Preached on 23 April 2017 at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Snohomish, Washington
Second Sunday of Easter, Year A
Christ is risen. What now? What’s next?
Whatever disciplines we observed for Lent are done.
We’ve colored and hunted eggs. We’ve eaten our fill of chocolate and had our celebrations – brunch or dinner or whatever you do.
But what’s next? We are an Easter people. How do we live an Easter life? How do we respond to the Resurrection? Today’s lessons show us a number of responses.
In our first reading, from Acts, we hear Peter addressing the crowd – all those gathered in Jerusalem for the Jewish festival of Pentecost. This is right after the Holy Spirit blows through like a great wind and alights on the disciples like tongues of flame. Then they begin speaking in other languages so that each person hears the Good News in their own language.
And now Peter explains it to them. He recounts and interprets the significant events in their history and Scriptures through the lens of the resurrection of Jesus. He tells them about Jesus and connects Jesus to their history. Then he sums up, saying
“This Jesus, God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses.”
All of us are witnesses. That’s us, too.
Now witnesses are more than observers. Witnesses tell what they observed. They tell what they saw, what they experienced.
So, one response is to be a witness of the resurrection. To tell what you’ve experienced.
In the Gospel, we find the disciples – except for Thomas – hiding in a locked room. It’s in the evening on the first day of the week – the day of the resurrection – and a lot has happened already.
At dawn, Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb, but it is open. Thinking Jesus’ body has been moved, she goes to tell the others. Only two respond, however. Peter and “the other disciple” go with Mary back to the tomb. Sure enough, Jesus is gone. So, what do they do? They go home and lock the door. Huh?
Their response is fear and hiding.
Mary stays, though. She still doesn’t know what happened and wants to do something about Jesus’ missing body. She sees the angels and speaks with them. Then she sees Jesus and speaks with him. He instructs her to go tell the others. And so, she goes back and tells them. “I have seen the Lord.”
Still they stay in that locked room. Except for Thomas. I wonder where he goes? Did he go out to get food for dinner? Did he go looking for Jesus? We don’t know. We do know that when Jesus arrives, Thomas isn’t there.
Now, this is John’s version of the coming of the Holy Spirit and the Great Commission. They were quick; did you catch them? The whole thing is three sentences long.
Jesus breathes into them and says “Receive the Holy Spirit.” And he commissions them, “As the Father sent me so I send you. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
There you have it: Receive the Holy Spirit. Go. Forgive sins, or retain them.
Jesus leaves and Thomas comes back. What do they say? “We have seen the Lord.” Thomas is disappointed; he missed Jesus, the one he was looking for. He’s really no different from the others.
Mary doesn’t understand the empty tomb until she sees Jesus and speaks with him. The disciples don’t believe Mary’s proclamation until they see Jesus, see his wounds, touch him, speak with him. Thomas doesn’t believe the disciples until he sees Jesus for himself.
But in each case, once they encounter the risen Christ, they proclaim it; they witness to it. In Thomas’ case, “My Lord and my God!”
There is a theme throughout the gospel of John, Come and see; Go and tell. One of the first words Jesus speaks is, “Come and see,” and we hear it over and over again. Then one person tells the next.
In the last two verses today, we hear John tell us his purpose: “These are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that in believing, you may have life in his name.”
Come and see. Believe, Trust in Jesus. Live fully. Witness – share the Good News, telling others what you’ve experienced. That’s why John wrote his gospel.
We are an Easter people. Christ is risen. How do we respond. In today’s lessons, we heard a number of responses:
- Reviewing your history, your life, through the lens of the resurrection; looking for encounters with God in Christ in the joys and trials of your life.
- With fear? Hiding? What were the disciples afraid of? Who were they hiding from? The Jews? Jesus? Are we afraid to meet the Risen One?
- Or are we like Thomas, who just wants to see Jesus?
- Jesus sends us, his disciples, to forgive sins. Maybe that’s our response to the resurrection, to be forgiving.
- Or do we respond as witnesses, proclaiming, “I have seen the Lord.”
Christ is risen! We are an Easter people.
Let’s live an Easter Life!