Homily for St. Andrew's Ham and the Convent

30 March 2008

Eucharist: Exodus 14:10-end; Acts 2 42-47; 1 Peter 1: 3-9; John 20:19-end

Evensong: Daniel 6: 6-23; Mark 15: 46 -16: 8 

If you have recently looked at the different accounts of the Resurrection in all four Gospels you will have noticed the similarities and also the differences. Someone once remarked that the fact that they all gave different details was a sign of their genuineness. If you look back on significant events in your own life, both pleasant and unpleasant, you can probably recall insignificant details about the experience. I remember sucking a polo mint when I was reading about Mother Emily, our Founder for the first time and feeling inspired by her example. 

In Mark’s account it was a young man who was sitting on the right side of the tomb, dressed in a white robe, it wasn’t an angel. He said to them “Do not be amazed.......He is risen, he is not here, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going to Galilee.” But we are told they went out and fled from the tomb, trembling and astonished  and they said nothing to anyone for they were afraid. We know that Mark’s was the earliest Gospel and various details, like the account of the young man who fled from the garden of Gethsemane naked, point to him possibly being the one writing out of his own experience. 

In John’s account which was  this mornings Gospel we read that on the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them “Peace be with you”. We all know to some degree what it is like to be afraid. Jesus’ disciples knowing what had happened to Jesus were expecting the temple police to be coming for them at any time. In some translations the word used instead of just shut is locked, “bolted and barred” as we might say.  Stephen Verney in his book Water into Wine asks “Are we to understand that the disciples minds and hearts were locked against each other”? They were so full of fear for their own lives and guilt about how they had failed Jesus in his hour of need that their minds and hearts were paralysed with fear. 

Jesus comes into their midst, he appears and says Peace be with you, Shalom. The greeting Shalom, is the Jewish expression of their national hope and religious belief that one day God’s order of peace and wholeness would come on earth and here is Jesus standing in their midst announcing that victory has been won and the new age has begun. 

Stephen Verney wonders if we are being invited in this event to see in a new light, a new way and to understand with a new consciousness, that the real Jesus really came to the disciples through the reality of each other. “Where two or three ( or more) are gathered together there am I in the midst of them”. 

This means that we too meet the risen Jesus in each other. Jesus by his suffering and death has shown his vulnerability, his love and compassion for us. God so loved us that he sent his Son into our world. Jesus in this account, now commissions his disciples. “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you”. Jesus breathes on them and says receive the Holy Spirit and goes on to talk about the forgiveness the letting go of sins. Forgiveness, can be said to summarize the good news Jesus brings. Forgiveness sets people free, restores them to life and relationship with God, themselves and each other. We all know how not forgiving, holding grudges and not letting go of past events can be very destructive to both sides. The “retaining of sins”, the not letting go, can be seen as a refusal of the love God offers. 

Thomas is not there that first Sunday, perhaps he was off by himself grieving over what had happened. We know he was the one who said “Let us go and die with him”. We know he is the one who asked Jesus at the last Supper, “We do not know where you are going so how can we know the way?” To which Jesus replied, “I am the way the truth and the life”. When he returns and the others tell him they have seen Jesus, but “doubting Thomas”  as we call him says Unless I see for myself the print of the nails and touch them and put my hand in his side I will not believe. 

Eight days later they are again in the room, maybe the same room where Jesus was with them that last night, Thomas is with them this time, but note the door is still locked. They might have been overjoyed when Jesus appeared to them but they are still afraid not sure. Jesus again appears and says Peace be with you and calls Thomas to come and see and touch the wounds in his hands and his side and to be no longer unbelieving but believing. 

You can imagine how Thomas felt. He must have really believed the others were imagining they had seen Jesus and suddenly there was Jesus and obviously he  knew what Thomas had said. Thomas knew he didn’t have to touch and although the Gospel doesn’t say so I imagine him falling to his knees and exclaiming “My Lord and my God”. 

Jesus says to him “Have you believed because you have seen me ? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe”. Thomas and those first disciples, who experienced Jesus in his earthly life needed to see, to experience the risen Lord in order to come to faith to see who Jesus truly was. Faith in the Risen Lord for those of us who have not seen him, does not rest or depend on belief that the tomb was empty or that Jesus stood in his material body among the disciples for we have not experienced any of that. What we experience to various degrees are times of our own of questioning and doubt, but despite our doubts we have entered into relationship with the living loving God, revealed to us in the Risen Jesus.

It is only Thomas who is recorded as acknowledging Jesus as God. Several of the others like Mary Magdalen call him Lord or Rabbi. In Matthew’s account Ch 28 talks about the eleven disciples going to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them v17 says “And when they saw him they worshipped him but some doubted”. 

Immediately after John’s account and at the end of the Mark Ch 16 v 8 both Gospels originally come to an end. What is now John’s last Chapter and Mark’s extra verses were later additions. It is as if the rest is up to us, we need to continue what happens. Rather like those plays and stories that stop and you need to continue. The torch of faith has been passed to us. The Risen Jesus, who is God himself, in both human and divine terms calls us to be his disciples and to spread the good news of God’s love and forgiveness. 

As we continue the mission of God’s revelation of himself it is good to ask ourselves do people actually have a sense of encountering something of God when they come into our gathering? Do they experience something of God when they join us as we come together for worship or when they join us when we are together socially? Do they experience something of God when they meet us individually and we listen and talk with them. People  come to know the Risen Lord in the fellowship of the Church. Together we come to worship the God who loves us and who wants us all to bring in the new age of God’s justice peace and love. May we here at St. Andrew’s be the type of community where God is revealed in our midst. 

As one of the modern Collects for today invites us to pray: 

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. Amen 

Sister Anita CSC