The Second Sunday of Easter

11 April 2021

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Psalm 133

 

A Song of Ascents.
How very good and pleasant it is
  when kindred live together in unity!
It is like the precious oil on the head,
  running down upon the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
  running down over the collar of his robes.
It is like the dew of Hermon,
  which falls on the mountains of Zion.
For there the Lord ordained his blessing,
  life for evermore.

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Acts 4: 32 - 35

 

Now 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.

1 John 1: 1 - 22

 

We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us— we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

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John 20: 19-end

 

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 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.

Collect

 

Almighty Father,

you have given your only Son to die for our sins

and to rise again for our justification:

grant us so to put away the leaven of malice and wickedness

that we may always serve you

in pureness of living and truth;

through the merits of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord,

who is alive and reigns with you,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever.

(or)

Risen Christ,

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.

Thoughts

I am fed up; fed up, I tell you, to the back teeth and a little beyond, with ignorant people who know nothing more about Jesus than that he was crucified. 'Jesus was a good man, and he said we should love one another', said somebody in a discussion I caught on TV the other day. 'Yes', was the reply, 'and look where that got him!' Laughter all round.

A friend of mine was looking in a jeweller's window, when he overheard the conversation of two teenage girls. They were looking at silver pendant crosses. 'I like that one, on the left.' 'No, I like this one – the one with the feller on it.'

Makes yer weep, dunnit? How can this depth of ignorance possibly exist? And which is worse? The girl who didn't even know the figure on the cross was Jesus, or the supposedly educated man who thought the cross was the end of the story? For myself, I think the latter is far, far worse than the former.

But, I ask rhetorically, whose fault is all this? Well, I'll tell you. It's my fault, it's your fault, it's the fault of every Christian. We make a big fuss of Holy Week, we wash feet on Maundy Thursday, we spend hours in devotions on Good Friday, and then on Easter Day we have a slightly extended Eucharist, and that's it. Oh, I know that technically the Easter season goes on for another few weeks, but to an outward eye the emphasis is on the cross, always on the cross. Are we Christians, or are we Crosstians?

The mass of people see Jesus as a good man who taught love and forgiveness, and who was crucified for his pains. The nearest parallel is Socrates, though he was poisoned rather than crucified. And if the cross is, as must appear to an outsider, the most important thing about Jesus, then, as Saint Paul puts it, we of all people are the most to be pitied.

It's all to do with the Doctrine of the Atonement, of course, and the significance it gives to Jesus' suffering and death. I have written about that elsewhere [1], and I won't bore you with it now. But we must remember that after the crucifixion the followers of Jesus were in hiding, terrified for their lives. Did a great religion arise from a small group of people who had seen their inspiration nailed up and left to die?

Let's get this straight. Jesus was not just 'a good man'; he was God come to earth. And he did not come to a bad end; he came to a glorious beginning, which galvanised those terrified followers and sent them out into the corners of the world to spread the Good News; the news that death is not an end, but a new start. Those terrified people suddenly became apostles, missionaries, evangelists, afraid of nothing and nobody, strong and fearless in the knowledge they had been given; people not afraid to die because they, at least, knew that the most important thing about their Master was not his death, but the life which followed it.

It's a shame, really, that we seem to have chosen the wrong logo for our business; the cross, and not, say, the empty tomb, or the palm branch or the hands breaking the bread. Well, I suppose it's too late now to change it. But it's worth pointing out that the proper symbol of our faith, and the one most often found in Anglican churches, is not the crucifix but the empty cross. He is not here; he is risen.

Alleluia!

HGB

[1]  Amateur Theology, Hedley Grenfell-Banks, Amazon 2020 ISBN 9781874147169