Summary: This sermon reminds us of the importance of confessing our sins to God and to each other.
Last week we looked at the message that was given to the women who came to the empty tomb after Jesus had risen from the dead. We looked at the implications of the empty tomb, the fulfilled promises, and the command to go and tell. Today, I want to continue the conversation about the implications of the Gospel message, though in a slightly different way. I’d like to look at how the resurrection impacts the way we relate to each other.
(I John 1:1-2) The author of John starts this letter by proclaiming the good news about the “Word of Life.” He states that it is what the apostles have been testifying about. Jesus had appeared to them, before and after death, and had spoken with them. But then the author goes and answers a more important question: “Why tell us this?” (vv. 3-4) The apostles had been going through the different areas proclaiming the message of the risen Christ at great peril. Several of them had given their lives for this cause; others would be required to do so later. But why do this? “So that you may have fellowship with us.” The apostles wanted the early believers to be in fellowship with them, and also with the Father and the Son. They knew that only then would their joy be made complete.
As we had our communion service two weeks ago, I was thinking a lot about the fellowship and community that we have been called into. I thought about how the early church not only believed this notion, but also how they completely lived it out in their lives. (see Acts: 4:32-35 as an example) And as I reflected on that passage, I couldn’t help but think about how much we romanticize the early church. We like to think of them as a close-knit bunch who settled arguments quickly and lived in harmony. Many people today bemoan the fact that we will never have that type of fellowship that the early church displayed. But the early church wasn’t perfect either. If you read through chapter 2, you’ll see that they had faults of their own. They had people who claimed belief in God but didn’t live by those beliefs. Others claimed to love God, but then had hatred toward other believers. Others were hampered by a love of the world. Still others turned their back on the church altogether and went out to do their own thing.
The point that I’m trying to make here is that the early church was not perfect, as Acts might have us believe. They had flaws that needed correcting, which was why this letter was sent out. We do not know who the original recipients of the letter were – unlike Paul’s letters, nobody is named. But this letter offers us remedies to overcoming the barriers that keep us from being in fellowship with one another. One such remedy comes in the form of confession.
There’s a story about Mark Twain that talks about one time when he was on vacation for three weeks in Maine, and then headed home on the train to New York. As he was making himself comfortable, he struck up a conversation with another passenger. The man asked him if he had been in the woods. Twain replied, “I have indeed, and let me tell you something: It may be closed for fishing up here in Maine, but I have a couple hundred pounds of the finest rock bass you ever saw iced down in the baggage car. By the way, who are you, sir?” The man replied, “I’m the state game warden. Who are you?” Twain answered, “Pleased to meet you. Who am I? Only the biggest liar in these United States.” Just like Twain, we often get uncomfortable about confessing our wrongdoings.
What’s the one thing you’ve done that nobody else can ever know about? The mere thought inspires a hard swallow and a pounding heart. Rest at ease. There are now quick and convenient, anonymous and even aesthetic ways to deal with those nagging sins of yours: cyberspace confessions. Think of it as an online confessional booth. If you have sin in your life and you don’t want to confess it to somebody, you can go to one of these websites and post it there, and the slate will be wiped clean.
Or, if you’re more of the artistic type, there’s another web site (see www.PostSecret.com if you like, but be aware that you’ll see some unsavory images) that will allow you to send in a postcard that allows you to draw a picture of whatever sin it is that you need to confess. Just include a statement of the issue that you need to reveal, and it is required that you keep it anonymous. These mail-in confessions are then posted on this website where others can read about your transgressions. Here are some sample statements that were posted on this site: “I removed the book jackets from trashy novels so that I look more sophisticated. Sometimes at night I fantasize about what I’d wear to a loved one’s funeral. I wish my daughter loved me. People think I enjoy being alone, but I am lonely.”