At the beginning of Lent, I told you I was on a pilgrimage to rediscover the practice of confession because I was afraid it had gone missing. I confessed to you, there was a lack of confession in my life, and I am afraid there is a lack of confession in the church. That sermon was the beginning of a Lenten pilgrimage and now, here we are, on the other side of the Cross, celebrating the glories of Eastertide and an empty tomb, and our lectionary texts today are filled with talk of repentance.
While I was geared up and ready to talk about confessing and repenting during Lent, it seems a bit too sad for Eastertide, don’t you think? In the Acts chapter 3 passage, Peter’s sermon returns us to the pain and shame of the cross before we are ready. “It’s only been two weeks since Easter,” I want to protest, and Peter takes us right back to Good Friday, reminding us it was our voices shouting, “Crucify him.” Peters says this to the crowd, “You handed him over to be killed. You disowned him before Pilate. You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you instead. You killed the author of life.”
Whew. I don’t know about you, but this is not the memory I want to go to on the third Sunday of Eastertide. It’s a harsh opener: “You killed the author of life.” This is not, by the way, how they teach you to start a sermon in seminary, but it is surprisingly effective for Peter, who sees five thousand people come to Christ. Of course, the point of Peter’s sermon is not the judgment, but the repentance of the people. He concludes by saying, “God raised him from the dead . . . and now, brothers and sisters, I know that you acted in ignorance. So repent and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that time of refreshing may come from the Lord.” 1 John 3 echoes, “But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins,” as if to say, the resurrection would be in vain if it didn’t in turn raise people up out of their sins and into a new way of life. Peter isn’t interested in whether the people feel bad for what happened at the crucifixion. What Peter wants is to see Easter brought to completion in their very hearts. His sermon is less about the sadness of Good Friday, and more about the joy of repentance. This can be hard for us to get our minds around since we’ve often been taught to associate repentance with sorrow. Read more →