2 Easter

The Rev. Mary Grambsch

Your Word, O Lord is a lantern for our feet and a light upon our path.  In the Name of God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Just in case you missed church last week – it’s Eastertide!  We have entered the Season of Easter; the Great 50 Days of Easter, running from Easter Day to the Feast of Pentecost.  This Season of Easter, more than any other season of the church year, focuses on the Resurrected Jesus and on the meaning of the resurrection for the church, for Jesus’ disciples and for us.  These Sundays of Eastertide are filled with gospel passages that describe meetings between the risen, but not yet ascended, Jesus and his disciples and followers, and the Epistle passages contain messages of hope and the promise of the resurrection to those who believe in the Risen Lord. The full, rich Season of Easter has begun!  Alleluia!

Our gospel passage today is taken from the Gospel according to John, and is abundant with Johannine symbols and John the Evangelist’s spirited and particular take on things.  The Disciples (all except for Thomas) have met in a locked room.  They discovered that Jesus body was not in the tomb that very morning, and Mary Magdalene had reported to them later that she had seen their Lord and Master, who had risen from the dead and spoke to her.  No doubt they are puzzled, they are confused, what does Mary’s testimony mean? Can it be trusted? What about the Jewish Authorities – will they search for Jesus’ known followers? Are they in danger?  Better lock the door and keep their voices down.

Of course, locks and doors are no hindrance to the risen Jesus.  He enters the locked room and sees the Disciple’s shocked and frightened faces, he knows the panic and chaos they are feeling and immediately says, “Peace be with you”.  Jesus gives them exactly what they need in order to really realize that it is indeed their risen Lord who has joined them in that locked room; a peaceful and calm heart and mind.  Next, Jesus shows the proof of his authenticity, he proves his identity by showing the scars on his hands and feet, and the Disciples are overjoyed and believe immediately that he has been raised from the dead.
Jesus then says again, “Peace be with you”.  It is almost as if the Disciples were so shocked and frantic when Jesus said it the first time that Jesus needed to again say, “Peace be with you”.  Jesus then gave the Disciples a commission; he takes the Disciples into his mission imperative – “As the Father sent me, so I send you”.  God’s mission of reconciling love will continue in this world through the Disciples; Jesus time of walking about on this earth is coming to a close, but the mission and message he came to establish on earth will continue to be preached and heard.

Jesus then breathes on the Disciples, saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit; if you forgive anyone’s sins they are forgiven, if you retain the sins of anyone they are retained”.  God’s ongoing work of forgiveness and reconciliation is to continue through the power of God’s Holy Spirit, expressed by the followers of Jesus.  And so it is, every Sunday, after the Confession of Sin, the Absolution is pronounced.  Your sins and mine, when we confess them and are truly sorry of them, are forgiven, “through the Power of the Holy Spirit”.  Listen for these words in the Absolution that will be pronounced just a few minutes from now and know that the ability to say these words comes from the gift of the Holy Spirit dwelling in the Church.

If we, as followers of Jesus Christ, are to continue in the mission and ministry that Jesus, commissioned by God the Father, began on earth we need these two things; the Peace of God in our hearts and minds and the gift of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us.  Think about it: a country that is at peace can build up and nurture its people, it can educate and train its people for the future, it can use its resources in the service of its people and not waste precious resources on warfare.    

A person who is at peace is someone who feels a strong, steady sense of well being in their heart and mind, a peaceful person is calm and stable even when chaos and confusion is going on all around them.  The peace of God at the center of our being makes us able to go out into a world that is filled with pain, hatred, suffering and evil, and not be swayed or hurt by the world. God’s peace, the peace that we will share, in this church and with each other, after the Prayers of the People, if we take it into our hearts, gives us the strength to go out into the world with compassion, service, love and joy!

What leads us into the world is God’s Holy Spirit.  If God’s peace gives us calming love, the Holy Spirit stirs us up and leads us out of thinking only about our own needs, and into the world to meet the needs of others.  We need both Peace and Spirit to fulfill God’s mission and both those things Jesus gives abundantly to those who ask for them.

Poor Thomas was not present to receive either the Peace or the Holy Spirit Jesus gave to the other Disciples.  Thomas cannot believe the Good News of Jesus’ resurrection as other tell him about it, he must have proof.  Well, Thomas gets the proof he needs and it turns out that he did not need to touch the wounds after all, just seeing and hearing Jesus is enough for Thomas to exclaim, “My Lord and my God!”  Thomas is the very first person in John’s entire Gospel to recognize the divinity of Jesus; Thomas calls him “my God”.  Jesus has been called Master, Teacher, Rabbi, Lord, and Messiah – but not “God”.  

The first verses of John’s Gospel tell us that Jesus is divine, that he is God – “In the beginning was the Word”, and the Word was with God and the Word was God”.  Jesus is the Word, in Greek, “the Logos”, but not until the very end of the Gospel account does a human being confess that Jesus is “My Lord and my God.”  With Thomas the Gospel of John has come full circle and we finally know what is important about Jesus – he is our Lord, our Redeemer, and our God. 

In these Great 50 Days of Easter we will hear many more stories that show us Jesus has trampled down and defeated death by his resurrection, and we will be encouraged and equipped to go out into the world to share the message of Easter faith.  The peace of God is our inner strength and the Holy Spirit is our Advocate with the Father and our guide.  May God’s peace be ours and may the Holy Spirit inspire us to reach out to people who so greatly need the hope of heaven and the love of God in their lives.  Amen.