A sermon for the Second Sunday of Easter preached by Graham Low online on 19 April 2020.
I guess that we have all found Easter quite a challenge this year. In so many ways it has been quite unlike any before – there are so many individual and community uncertainties about the way ahead, so many familiarities set aside, so many questions raised about how we have lived, how we now live, and how we may now think about re-creating the world for life in the future. As the foundations are shaken, so too may our faith be shaken. Does the familiar Easter message of hope ring out in the midst of all of this? As so often, today’s readings give us some clues to about how this question might be answered.
The writer of our first reading tells us that as Christians we live a kind of double life, both in this world, and in God’s new and re-created world, which is imperishable, undefiled, unfading. We hear that we have leanings to both worlds, because of our unity through Christ, and because of being chosen and destined by God. If we look at this passage and the passage from John 20 we find important similarities.
Firstly, both passages affirm that the resurrection creates community. Thus, the image of “new birth” in 1 Peter implies a new family, a new relatedness for mutual support in times of difficulty. In the last month we have seen numerous examples of a new relatedness and mutual support in our parish. And in John 20 we find a stress on the connection between the risen Jesus and the emerging community of the church.
Secondly, both texts stress the love and faith of Christians that arise without the experience of physical contact with Jesus. For them and for the generations that have followed, including ours, belief and commitment are borne out of the witness of others in word and deed. And, most importantly, that witness is borne of countless examples of forgiveness, and of the deepest love, nourishment and support given by the very community that the resurrection of Jesus created.
Having said that his peace is to be with the disciples, Jesus gives them the Holy Spirit. He is giving himself to the disciples, who in turn have to let go and receive from him. They no longer are to function on their own initiative but are to look at Jesus’ pattern, and to do as he does. They are to let go of their own ego and to receive back the I am, the Spirit that has mysteriously entered them. Our calling is the same.
Forgiveness summarises all that Jesus has done: he has transformed water into wine, given new birth, set free springs of living water, let the sick be healthy, opened the eyes of the blind, opened the door between heaven and earth, laid down his life for his friends, given his body and blood, overthrown one world order for another, washed his disciples’ feet, and comes to dwell in their hearts. He has given them the Lord’s Prayer and breathed upon them the Holy Spirit.
These actions of Jesus are all about forgiveness, new vision, setting people free to see themselves, and others, in a new light. This is his commission to them and to us. He shakes the foundations. May we be guided by the Holy Spirit to live and work for this new world, rooted in and ringing out with these signs of God’s kingdom. Amen.