Thursday, April 15, 2004

John 20:19-31 - Second Sunday of Easter

I've had such a hard time with the sermon this week - not sure why exactly. I think I can't get over the two seemingly separate pieces of this passage from John 20:19-31 that are both so important but hard to tie together.
The first part really throws me: "If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained." Most of my exegesis and research so far has found pastors skipping over this section altogether in favor of the familiar "Doubting Thomas" vignette. But I can't - I get hung up right here. "Preaching Peace", one of my favorite sites by Jeff Krantz and Michael Hardin, seems to offer the best insights on this section, talking about being made free to forgive.
Who do you need to forgive? What does it mean to forgive someone? I don't think we can take God's place here as ultimate possessor of forgiveness, but it's actually as much for us as for others when we forgive. Is there someone who has not forgiven you for something? Whether or not you were at fault, how does that make you feel?
The Thomas section is all about faith and believing. In a way, I wish the segments had been switched. Because the question of faith is a question of responsibility: What does it mean to have faith? Faith and consequences. I think faith implies action, responsibility, direction of behavior, as James likes to suggest in his epistle: Faith without works is dead. We have faith: enough to act like Jesus acted? Forgive even those who would crucify us?
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