Lectionary Readings:

Acts 4:  32 – 35
Psalm 133
1 John 1: 1 – 2.2
John 20: 19 – 31

A popular car-sticker around Christmas time reads, “A dog is not just for Christmas”.  A similar thought ought to inform our worship today.  Resurrection is not a one day event to be celebrated and then packed away with the Easter bunnies and the Easter eggs. (That is if there are any of those left).  For fifty days, until Pentecost we are to explore what Christ’s resurrection means in the world and in our individual lives.  The disciples and the women on that first Easter morning found it difficult to grasp the full meaning of what had happened.  They were left in a haze of uncertainty and incomprehension.  Our Alleluia’s last Sunday may have left us with sore throats but we still need to put flesh on them if we are not just to remember a past event in history but really  LIVE RESURRECTION!

This Sunday goes by a number of titles.  Sometimes called Low Sunday because of the contrast between today and the greatness of Easter Sunday.  It is also named “St.Thomas’s Sunday” which connects with the Gospel reading for the day.  In the year 2,000 it was also designated “Divine Mercy Sunday” by Pope Paul 11.  This arose from the experience of a Polish Nun, Faustina Kowalska, who reported visions and visitations by Jesus and conversations with Him.  The first prayer of the Mass on this day begins, “Heavenly Father and God of Mercy, we no longer look for Jesus among the dead for He is alive and has become the Lord of Life.  This is about as good a summing up of Easter that I can think of.

During the weeks of the Easter season there are no Old Testament readings.  They are replaced by a succession of readings from the Acts of the Apostles.  These give us a picture of the early church’s vibrant resurrection faith that should inform all of our worship and fellowship in this Post- Easter period.

Psalm 133:

This is one of a group of Psalms called the Psalms of Ascent (Ps. 120 – 134).  These were most possibly sung by pilgrims travelling up to the Temple at Jerusalem for the great Festivals.  The goodness and pleasantness of unity, that v.1 speaks of originates from God and flows down to all the people.  Living in unity assumes a sharing of the resources of the earth and that there is access for physical wants and spiritual comfort for everyone.  No doubt the Psalmist had in mind God’s covenant with the people of Israel when these words were spoken, but in our day we need to re-examine what that might mean in our multi-cultured and multi-faith society.  The Psalm has a lot to say about how we live along side other people with tolerance and understanding.

“Welcome each other as he welcomed you
Sharing your life to the Glory of God
Live in the spirit of covenant love
Welcome each other as Christ welcomed you
(da Noust)

John 20 v. 19 – 31

This gospel passage is always read on this second Sunday of Easter.  It continues John’s account of the events of the first Easter Day.

The disciples find themselves “in the dark”. They have heard the news from Peter,that the tomb is empty and heard the message from Mary that she had met with the Risen Christ. But what are they doing this night. They are not celebrating. The door of the room in which they are gathered is bolted and barred. The fear that grips them is that the same thing that happened to Jesus, will happen to them. Fear paralyses. A locked door allows nothing in and nothing out. Jesus came and stood among them and said ‘Peace be with you’. And then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.

Pull Back The Bolts

‘Whose there?’
Starting at every sound
they slumped behind locked doors’
‘Peace be with you!’
That voice –
in this room
this very room/
Not held by lock or bar’
in this very room
he lives?
Pull back the bolts!
We must away
He is here
but now
he’s out ahead of us;
out in the conflicts of the world
the world for which he died;
the world for which he lives!.
‘ As the Father sent me, so I send you.’ Then he breathed on them, saying, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit!’ 

Because Thomas’s gets a bad press in the story and has gone down in history as a ‘Doubter’, I always want to be his defence counsel. He was not there when Jesus came to the rest of the disciples that evening. We are not told why. He only asked to have the same experience that the others had already received. I can identify with Thomas in his need to have a ‘hands on’ encounter instead of  just accepting the word of others. We are told that he was a ‘Twin’, who is never identified in the gospels and there are times when I want to be that ‘Twin’. and stand alongside Thomas.

“Lord, I believe, help thou my unbelief”
The poet,  Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote, :- “There lives more faith in honest doubt, believe me, than in half the creeds
 “Lord, come alive within my experience,
with my sorrows and disappointments and doubts,
within the ordinary movements of my life.
Come alive as the peace and joy and assurance that is
stronger than locked doors within, with which we try to shut out life
Come alive as the peace and joy and assurance that nothing in life or death can kill”
(Rex Chapman)

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