13 April 1997
St Stephen, Lewisham
Year B. Easter 3
Acts 3: 13-15, 17-19
1 John 2: 1-5
Luke 24: 35-48
"I DON'T KNOW..."
Peter said to the people:
"It was you who accused the Holy One, the Just One; you who demanded the reprieve of a murderer while you killed the prince of life. God, however, raised him from the dead, and to that fact we are witnesses.
"Now I know, brothers, that neither you nor your leaders
had any idea what you were really doing..."
It's about those last words that we are going to be thinking this morning: "you had [no] idea what you were really doing"
If you think back to your childhood, you will remember doing something really silly and getting found out.
Perhaps it was throwing stones at passing cars; or starting a fire near a haystack; or stealing some sweets from the local newsagent whilst his back was turned; or pulling off the head of your sister's favourite doll.
Even if you never did anything like that yourself you surely remember others doing so; more recently you may have caught your own children red-handed.
What is it the culprits always say in reply to the challenge "Why did you do such a naughty thing?"
"I DON'T KNOW" isn't it?
And "don't know" is often the truth.
People don't know why they do wrong things; and many of the worst things that people do they don't have a clue as to how seriously wrong they are, or even the real nature of what they are doing.
Abortion is an obvious example. Abortion kills a baby. But people see it as a means of getting themselves or their daughter or girlfriend out of a difficulty.
"Now I know, brothers, that neither you nor your leaders had any idea what you were really ding...", said St Peter to the people who had brought about Jesus' death on the cross and were now faced with the fact that God the Father had raised this same Jesus from the dead two days later.
Writing to the Church at Corinth St Paul said "We speak the wisdom of God, a hidden wisdom... which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory."
The truth is that every minute of every day someone, somewhere
is doing something seriously wrong without understanding the nature of what they
are doing or why they are doing it.
"Why did you do that?" "I don't know".
It's like the chorus line from a music-hall song, isn't it.
Let's face it, you and I have said something to the same effect during the last few days, even if only to ourselves. "I can't think why I did anything so stupid. I got carried away and before I knew where I was it had happened".
Or "I don't know why I said that uncharitable word to my neighbour at work (or school); it just slipped out whilst I wasn't really thinking"
Or "Everyone else, all my friends, were throwing stones at
the stray cat in the tree so I just joined in. It seemed the natural thing to
It doesn't need may examples to remind the most innocent person here this morning of something that others, and perhaps ourselves, have done some seriously wrong things without realising at the time just how wrong they were.
That understanding may come later - maybe when it's too late to prevent the result of what we have done from following on. What began as a lark, like joining a group of boys throwing stones at cars from a bridge on the motorway, or a young boy and girl messing around with sex together, ends up with a serious accident in which someone is killed, or a baby whom nobody wants who may equally find himself getting killed for precisely that reason.
We are surrounded by the wreckage cause by people who "don't know" what they've done, or why they did it.
The Resurrection is God's answer to the "don't know why" mentality. For the Resurrection brings out into the open the true nature of both God and man. Man puts God the Son on the cross without realising what he's doing. God raises him from the dead and shows himself alive to anyone who has the eyes to see, not least in the Breaking of Bread as he is doing for us this morning.
If the Father had wanted to raise Jesus from the dead secretly so that nobody saw him alive after the Resurrection, and removed him from the earth at the Ascension when nobody was looking he could certainly have done so.
In fact he chose to do these things in front of many witnesses. St Luke tells us in the first chapter of Acts that he "showed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs" one of which we heard about in this morning's gospel.
You and I have been described as the Resurrection People. It's our privilege to meet the risen Lord week by week in the Breaking of Bread, in hearing the Word of the Lord read in the lessons and explained in the sermon, and in discovering his presence both in the Blessed Sacrament and in the midst of our fellow-worshippers who meet here every Sunday to "celebrate the Lord's death until he comes again in glory".
It is our privilege. But privileges bring duties and obligations with them; and one of the chief duties of being a Christian is that we can never again truthfully use "I don't know" as an excuse for what we do wrong.
"I don't know" is what children say when they are found out.
St Paul reminds us in his letter to the Ephesians that "we are not to be like children any more, tossed to and fro with every wind of false belief by which the world deceives us; but speaking the truth in love we are to grow up into Christ in all things"
So if "I don't know" is the hallmark of being childish, what should be the adult response to sin and wrongdoing?
St Peter gave the answer to those whose ignorance and foolishness had been exposed by the crucifixion: "Now you must repent and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out"
The adult answer to wrongdoing is not "I don't know" but "I do know; I accept responsibility for my faults; I repent; I turn to Christ".
"Firstly I do know that what it did was wrong. Whether I fully realised it at the time when I did it is neither here nor there. I here and now (and that NOW is perhaps the most important word of all in the Christian vocabulary) I here and now accept responsibility for what I have done.
"Secondly I do know him in whom I have believed and put my trust: he is Jesus Christ, God the Son, crucified for me and risen from the dead. I know that in him I have forgiveness for all my sins.
"Thirdly I do know that by repenting now and turning from those sins I am doing the really grown-up thing.
"Never again will I resort to saying "I don't know" in the hope that somehow it will work as an excuse. That's a childish reaction. I'm not asking God to excuse my sins but to forgive them as only he can, for the sake of his Son, Jesus Christ, crucified, dead, buried, risen and ascended.
It's as the Resurrection people who know the Lord that we are meeting together with him here this morning.
Let's make the decision to give up being the I-don't-know people; and let's take that decision right here and now.
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