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Easter 2

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.

Readings

Old Testament

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.

Acts 4:32–35

Psalm

1  Behold how good and pleasant it is •

   to dwell together in unity.

2  It is like the precious oil upon the head, •

   running down upon the beard,

3  Even on Aaron’s beard, •

   running down upon the collar of his clothing.

4  It is like the dew of Hermon •

   running down upon the hills of Zion.

5  For there the Lord has promised his blessing: •

   even life for evermore.

Psalm 133

Epistle

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.

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

1 John 1:1–2:2

Gospel

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.

John 20:19–31

Sermon on Easter 2

Today we are consumed by fear of extremists, aren’t we? Who are they? Why are they disturbing everything we hold dear? What do they want with me? I am a nobody – I have no money, no power, no prestige. Why terrorise me?

However, terror is not an issue just in our time. Terror has always roamed the world. In the beginnings of the Church universal, there was persecution. The Church went into hiding to escape. Later in the middle ages, the Church itself became an agent of terror, when it pursued the Crusades. Nowadays, there is terror from jihadists, those who would invoke God for acts of violence, christian or muslim. Is this terror any different from any other time in the life of the Church? Do we call upon a divinity who mirrors our own fear?

In these times of terror, I want each and every one of you to become radicals – even to the point of being arrested as being a threat to the status quo – but I want you to be extremists in love. How many people today would be arrested for their radical love? How many people would be imprisoned for their acts of kindness?

This is what the gospel is all about – not random acts, but constant acts of kindness, a profound care, that same love for the world which our saviour showed in his last acts on earth, in the sharing of bread and wine, his body and blood, amongst those who would believe in him.

These thoughts of a radicalised love have arisen because of the events of Easter. With Easter there is something very different in the world. There is a new energy at work, isn’t there? No longer is it the same old, same old – no longer do we feel that we have to fit in with the rather poor decisions around us. We have been freed from the constraints of the everyday world.

The resurrection is not just a theological construct to explain away the empty tomb. We have gone through the horror of the passion and we have emerged from the empty tomb. What terror can the world hold for us now?

Human beings live in a web – the laws of nature, the rules of etiquette, the expectations of the masses, the law of the land, social norms, anthropological necessity, the categorical imperative, the boundaries of good taste, moral fastidiousness. This web can be experienced and interpreted as constricting, or it can be liberating.

We are all, indeed, bound up in the red tape of everyday existence. The laws of the country, for instance, do constrain us in everything we do. If I live here, then I have to abide by “law” in its many guises, don’t I? Theologians and their abstract thoughts do have something to say to us in our everyday, relatively simple, activity. As we go about our ordinary activities, their considerations touch the heart of our lives as christians, as followers of the way. That great theologian, Paul, spoke of the law, its dead letter and its spirit. He told us how we should live by the spirit of the law, as did Jesus, because the law ‘was made for man’. That is the basis of my plea for you all to become radicals – to live by the one law Jesus commanded us, that we love one another.

Our Lord commanded us to love one another just as he loves us. That is a law which trumps any legality our politicians would dream up. It is a law which binds us to one another and to something which transcends us all.

Who acts kindly out of love every moment of the day, at all times in their lives? Only Jesus did, I think. Only Jesus lived a life of radical love, an extremist’s love. Even in the extremis of the final moments, Jesus never stopped his care, “Forgive them!” he said. The saints must have had moments when they forgot that inner compulsion to love. Occasionally their hearts showed a flinty hardness, rather than that softer human characteristic of flesh – the human heart which bleeds for others, that human heart which breaks all too often. This is the real heart God has placed in us, a heart which knows what is right instinctively, a heart which beats to the rhythm of goodness.

That big drum sounds as our conscience – if we let it. Our contemporaries, however, make so much noise that it drowns out the beat of that different drummer, for don’t we just follow the noise around us and not act kindly out of love, especially when it is not in line with what is “politically correct”? What is expected of us by those who surround us, is not even “random acts of kindness”, rather all that is expected of anyone is selfish behaviour. And that expected behaviour has no basis in true love.

True love – that christian agape – is what the feeling heart has at its core. I would say any act which shows something other than love for another is sinful. I want you to be bullied by the letter of the law no more. I want you to be free for the spirit of the law. I want your hearts to beat to that drummer who is not of this world. When we have those hearts of flesh, then we will live very differently. We would radically act – we would take the weak up in our arms, the poor would be cared for, the dying would receive succour. This is a radically different model of behaviour. There will be no “war on terror” – that conflict which only ramps up the evil behaviour of the bully. I am calling for a new radicalism, a jihad of love.

The theologian has asked the question about the conjunction of spirit and letter, a question which makes us look at our hearts, to see how they beat and bear the pain of the world. The theologian is right at the centre of our lives, as he asks us to think about life, the universe and everything. The theologian asks us to see the world through the prism of love.

This is a radical departure from the ordinary view of the world, isn’t it? Our alternative collect bids us to pray for the love of Christ –

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.

Normally we see through self-interest. Even if it is enlightened, it is still selfish. When we love, it transforms the world – when we love we love everyone, not just our beloved. This is the love Jesus showed throughout his whole existence.

However, I always remember these lines from my radicalised and extremist youth, which speak to the same sentiment with the same hope of our collect –

“If you can’t be with the one you love,

Love the one you’re with!”

Amen

 

This sermon is from Stilman Davis. It is copyrighted. You are welcome to use it, but put some extra money in the plate if you do.

Sermons are spoken. They whistle in the wind and enter your ears to echo for some time between them. However, sermons are destined to go on into the distance after they have resonated with you.