We are a small Episcopal Church on the banks of the Rappahannock in Port Royal, Virginia. We acknowledge that we gather on the traditional land of the first people of Port Royal, the Nandtaughtacund, and we respect and honor with gratitude the land itself, the legacy of the ancestors, and the life of the Rappahannock Tribe. Our mission statement is to do God’s Will in all that we do.

Sermon, April 16, 2023, Easter 2 – Repentance “in touch with the Reality that God Creates”

“Hope” – George Frederic Watts 1886

Repentance plays a major part in today’s gospel. 

So let’s start with what repentance means.   

I like Eugene Peterson’s explanation of repentance in his book, Long Obedience in the Same Direction. 

Peterson says that “the usual biblical word describing the no we say to the world’s lies and the yes we say to God’s truth is repentance.  It is always and everywhere the first word in the Christian life.” 

He goes on to say that “repentance is not an emotion.  It is not feeling sorry for your sins.  It is a decision.” 

And that “repentance is the most practical of all words and the most practical of all acts.  It is a feet -on- the- ground sort of word.  It puts a person in touch with the reality that God creates.” 

In today’s gospel, John gives us the closing event on the day of the resurrection.  Early that morning, Mary Magdalene had met Jesus in the garden. 

After this emotional meeting, Mary had gone to tell the disciples that she had seen Jesus and all that he had said to her. 

Later that day, the disciples met, which brings us today’s gospel. 

They had locked all the doors of the house where they were because they were afraid. 

And Jesus came to them and said, “Peace be with you.”  He showed them his wounds.  They could have no doubt that Jesus was the person standing there in their midst.  They could see for themselves that God had brought about a new reality, something that they could not have imagined, new life out of death, , that is, the resurrection of Jesus.   

And they rejoiced. 

For some reason, one of the twelve, Thomas, wasn’t with the disciples when Jesus appeared.  When the disciples told him that they had seen the Lord, Thomas was in no mood to believe them. 

Don’t forget that earlier, when Jesus had been talking with the disciples before his arrest and crucifixion, Jesus had told them not to let their hearts be troubled, that he was going to prepare a way for them. 

And even then, Thomas had his doubts.  “We don’t know where you are going, Lord.  How then, can we know the way?” 

And Jesus had said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” 

I don’t think Thoms fully understood what Jesus meant, because if he had, he probably wouldn’t have needed visual, physical proof that God had resurrected Jesus and that Jesus was back. 

Thomas needed to see Jesus himself, complete with wounds, before he would believe that Jesus was alive. 

A week passes. 

The disciples have gathered again, and this time, Thomas is with them.  Jesus comes and stands among them, says, “Peace be with you,” and then he turns directly to Thomas and says, “Do not doubt but believe.” 

Thomas answers, “My Lord and my God!” 

This moment, when Thomas said, “My Lord and my God!” is an act of repentance. 

He says no to the world’s lie that all is lost and that death is the end.  Instead, Thomas says yes to God’s truth—resurrection and new life.    

He decides to accept the reality that God creates–

the reality that Jesus is indeed with them—that all the disciples now have the truth, and they have new life, because they do know the way—to follow the wounded, fully restored resurrected man who is there with them, Jesus, their Lord and their God. 

Thomas chooses not to stay stuck in the old life where death is the end, but now he too wholeheartedly enters into a new resurrected life. 

Well, here we are, the disciples of Jesus.  The doors of this church aren’t locked because we are afraid,  but I bet every one of us here is carrying some sort of inner fear—maybe fear of abandonment, of disease, of disability,  fears about getting older, fears about the death dealing world around us—after all, in this day and age of mass shootings, are we really safe anywhere?  If a shooter doesn’t pick us off, maybe a fungus will get us, or another deadly virus will show up, and the list goes on.  Fear is always waiting to chain us to the death dealing ways of the world, tempting us to think of the resurrection story as only that, a story, and not the truth.

But we Christians know that the truth is that we have entered into a new resurrected life and that we are now, as Peterson puts it, “pilgrims of peace,” because we follow the Way, Jesus himself. 

And so, quoting Peterson again, “now we are going someplace, we are going to God.  The truth of God explains our lives, the truth of God fulfills our lives, the forgiveness of God renews our lives, and the love of God blesses our lives……Repentance, rejecting the lies that the world feeds us, that all is lost, sets us now on the way to traveling in the light.  Repentance is a leaving that develops into an arriving, a no to the world that is a yes to God.” 

Repentance is a no to hopelessness, and a yes to hope, even though the way ahead might be hard, and suffering and pain may be part of the way we travel.  BUT, Jesus goes with us, and will always be with us.  Our resurrected Lord is the Way. 

Now, I want to share a modern day story about how someone showed up in a person’s life and brought hope and peace in the midst of doubt and despair—the way Jesus showed up for the disciples after his resurrection. 

This story is a  reminder that even now, Jesus shows up for us when we are doubting and feeling hopeless.   Jesus sends messengers in disguise to us all the time to let us know that Jesus is truly present with us.    When we find our despair turning to hope or peace or joy, we know—Jesus has certainly been in our midst.

We remember to repent of believing the world’s lies, and turning once again to hope, and to the new, resurrected life that God is waiting to give us. 

I hope you enjoy this story about Pierce Forde, from NPR’s series called “My Unsung Hero from Hidden Brain.”

Growing up,  Pierce loved to ride motorcycles. Back in the 1990’s when Pierce was in his twenties, and had moved to Manhattan, he bought a big new motorcycle.  On the evening of his 27th birthday, he was riding home from a date, feeling on top of the world.  Here he was in Manhattan, he had a bike, he had a job, he was dating a girl he liked.  He was exhilarated.  And then, as he was going through an intersection, a car suddenly turned left and slammed into him.  He remembers flying through the air, landing on the pavement, and knowing that he was badly injured.  He was going into shock when a man appeared at his side, took his hand and said, “You’ll be ok, brother.” 

The man kept asking him questions, keeping Pierce focused on him until paramedics arrived and took Pierce to the hospital.  Pierce said, “I would be dead without his help.” 

Three weeks later, Pierce was still in the hospital.  The man who had helped him suddenly showed up in his hospital room. 

“I just started crying, the tears rolling down my face,” Pierce remembers.  “Oh, my God, my angel is here!” 

Pierce remembers the man’s name as Alvin.  They chatted about life.  Pierce found out that Alvin was a homeless Vietnam veteran.  After about an hour of conversation, Alvin shook hands with Pierce, wished him luck, and left. 

And at that point, Pierce knew, “Yeah, I know I’m going to make it!” 

I love this modern day story—because for me it captures the joy that Thomas must have felt when he realized that Jesus himself was there.  Like Thomas, Pierce no longer felt hopeless.  Hope came pouring back into his life.  You might say that Pierce’s visitor helped him turn away from hopelessness into hope. 

What about you?  Maybe today, you’re feeling like Thomas, having trouble believing  in the midst of all that’s wrong, that all is well.  Open your eyes.  If you repent and say no to your hopelessness, fear, or whatever it is that is keeping you chained, you will find Jesus there with you, bringing you hope. 

Or maybe today you will get to be Jesus to someone else, being a representative of our Lord and our God, someone’s angel, as Alvin was to Pierce, bringing hope flooding into what seems like a hopeless situation. 

As Peterson says, “repentance is the most practical of all words and the most practical of all acts.  It is a feet -on- the- ground sort of word.  It puts a person in touch with the reality that God creates.” 

Today I pray that we may all make the decision to be in touch with God’s reality, here and now, the reality of Jesus holding out his wounded hands and calling us to leave the hopeless lies of this world behind. 

Let’s be in touch with the reality that God creates, and follow Jesus in the way of truth and peace and resurrected life, here and now.    

Yes, we are going to make it!–Because Jesus is with us, and we have decided to follow. 



Peterson, Eugene.  Long Obedience in the Same Direction:  Discipleship in an Instant Society (Revised and Expanded Edition).  Downers Grove, IL, InterVaristy Press, 2000 (second edition).