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SIN : Last Sunday's Sermon

Acts 3:12-19

Peter addressed the people, “You Israelites, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we had made him walk? The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our ancestors has glorified his servant Jesus, whom you handed over and rejected in the presence of Pilate, though he had decided to release him. But you rejected the Holy and Righteous One and asked to have a murderer given to you, and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. And by faith in his name, his name itself has made this man strong, whom you see and know; and the faith that is through Jesus has given him this perfect health in the presence of all of you.

“And now, friends, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. In this way God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, that his Messiah would suffer. Repent therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out.”
The Response
Psalm 4

Cum invocarem

1 Answer me when I call, O God, defender of my cause; *
you set me free when I am hard-pressed;
have mercy on me and hear my prayer.

2 "You mortals, how long will you dishonor my glory; *
how long will you worship dumb idols
and run after false gods?"

3 Know that the Lord does wonders for the faithful; *
when I call upon the Lord, he will hear me.

4 Tremble, then, and do not sin; *
speak to your heart in silence upon your bed.

5 Offer the appointed sacrifices *
and put your trust in the Lord.

6 Many are saying, "Oh, that we might see better times!" *
Lift up the light of your countenance upon us, O Lord.

7 You have put gladness in my heart, *
more than when grain and wine and oil increase.

8 I lie down in peace; at once I fall asleep; *
for only you, Lord, make me dwell in safety.
The Epistle
1 John 3:1-7

See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God's children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.

Everyone who commits sin is guilty of lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he was revealed to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him sins; no one who sins has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Everyone who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous.

The Gospel
Luke 24:36b-48

Jesus himself stood among the disciples and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence.

Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.

The Sermon

Have you ever noticed that eyewitness accounts of events can be different. Each of the accounts of the resurrection in the new testament is a little different but they all carry with them the ring of truth. Jesus appears to the women first and is not believed. He is able to somehow able to keep his followers from recognizing him until he wants them to. He is able to suddenly appear and disappear. He sends to them a message of peace and compels them go into the world and preach the good news.

As part of his message Jesus talks about sin and the forgiveness of sin. Each one of today's readings mentions sin. In Acts it says, “Repent, therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out. In the reading from 1st John, the author says, “All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure. No one who abides in him sins and in him there is no sin.” In Luke it says, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations.”

Several years ago there was a Ukrainian pentecostal denomination that rented our building on Sunday afternoons. I had some interesting conversations with several of their members. During one of those conversations I was asked, “Do you ever talk about sin?” I was a little taken aback and told her yes we do and that at every service we have the confession of sin.

My ideas about sin have evolved. When I was a child my family and I attended the Roman Catholic Church and I was sent to catechism class every Saturday afternoon. I remember we had a catechism workbook that functioned as our text. The class was taught by nuns from a neighboring church and we would spend our time memorizing the lessons and reading in our book. There was one particular illustrated story I remember reading that had a big impact on me.

In this story three children are standing on a busy street corner waiting to cross. A speeding car swerves out of control and very nearly hits them. As the children are recovering from this near accident one of the children says to the others, “I am really glad I didn't get hit by that car because I had a mortal sin on my soul.”

I was nine or ten when I read this and I was pretty sure I was that child. I felt like I was really a hopeless case.

I also remember going to church a lot. Before the service I would look near the back of the prayer book and find the prayers for partial indulgences. The rule was that if you read those prayers you would get time off of your sentence in purgatory. Some of the prayers were good for six months off and some as much as a year. I would read as many of them as I could before the service began so that I could get a leg up on future punishment for my accumulation of sins.

I was sort of a mess. I am better today. When I think about it, why would God send any ten year old to eternal hell? Were any of you like me growing up?

I think there are those out there who believe we Episcopalians do not talk about sin enough. Yes, we all sin and we should reflect and repent for committing sins. But, we should also keep in mind that God loves His creation. God loves us. God is a forgiving God.

Peace be with you,
Fr. Fred

Doubting Thomas and Others

  • Image result for jesus appears to disciples

The Reading


The Gospel
John 20:19-31

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."

But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe."

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe." Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe."

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

The Sermon

Just Imagine

Here you are in a locked room with your fellow disciples wondering what to do next. Should you attempt to escape from the city with your life. Should you remain in hiding till this whole thing calms down or...should you do what your teacher told you to do, go out and spread the good news. The practical side of your brain says what good would it do to preach if I am just going to be killed right away for doing it. But, the other part of you says that if you truly had faith the only thing to do is carry on where Jesus left off.

THEN! Jesus appears. It is a closed off room with the doors locked and there he is! When he said “receive the holy spirit” something changed inside of you. You felt moved. There is no doubt now about what you will do.

There is still one hold out. Thomas. He wasn't there to experience what you saw and felt. You begin thinking, if he did not believe you and the other disciples, then what are the chances that others would believe. Thomas needed proof.

Well, Thomas got proof the next week. After Jesus showed Thomas his wounds, Jesus said something that has stayed with you and the rest of your group. He said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and have come to believe.”

Sisters and brothers, that is us. We are a community of believers. We were not there and yet we believe. Somehow, the Spirit has visited us and led our hearts toward a faith that guides us in our lives.

This reading from John is very trinitarian. Jesus the Son of God appears before the disciples. He tells them “as the Father has sent me, so I send you. And then he breaths on them and says, “receive the Holy Spirit.” We had a nice discussion about the Trinity at bible study last Tuesday. It was a pretty free wheeling conversation. I think the consensus of the group was that we really do not understand how three persons inhabit one God. If any of you fully understand it please explain it to me … after the service.

Having said that, I am glad we have the Trinity to fret over. I confess that most of the time I do not differentiate among the three. I just think in terms of God and when I pray and meditate I pray to God. Just God. I will let the three of them sort out who wants to hear me. Maybe all three.

I don't believe that makes me any less of a believer. My faith in God is still strong. Faith is good. Belief in the good news of Jesus Christ is important. True faith must lead to action. We should be moved by the holy spirit to reach out in our community and the world and live the Christian message of hope.  

Peace be with you,
Fr. Fred

Easter Service

  • Image result for Easter Sunday Tomb

The Gospel

John 20:1-18

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes.

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

The Sermon

The stone has been rolled away and the tomb is empty. What an emotional roller coaster ride those days must have been. There was the joy of entering into Jerusalem and being hailed as the messiah and then the crushing agony of Jesus' execution. And then...then the tomb is empty. He has risen from the dead.

Put yourself in the place of Mary. She was one of Jesus' first followers and she was all in with her devotion to him. She was there through it all. The teaching, the miracles, the love, the trauma, the death, Now the resurrection. Jesus appears to Mary first and I think that is how it should be.

Imagine yourself in Mary's place. You see your teacher, the son of God alive again. What would you feel. What would you do? What would you say to him?

Mary had a deep personal relationship with Jesus. She loved him and he loved her. It is clear from the writings of the New Testament that there was a strong spiritual bond between these two. Mary Magdalene was all in! I only wish that we as followers of Christ can all have that strong spiritual bond with Jesus as well.

I ask myself and I ask you, are you all in? Are you holding back?

There are deniers out there. Some say none of this ever happened. I however, am a believer. I have faith that Jesus died and was resurrected.

Jesus was changed after his resurrection. He was able to change how he looked until he wanted to be recognized. He was able to suddenly appear. We will read about these events in the coming weeks. Easter season is always an exciting time for me because Jesus is back and he is the pure being who is sending his followers out to change our world.

Our world, today's world, still basks in that change that started so many thousands of years ago. Jesus words did not die with his crucifixion. Jesus resurrection empowered his followers to spread his message of love to all the world.

The seed that was planted did die but became a new shoot that erupted from the soil and it has born much fruit. That fruit is you and me.