John 20:19-31

Preacher:  Alleluia.  Christ is risen.

People:     The Lord is risen indeed.  Alleluia.

Happy Easter!  Today is the Second Sunday of Easter Season, 2018.  Easter season ends on Sunday, May 20, The Day of Pentecost.  We will celebrate Easter for the next six weeks.  That’s a lot of celebration, and that’s a good thing.  We have much to celebrate!

The Second Sunday of Easter is sometimes called “Thomas Sunday”.  You just heard today’s gospel, so you know why.

Today has another name.  Some people call today “Low Sunday”.  If last Sunday, Easter Day, was “High Sunday”, today must be Low Sunday.  That’s how some people think.

I don’t think that way.  For me, today is not Low Sunday.  Today is Reconciliation Sunday.  For me, Reconciliation Sunday is a highlight of the church year.  It’s really important because it’s a reminder of who we are and what we are about as Christ’s church.

  Simply stated, today we remember that we are people who have been reconciled to God and each other in Jesus Christ.  And our job is to share that reconciliation with the whole world.

Consider The Collect of the Day.  We prayed it at the beginning of worship this morning: Almighty and everlasting God, who in the Easter mystery established the new covenant of reconciliation; grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ’s body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith. 

That’s the new covenant of reconciliation.  We saw reconciliation in today’s gospel.

It was evening of that same day, Easter Day.  The disciples were gathered in a locked house.  They were scared.  Their association with Jesus gave them good reason to fear.  After all, what might happen to the followers of a crucified man?  Would the Romans crucify them, too? 

Then “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.’”

The disciple Thomas was not present that evening, and when the other disciples told him about Jesus, he refused to believe.

But a week later they were present at the same house, and this time Thomas was with them.  Once again the doors were shut, and “Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you’”.

Now, there’s a lot going on in this gospel.  There are many themes.  But clearly, reconciliation is one of the major themes.

Think about it.  Three times Jesus greets his disciples with the words, “Peace be with you.”  These deliberate, repeated greetings are not casual.  They are significant. They signify forgiveness.

At his arrest, Jesus’ disciples abandoned him.  They ran away in fear.  Remember?  Peter denied Jesus three times.  Jesus had good reason to be disappointed, even furious with his disciples, but he wasn’t.  “Peace be with you,” he said.  “Peace be with you” means all is forgiven, and we are reconciled.  Things are right between us once again.

Have you ever been forgiven, truly forgiven, by a loved one you hurt or failed?  I have.

There’s an old legend about a fourth-century saint, Saint Martin of Tours.  Here’s how it goes.

Martin was home alone when he heard a knock at the door.  He opened the door and found a man standing there. “I am Jesus,” the man said, “and I’ve come to visit you.”

Well, Martin of Tours was no fool.  He was skeptical, of course.  Wouldn’t you be skeptical?  But instead of slamming the door, he decided to put the man to the test.

“If you are Jesus,” he said, “you know every sin I have ever confessed.  There’s a certain sin that I have confessed over and over and over again.  It is my greatest weakness.  So, what is it?  If you are Jesus, surely you know.”

The man at the door did not hesitate.  He smiled, shook his head, and replied, “I don’t remember!  In fact, Martin, I don’t remember any of your sins…”

That’s when Martin understood that it was Jesus standing at his door.  They say that Jesus and Martin had a very nice visit.

That’s an old legend of course, but there’s truth in that legend, nonetheless.  We saw it in today’s gospel.  Jesus brings no condemnation.  Jesus brings peace.  Jesus brings reconciliation.  He knows us, loves us, and accepts us as we are. 

Several years ago I attended the burial service of my friend and mentor, The Rev. Gene Britton.  Knowing Gene as I did, I’m quite sure he chose the hymns for his burial service.  He chose one I had never heard.  It touched me deeply and I want it sung at my service, whenever that may be.

It’s about being truly known, being accepted as I am, in spite of my failings, and being loved.  It’s about knowing, loving and accepting others in return, as Christ accepted me.

[sung]         When Christ was lifted from the earth,

         his arms stretched out above

         through every culture, every birth,

         to draw an answering love.

         Still east and west his love extends,

         and always, near or far,

         he calls and claims us as his friends

         and loves us as we are.

         Where generation, class or race

         divide us to our shame,

         he sees not labels but a face,

         a person and a name.

         Thus freely loved, though fully known,

         may I in Christ be free

         to welcome and accept his own

         as Christ accepted me.

Christ loves us as we are.  He doesn’t see labels.  He sees faces.  You’re a person, and he knows your name.  Though fully known, I am freely loved.  My sins and weaknesses forgiven, I’m free: free to welcome and accept all others

[sung]         as Christ accepted me.

Alleluia.  Christ is risen.

The Lord is risen indeed.  Alleluia.


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