EASTER 3, B – April 15, 2018

SCRIPTURES – Acts 3:11-21; 1 John 3:1-7; Luke 24:36-49

 

Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you. Acts 3:19-20

 

What a great verse from the Bible! “Repent, that times of refreshing may come.” Times of refreshing; what does this bring to your mind? I’ll bet lots of things.

Ø  A change of place: away from the office; the train; the traffic; the airport; away from the factory; away from the house with the piles of laundry, the cluttered rooms, and the messy yard. Away to someplace else, someplace different and beautiful… just away. That would be refreshing!

Ø  Times of refreshing are also when you’re away from the usual people: the sneezing people on the crowded train; the irritating people on the phone; the customers who are never satisfied; the complainers and the whiners. It is refreshing to be away and among people who are happy and carefree!

Ø  Times of refreshing come with a change of clothing, from a business suit or work uniform to shorts and casual shirts. Times of refreshing do not feature bad coffee and a sandwich from a lunch cart but a relaxing dinner and a cabernet, perhaps in a nice restaurant.

Ø  Maybe even a change of smells comes to mind. How about fragrant ocean breezes instead of stale tobacco smoke or a stuffy office?

Times of refreshing are vacations to exciting destinations; or, perhaps they are simply relaxing times at home with a good book and no other demands.

 

Times of refreshing: they are great, and are all too infrequent. And even while enjoying them our usual times interrupt and nag. The cell phone with its texts, emails, voice mails – and even phone calls! – constantly interrupts and calls you back, away from times of refreshing.

 

You can shut off your phone. Really! You can! You can’t shut off your mind. Nagging doubts, feelings of inadequacy and the whispered memories of a guilty conscience can ruin any and every time. How do you shut them off?

 

Repent! Turn away from your attempts to get away and escape; from your efforts to silence inner voices by immersing yourself in entertainments; from trusting in anything you have done or will do to gain God’s blessing. Turn to Jesus, whom God sent for you and who did all things well for you. Turn to Him and trust in Him, and the best times of refreshing will come.

 

“Repent!” cries Peter today; but, what does he mean? Consider the crowd to whom he spoke, the people who were in Jerusalem some 2-3 months after Jesus had been crucified. They come running after Peter heals a man who had been lame from birth and who is now walking and leaping and praising God. They come to see him and Peter, and Peter directs their attention to Jesus. “You remember Jesus,” he says. “He was God’s servant, holy and righteous; and you denied Him, delivered Him over to Pilate, and killed Him.” Now, that’s harsh. Many of the people Peter addressed were probably not even there when that happened! But this did not matter to Peter. “You did this,” he could truly say, for it was God’s will that His Christ should suffer for all people. Jesus died bearing the sins of everyone… down to this day; including you and me. To repent is to not dodge or deny, or claim ignorance and so innocence, but to say, “I did this.” The voice of your guilty conscience is real and true, for we are all guilty, responsible for denying and crucifying the Holy and Righteous Son of God!

 

But He chose to bear your sin and guilt. God the Father had sent Him for this, and as the Father’s Holy and Righteous Son, He embraced the suffering and death for sins that were laid upon Him. He remained the Holy and Righteous One even while bearing them; and so He gained the victory over them. Your sins could not remain but were blotted out and erased by His holiness and righteousness. Jesus is also the Author of life, and so death could not could not hold Him. God raised Him from the dead, and He lives forevermore. Our risen Lord is the perfect health and wholeness of body and soul, and He gives His health to those who turn away from themselves to trust in Him.

 

What do you have when you repent: when you confess that you are sinful and guilty, and turn to Jesus; when you trust in His holy life, sacrificial death, and resurrection to eternal life for you? “Your sins are blotted out,” Peter says; just as in his day words on a wax tablet were rubbed out and erased. Your sins are gone! They will never be seen again by God! Their whispers of guilt are forever silenced.

 

“Peace to you,” Jesus says; and you can be at peace, at peace in your mind and in your heart. Are you a sinner? Of course you are! But this does not matter to God. “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” (1 John 3:1) When God looks upon you – and His eyes are always upon you; He does not wish to look anywhere else! – He is not looking upon a sinner but upon His child whom He loves It doesn’t really matter, then, what anyone else sees in you or says about you. It doesn’t even matter what your own mind and heart says. God is the final word, the final Judge; and He is your Father who loves you forever in His Son. “Peace to you!”

 

Are you sick; or suffering; or afraid because of what aging will bring; or worried because of the many uncertainties of this life? “Peace to you!” Like the lame man Peter healed, the time will come when you will walk and leap and praise God!

 

In fact, that time is now. When Peter said, “Repent and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you,” he was not just looking to that wonderful day when Jesus returns again from heaven to restore all things. The times of refreshing are when the Lord sends Christ to you; as He does this day in that most sacred and blessed and mysterious of ways, in the simple bread and wine of Holy Communion. “Take and eat; this is My body… Take and drink; this is My blood,” Jesus says. What greater refreshing could you ever have than that which you enjoy when you receive into your sinful body the body of the Holy and Righteous One who bore your sins and death and silenced them forever? What greater refreshing could you ever enjoy than when you receive into your sick and aging and dying body the living flesh and blood of Him who swallowed up death forever by His resurrection? Your Father from heaven here sends the Christ appointed for you. Repent and receive Him! The time of refreshing has come.

 

Enjoy the times of refreshing you get in this life: days off and vacations and relaxing meals and good books. Give thanks to God for them. We need them! Especially enjoy the refreshing times of hearing Christ’s word of peace, of forgiveness, and the receiving of Him into your very body. These are truly the times of the greatest refreshment, a foretaste of the never-ending time of refreshment there will be when Jesus returns and restores all creation. What a time that will be! To the praise of His name, who with the Father and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns as our God forever. Amen!