Dear Dyersburg FUMC Family,
It was such a joy to celebrate another Confirmation Sunday with you!
As I mentioned in my sermon on Sunday, our text for this week was so full of profound lessons that it was impossible to touch on all of them. I highlighted two in my sermon—the faithfulness of Thomas who refused to accept anyone other than the bodily resurrected Jesus, and the mission of the church that began when Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit on the disciples as they hid together after Jesus’s execution and subsequent resurrection.
This text also contains some difficult verses, the study of which I found very enlightening last week as I prepared to preach. In John 20:22 we read that “When Jesus had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’” One way that the church has misinterpreted Jesus’s words is by insisting that the church in all times and places has the authority to forgive sins. This is a gross misinterpretation of ecclesial authority and has done untold damage not only to those who have turned to the church for safety and reconciliation but also to churches that have abused their power.
Instead, Paul Duke suggests, Jesus is “summing up what it means to be sent into the world as God sent him.” If John the Baptist identifies Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, the ongoing mission of the church is to proclaim that forgiveness and to embody it in both the way the church lives together and in the way it reaches out in forgiveness to the rest of the world. Gail O’Day puts it another way, “The faith community’s mission...is not to be the arbiter of right or wrong, but to bear unceasing witness to the love of God in Jesus.” In my own notes I wrote, “If the world does not experience God’s love and forgiveness, then the church has not done its work.”
Rather than see ourselves as responsible for judging, shaming, and closing the doors on those who choose to enter into relationship with God, what if we were to see ourselves as responsible for revealing the compassionate and inestimable love of God for the world?
As such we are God’s Easter people,