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  • The Revd Canon Camellia Flanagan, TSSF

Beyond doubt

Easter 3 B: Acts 3:12-20; Psalm 4; 1 John 2. 15-17 & 3:1-6; Luke 24.36b-48

+ In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Who are we? Who was Jesus? We can hear the conversation what is the purpose? Is there a divine purpose and what is our part?

And what about Jesus? good man … yes … perhaps one of the best who ever lived … but just a man, say many. Others disagree, claiming that he suffered from delusions of grandeur, a messiah complex. And the argument rages over the true identity of this man called Jesus. Suggestions have ranged from ‘Simple teacher’ to ‘egomaniac’ and ‘misguided fool.’

Whoever he was, all would agree that Jesus left his mark on history.

Hearing these discussions even Christians can begin to wonder and doubt. Is Jesus really God? Did he come to save sinners like us? Does God care about me? The First letter of John was written to reassure Christians in their faith and to let us know that we have eternal life if we believe in the name of the Son of God and that we belong to God.

One of the quests of human nature is to understand who we are, and there are literally thousands of books written—self-help books dedicated to finding out who we are. As believers, John tells us in chapter 3 of his first letter that our self-worth is found because God loves us and calls us his children. We are his children now, not just sometime in the distant future. Knowing that we are his children should encourage us to live as Jesus did.

We are members of God’s family and we will become reflections of God and as we grow to resemble God, we will be able to say ‘No’ to sin, have love for others, and confidence before God. The Christian life is a process of becoming more and more like Christ and the process will not be complete until we see Christ face to face. Knowing that this is our ultimate destiny motivates us to live purer lives. We begin to understand the nature of sin.

There is a difference between committing a sin and continuing to sin. Even the most faithful believers sometimes commit sins, but they do not cherish a particular sin and choose to commit it. A believer who commits a sin, repents, confesses, and finds forgiveness.

After the resurrection of Jesus, there were many who doubted that he had in fact died and rose again so there were many signs to prove that he was real. Jesus body was not just a figment of the imagination or the appearance of a ghost—the Disciples touched him, and he ate food. But his body as not merely a restored human body like Lazarus’s body who was also raised. He was able to appear and disappear. Luke tells us that Jesus showed the Disciples his hands and his feet and showed that even though he died a violent death on the cross he is very much alive, in a way that transforms not only our understanding of life after death but also of our earthly life here. Jesus’ resurrected body was immortal – he was the same person, but the resurrection involved continuity and radical transformation. Christ’s wounds are transformed, they do not disfigure but adorn, here are signs of welcome as the resurrected Jesus extends his hands to his disciples and walks towards them. .

In the days and weeks following the resurrection Jesus and the disciples travelled back and forth from Jerusalem to Galilee a number of times before he finally returned to heaven. In writing in the Acts of the Apostles, Luke made it clear that Jesus spent 40 days with his disciples between his resurrection and ascension, teaching them from the scriptures.

When Jesus talked of the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms it was a way of describing the Old Testament. In other words, Jesus helped them understand the writings of the Old Testament pointing to the coming of the messiah. Jesus’ role as Prophet was told in Deuteronomy 18: 15-20; his sufferings were prophesied in Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53; his resurrection was predicted in Psalm 16: 9-11 and Isaiah 53:10 and 11. Jesus opened the minds of the disciples so that they could understand the scriptures. The Holy Spirit does this for us today. As we read the scriptures, we find that we are given insight and find ourselves understanding more deeply things we have read before and perhaps not understood so well.

In the passage of the gospel reading, Luke was writing mainly to people who spoke Greek, He wanted them to know that Christ’s message of God’s love and forgiveness should go out to the whole world. It was not just for the Jewish people, or for the ones who knew Jesus when he was on earth. Can we remember this and do all we can to assist the spread of God’s love and forgiveness? When we reflect on who we are and who God is, and what it means to be holy we need also to think about what it means to be worldly.

Some people think that worldliness is limited to external behaviour. The people we associate with, the places we go, the activities we enjoy. Worldliness is also internal because it begins in the heart and is characterized by attitudes.

God values self-control, a spirit of generosity and a commitment to humble service.

It is possible to give the impression of avoiding worldly things while harbouring worldly attitudes in one’s heart. It is also possible to love sinners and to spend time with them while maintaining a commitment to the values of God’s kingdom. Can we reflect and ask ourselves, what values are important to us, and do we reflect the world’s values or God’s values in all we say and do and the in the way we live?

When we reflect on who we are can we remember that we are God’s beloved children and can find our identity and life in Christ and our reflection in the light and love of God. Can we remember that God has a purpose unto which we are drawn through faith, prayer and action and that we are not only recipients of God’s grace but are called to work with God for the renewal of the world? Remembering this in the light of the truth of the resurrected Christ, can we be willing to stand up and be counted when it comes to questions of faith, loving others without conditions, working for justice in our family life, community and the world and living in our earthly home in a sustainable way? Amen.

The Reverend Canon Camellia Flanagan TSSF

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