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From the Confessions: The Smalcald Articles
Pilgrimages is the third. Masses, forgiveness of sins, and the grace of God were sought in this too. The Mass controlled everything. Now it is certain that such pilgrimages have not been commanded by the Word of God, nor are they necessary, since we can have these things in a better way, thereby eliminating these pilgrimages without any sin and danger. So, why do they desert their own parishes, the Word of God, wives, children, etc.—which are essential and commanded—and run after these unnecessary, uncertain, pernicious will-o’-the-wisps of the devil? They do this because the devil was driving the pope, causing him to praise and establish these practices, so the people would turn from Christ to their own works, and worst of all, became idolaters. In any case, it is unnecessary, not commanded, senseless, uncertain, and harmful. So, here too, there can be no yielding or surrender. Let this be preached and then, see what becomes of these pilgrimages.
Pulling It Together: We are all on pilgrimage—to appear before God in judgment. That Day is approaching, whether or not we feel its nearness. Every day, we are miles closer in our journeys. We are not drawing near to relics, cathedrals, or shrines, hoping that we will find forgiveness and peace in these things. Indeed, we do not need to (nor should we) arrive at the gates of heaven to receive forgiveness. The gospel is eternal: not only unchanging, but present with us. Forgiveness of sin and eternal life are given to us now, in Christ alone. They are not guaranteed by a place or a thing; the gospel promises us these gifts here and now, so that we may live lives of fearful hope within the vocations of marriage, work, and other necessary and blessed duties.
Prayer: Lord, give me faith to fear, love, and trust you both now and forever. Amen.
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