man thinks that faith without the evidence of good works is real faith, let him not continue in his foolishness, for faith without works is dead. Faith without repentance will save no one. If we trust in Christ and do not love the brethren, then we are hypocrites. We have only the same faith as the demons possess. The demons believe in God and they all will go to Hell.
Lord, save us. Lord, as we think of these things, calm our hearts. Ultimately, after we have examined our hearts and examined our examination of ourselves, we can only fall upon our knees and say, "Be merciful unto me a sinner." Help us not to put faith in our faith. Help us ultimately not to put faith in our repentance. For in all these things we fall short. Help us simply to look to the cross. Move our focus from ourselves and onto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.
Lord, Thou art kind. Your mercy is like a cup overflowing. Your compassion is everlasting. What today we may see as a hardship, someday, we shall see as the mercy of God. Someday, we shall praise Thee for the things we hate today. Someday, we shall regret that we thought so ill of You, when life did not go our way, and when we thought that you were unfair to us. Someday, we shall fall into a pool of our own tears because we doubted Your goodness and wisdom.
Lord, life is short. Against a thousand years, our time on earth is very brief. Measured against the time from creation, we are but like the wind that quickly blows away. And men will soon forget us. Within a generation or two, we will not even be a memory, only a name on a grave marker.
Yet, Lord, we believe that we were made in the image of God. We are not like the beasts of the field. We will live forever. We will inherit a new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. In the midst of our sadness, remind us of all the things that should give us joy. In Christ's Name we pray. Amen.