Second Sunday of Easter, Year A
19 April 2020
Rev Kate McDonald (St Andrew’s Jerusalem a
Acts 2.14a, 22-32; Psalm 16; 1 Peter 1.3-9; John 20.19-31
Almighty and eternal God, the strength of those who believe and the hope of those who doubt, may we, who have not seen, have faith and receive the fullness of Christ’s blessing, who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
We are an Easter people and Alleluia is our song!
I’ve been thinking this week about this wonderful quote from St Augustine, reflecting on what it means to be an Easter people in these strange, disorienting times.
And I wonder how this past week — the first week of our Easter season — has been for you?
Have the alleluias come easily? Have you had moments when you’ve felt the joy and peace of our Risen Lord?
Or do you feel as though Easter hasn’t quite happened yet, like you have only heard rumours of the resurrection, its hope still elusive?
Or has it depended on the day?
In John 20, we hear about the friends and followers of Jesus that first Easter day and the week following. And — it seems an obvious point, but perhaps a relevant one for us just now — they didn’t come to belief at the same time. They each had a different experience of Christ’s presence and comfort at different times.
Jesus first appeared to Mary Magdalene on Easter morning in the garden…
… then later that evening to the disciples, gathered behind a locked door…
… and only a week later, to Thomas.
The journey from grief to hope, from fear to joy, from doubt to belief was distinct for each of them.
Mary came to the tomb in the early morning dark, and seeing it empty, called for Simon Peter and the other disciple. After they too had seen what she had seen, they returned to their homes, while she stayed there alone, weeping. For her, when Jesus came, he wasn’t recognisable, not until he
spoke her name. But as soon as she heard his voice, her grief was transformed to an eagerness to testify to the risen Lord.
That evening, the disciples were drawing strength from one another, seeking safety together behind a locked door, frightened the authorities were calling for their arrest. But they must have had so many other feelings as well, especially when Jesus appeared in their midst. In the previous days, they had scattered when he was arrested and denied knowing him. Despite promising to follow him wherever he went, when under threat, they sought to protect themselves. So when Jesus spoke peace to their troubled hearts, it was not only their fear that was transformed to rejoicing, but also their sorrow and regrets. Jesus then sent them as his apostles to the world, but they did not act at once, instead for a time remaining isolated despite their belief.
Thomas wasn’t with them, so when he arrived later, he didn’t so much doubt as demand to see what the others had seen, to know for himself the living presence of Jesus. He knew what it would take for him to believe — rumours of resurrection were not enough for him; he needed a tangible presence, so insisted that Jesus show up. And when he did, Thomas’s demands were transformed to testimony as he proclaimed: My Lord and my God.
These things are written, John says, so that all of us may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing we may have life in his name.
Easter is a season, not a day, which I think is especially important this year because more than ever, we need time to make the journey from grief to hope, from fear to joy, from doubt to belief. In order to discover what it means to be an Easter people in these times, we need as our guide these testimonies to the faithfulness of our Saviour and the different ways the disciples responded in faith. They remind us that Jesus met each of his friends and followers in their need — in their aloneness and their grief, in their isolation and fear, in their insistence and longing for touch — and offered them a life radically different from any they could imagine, a love beyond any which they had ever known.
I hope that throughout this season we will continue to hear the blessing Jesus extends to us too in this gospel reading … a blessing to those who have believed without seeing. And when we waver and find it hard to sing Alleluia, I hope we can hear those words as an invitation to trust that, whatever obstacles we may think keep us from seeing the risen Lord — the darkness of grief, the locked doors of fear and regret, the persistent doubts and demands — Jesus finds his way to us to say our name with love, speak peace to our fears, and draw us near to himself.
Christ is with us. We are an Easter people, and Alleluia is our song.
Will you join me in saying the prayer our Saviour taught us:
Our Father, who art in heaven hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread And forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil for thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.
May the God of peace give you peace at all times and in all ways, and the blessing of God almighty, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit be upon you and remain with you always. Amen.