The Second Sunday of Easter
Today is the second Sunday of Easter.
Last Sunday, Easter day, we rejoiced in the resurrection of Jesus, having walked with him through his passion and crucifixion. And today we continue in the season of Eastertide, a season known as the great Fifty Days. A precious time for us all.
During these days we remember the stories in the gospels that tell us the risen Jesus was present in bodily form to his disciples during the first 40 days - after this, (according to Luke), Jesus left his disciples and “ascended into heaven.”
Then, 10 days later, at Pentecost (which means fifty), when the disciples had gathered together for the feast of Shavuot, Jesus’ promise to send his Holy Spirit came to be. And to this day and forever more, the Holy Spirit remains with us as our guide and counsellor and the one who leads us into all truth. So the Great Fifty Days are a celebration of the Resurrection of Christ, His ascension to the Father and all that means for us, leading to the launching of the Christian Church and its mission on Pentecost.
Now in this morning’s gospel passage we hear the first words of the risen Jesus to his disciples. He appears before them as they huddle together in a room behind locked doors hiding from the religious authorities of the day. They are confused and afraid and Jesus comes to them and stands among them and gives them what they desperately need: Peace! Peace be with you, he says to them. This peace is different from what the world gives. It is the peace that passes all understanding.
To add to that amazing gift of peace, he then breathes life itself into them in the Holy Spirit. How wonderful!! - Too majestic for words!! Now while in the room with his disciples, Jesus shows them the nail wounds in his hands and the wound in his side. His disciples are looking on the one whom they have pierced, and they see that he is alive and has come to them as he promised. Confusion and fear, is overtaken by great joy as they experience their communion with Jesus.
The hearts of the disciples in every age, beginning with the first disciples, are indeed filled with joy - for the one they love has risen from the tomb and is now with them as the Risen One. The new day has dawned and in this new day there is personal encounter with God, the risen one.
John’s gospel proclaims that the Risen Jesus meets his disciples where they are and from that place, wherever it is, they are enabled to come into their newness. We remember at the Tomb on Easter morning Mary meets Jesus and when she finally recognizes him she wants to cling to him – it would seem that she wants to cling to how things used to be - how Jesus had made her feel worthy and how he upheld her without judgement – but Jesus tells her not to cling - for she was now able to go on in her newness as Mary - the one sent with good news in the authority of the Risen Lord.
In today’s gospel reading we hear the story of how Thomas doubts the other disciples when they tell him about the risen Jesus and it isn’t until Jesus appears before him and he is able to put his fingers in Jesus wounds that he believes.
Again we see personal encounter -Jesus comes to Thomas and gives him what he needs in his time of doubt and when Thomas receives this, he makes a most dramatic shift from being someone who doubts, to the very first of the disciples to proclaim Jesus as My lord and my God.
Then there is the story of Peter who had denied Jesus three times.
After the crucifixion he returns to his work as a fisherman and it is there on the beach, that the risen Jesus comes to him, and gives him the opportunity to affirm his love for him. Jesus asks him three times if he loves him. Peter confesses his love, and thereafter takes on a new form of serving the vulnerable, the needy, the dependent and those without courage. Mary, Thomas and Peter are met where they are - each had their own personal encounter with the risen lord that set them on a new path.
The Holy Spirit sent by Jesus at Pentecost does the same with us – with you and with me.
When our faith is hindered by the lack of self-worth like Mary Magdalene, or doubt like Thomas or the lack of courage like Peter, the Holy Spirit comes to meet us where we are and it is there through personal encounter that our newness begins to dawn. Thanks be to God!
Let us pray:
Dear Risen Lord, we thank you that the new day has dawned and what that means for us - open our hearts to gratefully receive your encounter with us that leads into our wholeness in you.
Sermon for 24th April 2022 Rev’d Jenny Simson