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Homily for Sunday 11th April - Second Sunday of Easter
Hallelujah, He is risen... He is risen indeed!
We say this every Easter as we begin our services, don’t we? And what wonderful news it is!! It changes lives now and did back then, too... but we have the privilege of hindsight, it took the disciples 2000 some years ago a little longer than it takes us to take it in. We read in the gospel today, John 20 v 19.
“That Sunday evening the disciples were meeting behind closed doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing among them! “Peace be with you”, he said.’
First, they were afraid! Who wouldn’t be? Their leader, their hero, their friend and companion of three years has just been hounded down, beaten, tortured, interrogated and crucified. Then they learn strange tales that he has risen from the dead!!! They must have been considering whether they were next or not. They must have been wondering what it is all about. Have they been hoodwinked? Is it true? What is happening?
This year a lot of us understand being afraid of an enemy and hiding behind closed doors probably better than we ever have before, in our case it’s not the Jewish religious hierarchy or the Roman occupying troops we fear but a deadly pandemic. Covid 19. We have probably had times when we have wondered if all the stories about deaths and vaccines etc. are true or wonder have we been hoodwinked. Then and now it is a lot to take in.
So Jesus appears among them and says, “Peace be with you” and he shows them his wounds to help them see it really is him among them and probably to reassure them that He, Jesus, God’s own son, is supreme over everyone and everything including death. They are filled with joy. Then again he says, “Peace be with you.” John 20 v 22(a) God knows we need reassurance and help to make sense of the world sometimes. This message, “Peace be with you” is for those first disciples and it is for us now in 2021. Remember this passage when our life seems to get out of hand, Jesus is always among us with a message of peace. He is in charge and whatever you are feeling, remember he loves you and is bringing comfort into the situation.
I shared a song with the congregation at All Hallows on Sunday that I first heard in the 1980s and which had a big effect on my faith. I share it again with you. It is by Betty Lou Mills and goes like this
Jesus is alive today, Jesus is alive today.
Jesus is alive, very much alive,
Jesus is alive today. (chorus)
He’s living in the hearts of ordinary people,
teaching them to love both God and man,
giving them the faith to look for a miracle,
helping them to know they count in his plan.
It hit me in the face then that what I had accepted for many years about Jesus resurrection, that he rose from the dead some 2000 plus years ago to conquer death “so we might go at last to heaven saved by his precious blood” to quote from “There is a green hill far away” was not just an historical fact but it was a now fact and applied to me in my life now. I identified with ‘the ordinary people” in the first verse and although I was already very much a Christian, that simple little song turned my life around. It made me see anew that I was important to God and he was there to help me, to comfort me, to boost my faith and help me realise the potential he had made me for.
Back to the passage....John chapter 20 v 22(b) Jesus immediately continues,
“As my Father sent me, I am sending you. Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit...”
First Jesus blessed and wished the disciples peace, he then reassured them, (and us) then he commissioned them to go out and spread God’s word among others, but not without giving them the tools to do it...in this case the gift of the Holy Spirit of God, who enables all we do in Jesus’ name.
Jesus stood among them and brought them Peace, reassurance, joy, the gift of the Holy Spirit and a commission, too.
This is a commission for now, too, not just for the first disciples all that long time ago...I’ll finish with the words of a hymn which you are probably very familiar with, that says it better than I can,
Go forth and tell, O Church of God awake,
God’s saving news to all the
That all the world his saving grace may sing.
As we pray for a new vicar to lead us, let’s also seize this new opportunity to share our faith with others more proactively here in our neighbourhood.
Liz Thomas April 7th 2021