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.”
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.
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.
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.
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,