Easter 2 Year B

Sermon Title: EASTER 2 Year B
Date:  8th April 2018
Preacher: The Rev’d Wendy Pullin
Church Calendar Date: Easter 2 Year B
Lectionary Reading: Acts 4:32-37, Psalm 133, 1 John 1.2-2.2, John 20:19-31
It’s been a tumultuous few weeks!

The great liturgies of Holy Week and Easter have been celebrated and today, on this second Sunday of Easter, we continue rejoicing, affirming the resurrection of Jesus and the hope that brings to the world.

The last week has been very emotional; the joy of Easter Day, the sadness of Iris’ funeral; the time of farewell to Susanne and Jonathan. For me, it’s brought the extraordinary privilege of coming to the St Paul’s community for this first Sunday morning, of getting to know you and sharing the Christian journey.

In this time of change, I’m so happy to be with you.

Today’s readings are a great reminder that tumult and change are not new!

I wonder if these familiar readings, especially the Gospel reading, resonate for you as they do for me? The vulnerability of the little community who journeyed with Jesus is so palpable.

 “When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them.” Jn 20:19

Fear dominates the beginning of this reading; fear that threatens to overwhelm the disciples, gathered together in a locked room.

 We are at a distance. We know this story. We know the ending. We know that Jesus’ loved companions had no reason to be so afraid – but we forget! We forget all they had witnessed. It’s almost impossible to understand the depth and reality of the trauma that they experienced and their complete devastation in the face of Jesus’ death. With good reason, they are afraid. They are afraid for themselves and for each other. They are afraid they too will suffer. They are afraid for their own lives. The door is locked. Their swirling thoughts may surely have taken them to dark places of unbelief, of rejection of all they had heard and seen – and the desperate hope, as they gathered together in community that all may not be lost.

Then, “Jesus came and stood among them.” Jn 20:20

These simple words speak to an eternal truth. The resurrected Jesus came to the people He loved, his companions on the way. Their doubt and fear was dispelled as He revealed himself to them, showing them the marks of crucifixion in his hands and side. Later, he appeared to Thomas, bringing him certainty and faith. Thomas’s doubt and Jesus response to him surely brings comfort and certainty to many who question and search for proof.

How do we respond to this Gospel reading? Can we (like the disciples) bear witness to the reality of Jesus’ presence when life has been tough and overwhelming fear has made all seem lost?

“Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Jn 20:19

These are powerful, beautiful words. “Do not fear.” “Be at peace.” “Be released from all that is binding you.” These are words for the disciples and they are words for us, in this season of rejoicing and this season of change.

The disciples move from fear to joy in this narrative. With their own eyes, they see the Risen Jesus, they see the marks of crucifixion on his hands and side and they are empowered by the Holy Spirit.

‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ …. he breathed on them and said to them ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’

No time is lost, in this encounter with Jesus! The disciples are to get on with it! This is not the time to be enclosed in an upper room. It’s time for the community of faith to put into practice all they have been taught. The world is waiting!

On the surface, nothing has changed. Beyond the upper room, there is still opposition and still the possibility of physical danger or death. Outside the community of disciples there is still rejection that Jesus is the Messiah and disbelief that he has overcome death – but – the disciples are empowered. The Holy Spirit is at work in them, leading them into the truth, gifting them in their words and actions, enabling powerful witness to the truth of Jesus’ resurrection, His ministry and work. This appearance of the resurrected Jesus is a turning point. Fling open the doors! The Book of Acts, speaking to another time and place, affirms the powerful witness of the early church. ‘With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus and great grace was upon them all.’ Acts 4:33

At a time of continual change in the Australian community, Jesus’ death and resurrection and the witness and experience of his disciples challenge us.

In the midst of our Easter celebration, we know the experience of rejection, of scathing criticism and the rise of both apathetic disinterest and militant atheism. The world in which we live and work pays little attention to the presence and power of God we hold so dear. It is hugely tempting to hide behind closed doors in fear of engagement with the wider community, to keep the faith in secret and ignore or dismiss those who challenge us. That is not God’s way!

‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ …. he breathed on them and said to them ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.

Jesus stands amongst us this morning with words that cast out fear and bring the gift of peace. The world will not overwhelm us. In Word and sacrament and in this community of faith, His presence is real and palpable. His love abides here. Forgiveness, Mercy and Grace are to be found here – and we are God’s empowered people with a story to tell and life to share, guided by the Holy Spirit whose presence empowers us.

St Paul’s community, fling open the doors! Be at peace. Step out into the world boldly and confidently, rejoicing in the truth of Jesus’ resurrection!

Christ is Risen! Alleluia!

He is Risen indeed! Alleluia!