Acts 4: 32-35: 1 John 1:1—2:2: John 20:19–31
Tiger Woods is playing golf again, and doing well, for the first time in a long time. It seems to me that since his infidelity to his wife became public, he has struggled to put together a good game. Looking on as a pastor, it has seemed that his spirit is troubled.
With his divorce and the media attention and the subsequent loss of commercial endorsements, he sank quickly from the top of the game to near the bottom. He seemed to have lost everything, including the respect of the people. How could this not affect his game?
Recently the focus has been on his back surgery. This weekend – at least on Saturday morning when I was writing – it seems he is back in the game. The public has forgiven him for his infidelity. He has been given another chance.
… Thomas needed another chance to see the risen Jesus. On the day he was raised from the tomb, Jesus appeared to the disciples in the guest room of the home they were staying in. Thomas was not there that day and he missed seeing Jesus. I’m sure he was disappointed and frustrated. He wanted what the others had experienced.
The next week, Jesus appeared among them again, and this time, Thomas was there. Jesus knew Thomas well, and offered him the opportunity to touch his wounds to verify that it really was Jesus.
Thomas didn’t need to touch the wounds; he fell on his knees and worshiped Jesus as his Lord and his God. Not only did Thomas get another chance to see Jesus, he responded by naming him as divine.
… Jesus is good at giving more chances:
Peter is known for his statement of belief in Jesus as the Messiah and the Son of God. This is followed by his refusal to believe that Jesus will suffer and die and be raised. While Jesus responds, “Get behind me, Satan,” he never casts Peter away from him. Peter always gets another chance with Jesus.
In the last chapter of John, Jesus meets Peter on the beach and asks him three times to feed Jesus’ sheep. This is often interpreted as a three-fold forgiveness after Peter’s three-fold denial of Jesus. Peter’s response is to lead the new church into the future, and to eventually die on a cross, upside down.
The Samaritan woman at the well was given another chance, after five previous relationships with men. This next chance with Jesus sent her to town to tell everyone about Jesus.
Lazarus died. He lay in the tomb for four days, long enough for his body to begin to rot – but Jesus gave him another chance at life.
In this little reading from Acts today, we discover that the first believers are trying hard to live as Jesus commanded. They have formed a community in which no one has too much, and all have enough. It sounds wonderful.
Until, that is, unless we try to live that way ourselves. Those of us with much would have to give it up. Those of us with not enough would finally have enough. Can you imagine sharing your possessions as the first Christians did? It’s hard to let go of those possessions we are accustomed to having. We might need several chances to get this right.
… We often need second, and third, and fourth, and fifth chances:
· Our relationships are not always what we want them to be.
· Our commitment to wise use of our finances is not always what we want it to be.
· Our love for all our neighbors is not always what we want it to be – or at least what Jesus wants it to be.
· We do not always put God first in our lives.
· We don’t always want to be with God, on Sundays or any other day.
This reading from First John puts it right on the line for us. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” We are sinners. Every week, we begin worshiping God with the statement that we are imperfect children of God. We are people who need lots of chances to do life God’s way.
And every week we hear God’s forgiveness: God who is faithful and just will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. We are sinners, yes, but we are forgiven sinners. We are sinners with lots of chances to get life as children of God right.
This week, pay attention to all the times you fail to love as Jesus wants us to love. That’s probably the most frequent, and rarely noticed, sin. And the one for which we get the most chances to do better. Watch for all the times you judge someone as different, as less than you, as sinful, as not lovable. Confess your failure to love, and ask for Jesus to forgive you.
Forgiving God, we know we are far from perfect. Accept us as we are, forgive us, again and again, and make us perfect with your loving embrace. Amen