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for whom no door is locked, no entrance barred:
open the doors of our hearts,
that we may seek the good of others
and walk the joyful road of sacrifice and peace,
to the praise of God the Father.
The whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.
It was evening on 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 and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ When he had said this, 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.’ But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.’
A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’ Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.
Post Communion Prayer
Lord God our Father,
through our Saviour Jesus Christ
you have assured your children of eternal life
and in baptism have made us one with him:
deliver us from the death of sin
and raise us to new life in your love,
in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O LORD, our strength and our redeemer.
Last Sunday, Easter Day, was wonderful, packed with joy and sunshine. I was allowed to sing, and to eat as much chocolate as I wanted, however unwise a decision that may have turned out to be.
But, there was one dark cloud for me – Oxford lost the boat race. The connection with the boat race and Jesus’ death and resurrection may not be obvious, but bear with me. Cambridge were the underdogs and were not expected to win. But if you watched them row, they deserved their victory. Cambridge worked hard but their actions were smooth, fluid and rhythmical, the crew were united and calm, they didn’t waste their energy, and so they could react to whatever happened and they won. Keep this image in mind as I will return to it.
So today’s Gospel reading from John.
The first believers didn’t grasp the significance of the Crucifixion – they did not understand how Jesus would overcome death. They needed proof. The women- who were the first to know – found their proof in the empty tomb – a physical indication of Jesus’ resurrection. Their understanding was confirmed, either by an angel (in the Gospel’s of Matthew, Mark and Luke) or by Christ himself to Mary Magdalene in John. In each case the women were told to share the good news with the other disciples.
In this morning’s Gospel we heard John describe the resurrected Jesus’ first meeting with his disciples. They too needed physical proof before they could believe. Thomas missed out. But Christ knew what Thomas needed in order to believe and he provided for that need at his second appearance in the locked room.
So, if the disciples, who were there in person for Jesus’ ministry and resurrection could not believe the reality of the resurrection until they saw it for themselves, how much harder must it be for us?
John helps us here with the words Christ spoke, words that give us what we need help in order that we too might believe.
What are the first words the resurrected Christ says to his frightened disciples shut away from the Jews? Jesus says ‘Peace be with you’. Once the disciples have seen the proof of his wounds with their own eye and start to believe what does Jesus say? He says again ‘Peace be with you’. So too, a week later, when Thomas has been able to join with them, the first thing Jesus says is ‘Peace be with you.’
This is the resurrected Christ’s first and important message to us, and we have heard it three times – Peace be with you.
So what is this peace? It is that inner calm and certainty. It is the peace of knowing deep within ourselves that we are safe and loved by God. We receive this gift of peace, freely given through the grace of God.
After most services (but not today!) the priest dismisses us with the familiar words ‘the peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God and of his son Jesus Christ our Lord’.
These last 12 months have not been a time of peace and safety for us – we have had to deal with the Covid crisis – we cannot see where the danger is, we just know it might be lurking anywhere. We have, all of us, been cut off from friends and family, we have had to put joyful plans on hold, we have not been able to care for the sick or the dying as we would like to, we have not been able to mourn our dead, or comfort the bereaved. We have had to react to changing circumstances, our routines have been upset and we have missed our community. In this last week we have been upset by the death of the Duke of Edinburgh, and more profoundly by the death of Vinci, our friend, who gave so much to this community by his service in the Boniface Centre. He will be much missed.
So where do we find peace in these times?
Like the disciples sometimes we need proof – and we get that proof by seeing it in one another. Remember Cambridge in the boat race – although they were working hard, they were not strained, although it was exhausting, there was a beauty, rhythm and calmness in their actions so that they were able to react without unbalancing themselves.
When we are at peace, we do not have to strain. We still have to work hard and apply ourselves, but God’s work comes smoothly. If we are trying too hard, if we are jagged, if we are causing discord – then we are not doing God’s work, and we will not feel at peace or fulfilled. In John 10:10 Jesus promises us life …in all its fullness. We live life fully when we help each other, and we allow others to help us in turn. Fear is diminished and hope grows. We receive peace, through the grace of God and through the agency of his people on earth.
Remember that this gift of peace is the first thing Christ gave us after his resurrection, remember this when we share the peace and remember this when at the end of our worship, we are encouraged to “Go in Peace to love and serve the Lord, Alleluia! Alleluia’ and we respond ‘In the name of Christ, Alleluia Alleluia’. Amen