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  • Rev. Annie McMillan

“Easter Confession”

We usually hear about dear Thomas on this Sunday. And as wonderful as

that story is, I’d like to focus on the other New Testament lesson this morning: the

epistle of John. The letter that begins with a reminder of “That which was from the

beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we

have looked at and our hands have touched, concerning the word of life.”

The community who received this letter was having some problems. Part of

the community had split off: they were over-spiritualizing Christ, saying that his

earthly actions and ministry were unimportant and, therefore, their own earthly

actions did not matter. They did not act like followers of Christ, which included

confessing sins regularly. In fact, they claimed that they were so above this world

that they never sinned.

First John actually puts a nice spin on the somber subject. We all sin, so

don’t claim you’re any different. Sin “decays our life and pollutes our relationship

with God.” But there is hope. As we heard during our prayer of confession, “if we

confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us.”

Early in my ministry, I was living on Long Island where there are a lot of

Catholics and former Catholics. I had a few conversations about Confession and

learned that it was a huge part of catechism class and receiving confirmation. It

was a weekly event, and I heard multiple stories about how, as children, my friends

would “make up sins” because they couldn’t think of anything they had actually

done that might be considered a sin. They’d kept all 10 commandments, as far as

they knew. So they would make up a sin one week and then confess to the sin of

lying the following week, never specifying that the lie had happened during

confession.

Every Sunday we confess our sins before God and have a specific time when

we are all confessing our own personal sins. Well, perhaps there are weeks where,

as you confess, you’re not so sure there’s a sin you can actually confess to. You as

an individual did not act as you confess you acted while reading the Prayer of

Confession. Or perhaps what is confessed doesn’t always seem like a sin, per se.

You haven’t killed anyone, you haven’t really lied this week, you’re taking care of

your parents. You’ve done your best. And yet I John states: “If we say that we

have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” As adults, hopefully

we have a bit better grasp of everything that a sin can be, including sins of

omission and sins of the heart.

Our hope, the “fix” to our sinful nature, comes through Christ. And part of

this means confessing. Yet John also encourages us to “walk… in the light.” See

John doesn’t enter into the battle of faith and works; they go hand in hand. If you


have faith, then you are in the light. So act like it and walk in the light. If you are

walking in darkness, then you do not believe.

What does this mean for us? Well love is big in this letter, but we’ll hear

more about that in later weeks. For now, “walk in the light” means obeying Christ:

love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength; love your

neighbor as yourself. Neighbors that include family, friends, strangers, the

ostracized, the forgotten, and the enemy. And when we stray from that path, we

confess that we have strayed and trust in Christ. We will stray, individually and as

a community. So we confess.

Clifton Black wrote a short commentary on this passage for Working

Preacher and ended his commentary with a beautiful Easter message of hope. At

the end of this morning’s passage, John writes “I write this to you so that you will

not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ

the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours

but also for the sins of the whole world..”

As Clifton Black notes, “[John is writing] not to stir up sin or despair, but to

console a [divided] church that Jesus Christ is a living, righteous force that releases

us from our sins…. First John [is saying] to the church: … Let's not sing of

community while stabbing others in the back. Let's not kid ourselves that we'd

never think of such a thing and haven't done it. God is no fool, and Jesus didn't

give his life for us to continue living our lies.

“[Because] Easter is God's refusal to leave the world in the lurch, the risen

Son's promise to reclaim us and everyone else for [God our Creator].” Thanks be to

God. Alleluia! Amen.

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