8: The Lord is gracious and merciful.
Now, if you are afraid to go to the Sacrament, and your conscience frightens you, as if you were unworthy, put this verse into your heart and on your lips. Then you must hear and feel how sincerely He calls and invites you. He is here and is waiting for you with hands and heart wide open, for you to take and receive grace and mercy. He does not want you to flee and shy away from Him but to flee to Him and with full confidence go to Him. Here he is called nothing but this: the gracious and merciful Lord. Do not give Him a different name in your heart or make Him anything else in your conscience. You would do Him an injustice and a great wrong, and yourself the greatest harm. For if you call Him something else or think of Him otherwise in your heart, you make Him a liar and reject this verse; for then you believe your deceitful heart more than you do God and His sweet and tender words. Then you make yourself your own idol and worship yourself and are afraid of yourself, as the saying goes: “He is afraid of his own shadow.”
Whoever is inclined to put pictures on the altar ought to have the Lord’s Supper of Christ painted, with these two verses written around it in golden letters: “The gracious and merciful Lord has instituted a remembrance of His wonderful works.” Then they would stand before our eyes for our heart to contemplate them, and even our eyes, in reading, would have to thank and praise God. Since the altar is designated for the administration of the Sacrament, one could not find a better painting for it. Other pictures of God or Christ can be painted somewhere else.
Thus this verse expresses not merely the friut and benefit of the Sacrament—that it is a gracious and merciful institution in which one should seek and find grace and mercy—but it also exalts the remembrance of Christ. What is the suffering of Christ but pure grace and mercy, offered, given, and imparted to us through the Sacrament? It is grace that He shows us all His benefits and by His blood brings us from sin to righteousness, from death to life, from the devil to God. It is mercy that He unceasingly forgives our sin and spares and endures our ingratitude and all wickedness in which we are still bound as long as we live in the flesh. All this He earned for us, once and for all, by His suffering, and daily offers and gives us by His remembrance and Sacrament, actually driving us to it with sweet and gentle words.
But He cannot be gracious and merciful toward the work-righteous, who make a sacrifice and merit out of the remembrance and Sacrament and otherwise teach nothing but works. They will not let it be the remembrance of Him. Therefore He must be angry and furious with them. They want it that way, for they pervert this verse thus: “He has instituted a sacrifice, that stern and severe Judge.” In their Mass they want to reconcile Him as an angry tyrant, and do not seek to receive mercy and grace from Him, but sacrifice, and offer their own works to Him to appease His anger. And as they hold Him to be an angry Judge, so they also find Him. As they believe, so it is done to them. If He is to be gracious and give blessings, it must be toward those who need the blessings. If He is to be merciful and patient, it must be toward those who need it. But they do not need it, for their acts and conduct are nothing but holiness and righteousness. They have no need of grace or mercy, for on their own they have so much excess holiness that they can sell it to others and sacrifice and gain merit for them. What, then, can the gracious and merciful Lord do? He must have poor sinners, wretched consciences, and sorrowing hearts, where He can apply His grace and mercy for His praise and honor.
Psalm • 111
Daniel E. Poellot
Luther’s works, vol. 13:
Selected Psalms II