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Thought for the week - 7 April 2024

On the first Easter Sunday the disciples were gathered together, the doors were locked, but suddenly they became aware that Jesus was standing among them. The same thing happened the following Sunday and it continues to happen whenever the Church comes together in Jesus’ name, especially on the first day of the week, for this is now the Lord’s day, our Sabbath.

So it is that today, on the final day of the Easter Octave in 2024, Jesus is among his followers wherever in the world they have come together, here in Blackpool and in Brisbane and even in Yorkshire. This real presence is experienced when he speaks to us through the scriptures which are read, when he gives himself to us as food and drink, which unites us to him in one body, when he joins himself to our body as it sings and praises God his Father, and when he offers to the Father the whole body of his members along with himself.

But the principal effect of this presence is the experience of the peace that he imparts to his followers, and peace is the teaching that we are given today in the scriptures most clearly, and therefore the gift that we are asked to give to others as well.

On the very first Easter Sunday, the disciples were hiding in an upper room, Jesus was dead, crucified, and all their hopes were in ruins. They had abandoned him and even denied that they knew him. They were filled with guilt. For fear of what the Jews might do to them they had locked the doors, were being presumably very quiet and pretending there was nobody in. It was futile, of course. Futile because a locked door is unlikely to keep an army out, futile because at some point they would have to go out and futile because the risen Christ is not very interested in locked doors, as we see!

Jesus was standing among them very much alive and very much demanding their full attention and sending them out. The joy they experienced at that moment must have been mixed with the fear of his rebuke because they are behaving appallingly, snivelling little disciples who would rather be locked away and kept safe – I know a few churches like that and maybe you do as well, but all he says to them is: Peace be with you.

As the outcasts of Jewish society, the tax-gatherers and the sinners, when invited to eat with Jesus during his ministry, were made to feel forgiven as though invited to God’s heavenly banquet, so the guilt-ridden disciples knew, on this first Easter day, that they were restored to favour and bidden to enter into the joy of their Lord.

Peace puts an end to fear, peace puts an end to anger about the present and anxiety about the future, peace reassures us of God’s love and friendship. It is through this peace of our risen Lord Jesus, through the assurance of his reconciling love, that his presence among us each Sunday is first of all revealed. He is present when there is peace and He is present to bring peace, whether He appears among His disciples in Pyongyang today or in Bispham. He comes to tear the evil of the world away and to say that whatever we are going through, He is peace and He will give us peace. Not a comfort blanket, not all the silly things we ask for, but peace.

On that first Easter Sunday, without further word or warning he sent his disciples forth to be witnesses of his peace and his life giving love. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you. So each Sunday his followers are sent on a mission of peace and joy and they are given power – not power to settle silly squabbles, but power to forgive sins. It is without any doubt the meaning of this text that Jesus gives to all his disciples the power to take part in the process of the forgiveness of sins, and so to continue his mission of peace.

How is this power to be exercised? In the first place it is exercised in all those things which leads to conversion, the nurturing of faith and to baptism. It is also exercised in the whole work of calling back those who after baptism fall again into grievous sin, enabling them once again to experience the peace of Christ.

The Christian community is the home of Christ’s peace. The goal of every Christian community is to make all the members feel accepted and wanted as people whom God has forgiven, and whose sins are no longer remembered and held against them. To let them feel recognized as his sons and daughters, people whom he has filled with his Holy Spirit. If you have not forgiven someone, then do it, quickly, with urgency.

In the Church’s mission to forgive sins, this quality of peace, joy and mutual acceptance, which should pervade every local community of the Church, plays an important role. So may the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all, and once gained, may you give it to others.


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