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Today is the second Sunday of the Easter season.
Easter season; a time when we recall and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
But it isn’t just so we can be filled with thanks and express that thanks to God.
It’s a time when the church makes its boldest proclamation of all: Jesus is risen; he is risen indeed!
This is our message to the world and to those who walk in darkness.
For those who feel like life isn’t worth living anymore, we proclaim the true life in Christ that has defeated the power of death.
For those who can’t see any light at the end of the tunnel, we proclaim the light of Christ that shines in every little corner and crevice.
That’s the way it was for the early church.
People passing on the incredible story of Jesus and what happened near the end of his time here on earth.
As recorded in the gospels, lots of people saw it with their own eyes.
And they told others about it, who then told others and the good news just keep spreading.
And they did so with a sense of joy because it really was good, extremely good news that filled them with joy and they wanted others to experience that joy as well.
We are taught in the church to share the good news with others.
And I know that many people in the church really make an effort to do so.
But sometimes I wonder if the joy has been lost.
I find myself hesitant at times because I worry about how I might be perceived.
I don’t want to be pushy.
I don’t want to get a bad reputation.
Perhaps if I’m really honest, I just want people to like me and so I’m afraid to take risks.
So I hesitate to tell people about the good news.
But what joy is there in that kind of thinking?
At the church where I pastored in Yoshioka there was a man who came to faith after walking a horribly difficult road.
He had fallen into alcoholism and it had completely ruined his life.
He lost his job.
He was completely alienated by his family.
He suffered a serious brain injury that never got better.
He spent several years hospitalized in a psych ward.
But then he found the church.
He found people who welcomed him.
Most importantly, he came to faith in Jesus Christ and was baptized.
Many of his problems remained.
He wasn’t cured of his brain injury.
He wasn’t able to get a job.
His daily life remained a struggle.
But he found the joy of walking in the light of Jesus Christ and it overshadowed everything else.
I only mention him because he, single handedly, brought more friends and acquaintances to church than anyone else in our congregation.
Perhaps even more than everyone else combined.
I can only surmise that it was because he found true joy at church.
And sharing that with others only brought him more joy.
Perhaps it was because he had lost so much that he didn’t worry about the kinds of things I worry about when considering whether to invite someone to church.
Telling other people about his experience with Jesus made his joy complete.
So then, how do we explain the experience of coming to and following Christ?
The words that get used most often in scripture to describe it are life and light.
Of course the idea of “life” is more than just an image because the first followers of Jesus actually saw him return to life after being killed on the cross.
It was a real event that they witnessed and afterwards they could help but tell people about it.
But getting back to the images, life and light contrast with death and darkness.
Those are powerful images, but how does one actually get to experience that life and light?
It starts with the problem that keeps us in darkness and death.
The bible uses the word sin to describe it.
A literal translation of the Greek word is “missing the mark”.
We were created to reflect the goodness of our creator.
And in general, most of us seek to do good and be good people… but at some point we all fail and that is the source of darkness and death.
Today’s passage points out that the most significant thing we can do is to simply be honest about ourselves.
READ v.6, 8, 10
We would all rather keep our own failings to ourselves.
It is so much easier to see the problems in other people and loudly point those out than to do so for ourselves.
But over and over again scripture calls us to be honest about ourselves.
To willingly admit our shortcomings.
The bible terminology is confession and repentance.
What it really means is to simply be honest about the darkest things within us.
To honestly admit to God and others that we have failed.
John the Baptist called people to repent.
Jesus called people to repent.
And so did the apostles who carried on his work.
But being honest about ourselves isn’t easy, and sometimes we even pretend we are being honest when we aren’t.
That is why those verses we just read warn us against being dishonest about ourselves.
It’s dangerous because it prevents us from experiencing true life in Christ.
It’s dangerous because it keeps us in the dark.
The 1997 Jim Carrey film, Liar Liar tells a story of a man who told lies all the time, as a part of his job as a defense lawyer.
He was known for taking the most difficult cases and managing to get “not guilty” verdicts.
But his constant lying carried over into his personal life and was destroying his family.
In desperation one night his little son prays that for even just one day his dad would be incapable of telling lies.
The little boy’s prayer is miraculously answered and suddenly the dad finds himself completely unable to tell anything but the truth.
Of course it turns his life upside down, and just about everything falls apart.
He is on the verge of losing his job, he ends up in jail, and everyone thinks he’s crazy.
It’s a comedy film with lots of hilarious scenes but it carries a heavy message of just how different our lives would be if we were honest; all the time.
The invitation of the gospel is to be honest.
To live our lives based on truth.
And to hide nothing before God and others.
The beauty of this invitation is that when we truly are honest about ourselves before God and others, we find that God lovingly accepts us.
The biblical term is forgiveness.
What it means is that God welcomes us into true fellowship with God and replaces all the darkness and death with true, God given light and life.
Today’s passage boldly proclaims that Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection have prepared the way for us to come before God.
To kneel in God’s presence with open hearts, openly admitting our failings.
We are invited to walk that path; the path of life and light, in fellowship with our sisters and brothers in Christ; in fellowship with God Almighty.
Of course the struggle with our own failings will go on.
The goal is to imitate Christ; to reflect the goodness of the one who created us.
But we still fail…
The beauty of the good news of Jesus Christ is that if we continue to openly confess our failings, Jesus continues to accept us, broken as we are.
Jesus carries on with this work even now… and will continue to do so until that day when all of creation is reconciled with our creator.
That day when every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.