The Elephant in the Room

The Elephant in the Room

Easter 3B
Pastor Mitch Coggin April 14, 2024 Easter

Some things are easy to ignore… especially when they are uncomfortable. We may ignore a phone call or avoid an appointment if we aren’t sure what the outcome might be. We often ignore someone that might not look or act like we expect because it is easier to be complicit with what society accepts than to have the courage to see that person as our neighbour.

Before Peter’s sermon that we read in Acts, there was a healing that seems like it should take top billing. A man lame from birth was suddenly healed of his disability by Peter and John outside the temple. Known only as the town beggar, the man who walked with Peter and John after his healing was almost unrecognizable. This was a person who had never walked, never worked, never danced whose life was changed suddenly. And yet, the verses quickly moved from a life-altering miracle to a sermon that Peter preached to Jews who had been complicit in the death of Christ. The man’s miracle and the object lesson in their midst takes 2nd billing to a rather uncomfortable sermon that Peter needs to preach.

Peter’s sermon works hard to convince his listeners they have made a grievous mistake in the role they played in crucifying Jesus. He accuses them, “you handed over and rejected Jesus. You rejected the Holy and Righteous One and asked to have a murderer given to you. You killed the author of life.”

This would also have been an uncomfortable sermon to hear. It would have been easier to celebrate the healing of the beggar. Peter needed to focus on sin and forgiveness that could no longer be ignored. But first, Peter eases the fire of his brimstone and throws them a softball. “Friends, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers.”

Ignorance implies a lack of knowledge. Their actions against Jesus were not caused by hatred or malice but because they were unaware of exactly who Jesus was and their role in his violent ending. Throughout Acts, this same ignorance is said to be the cause of their poor and even sinful behaviour. At the end of Acts (17:30), Paul explains that this ignorance is no longer an excuse: “While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people to repent.”

Ignorance of the law is no excuse. But ignorance of what God expects for our lives and our world is no longer a reason to let sins go unnoticed. In the final verse, Peter makes his message clear: “Repent and turn to God so that your sins will be wiped out.”

Sin is no longer something we can ignore. Even in my sermon last week, I downplayed sin in favour of forgiveness. In that passage from 1st John, he writes, “If we say that we have fellowship with Christ while we are walking in darkness, we lie. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we say that we have not sinned, we make God a liar.”

Sin is the elephant in the room that must be addressed. But just what is sin? Ignorance of what God expects? Ignorance of what Jesus really meant when he said that You shall love the Lord your God… and You shall love your neighbour as yourself? (Matthew 22:37-39)

The most basic definition of sin is missing the mark. If our target is loving God and doing all that we can to follow his guidance. Whenever we fall short, we have missed the mark of what we said was most important.

Our passage from Luke’s gospel comes on the heels of the Emmaus story. Two of Jesus’ followers met a man on their way home after the resurrection, invited the stranger to their dinner table, drank wine and broke bread before they ever realized their guest was Jesus, the one whose loss they were grieving.

The two men rushed back to Jerusalem to find the disciples in the same quandary in which we read about them last week. They might have thought, “Oh my, what do we do now?” Again without warning Jesus stood in the middle of their group and offered his comforting greeting, “Peace be with you.” The disciples were startled, terrified, and thought they were seeing a ghost and even disbelieving.

Jesus asked them if they had anything to eat. The disciples were perfectly aware that a ghost (if Jesus really had been a ghost) would not have flesh and bones or eat fish. So Jesus ate the fish and proved that he is not a ghost, addressing their fears.

Jesus clarified what was most important to the disciples. Their mission would be critical from this point. “Repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” Remember what we said last week, “The Church’s business is forgiveness. Forgiveness comes from the heart of God and we enact forgiveness with one another.”

First, we must recognize our sin before we can be forgiven and forgive others. That recognition cannot and must not be ignored. How do we miss the mark in our own lives?

We find our way to our final scripture of the morning, 1st John. The reason the world does not know us (the church, St. Andrews) is that it did not know him (Jesus). We have done a pitiful job of telling the world who Jesus is and most importantly, who Jesus is in our own lives. We’re shy. We are afraid. This is best left to the seminary trained.

Read on… “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.” But here, in our heart is where we begin, now.

We can start again because of God’s forgiveness. The Love that says you do not need to despair at the failed places in your life any more than the pitiful beggar; the Love that allows families and churches to move through grievances and resistances to newness and the Love that counters the attraction of fear. The best is yet to come. We have a story to tell – our story of where Jesus has met us on our journey.