Sunday Sermon 11th April
The chosen hymns for this week, Love Divine All Love’s Excelling , He came down He came down and O God you search me and you know me can be found below along with a transcription of the sermon for those who prefer to read.
We all like to feel secure. I remember when I was wee, I would lie in my bed – when I should have been asleep – and I would listen for the sounds of the evening ritual.
I would hear my mum going through to the kitchen, the kettle being filled and the cupboards opening and shutting. Then I would hear the cups rattle on the tray as she brought supper into my dad.
Next I would hear the front door open and shut – the milk bottles had been put out. And then I heard the door lock. At last! We were safe! All locked up and together in a secure house!
It was a safe feeling to have. Locked doors, secure doors are comforting.
They lessen our fears and anxieties; they calm over active imaginations.
Is that what the disciples felt on that Easter night so long ago?
Our Gospel reading begins on the day of resurrection.
On Easter morning Jesus broke free of the tomb, and according to John’s version of the story, Jesus encountered Mary. He gave her a commission: Go tell the disciples that I’m risen from the dead.
Then, that evening, as some of the disciples gathered behind locked doors—because they were afraid of the authorities—Jesus made an appearance.
He said "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.", then he breathed on them and gave them too, a commission: “If you forgive people's sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
A week later, the disciples – including Thomas who was missing the previous week – were again in the upper room and behind locked doors.
Why was this? We don’t know but it could be because of fear. We are told this is so on the night of the resurrection. (verse 19).
They were in the room behind the locked doors in fear of those who killed Jesus.
They had walked alongside him for three years.
They had been out in the public with him and engaged in his work and mission.
Then those who had spoken so confidently had, in the end when it mattered most, deserted him and the cause. They not only deserted him, some even denied they knew him.
Perhaps in the following week they had faced and feared scorn, ridicule, anxiety, a sense of failure and shame.
It’s something we are all familiar with – the slights, the hurts, the shame we experience as part of daily living can make us slam shut our hearts; turn the key in the lock and shoot the bolts.
Perhaps behind a locked door was the only place the disciples felt safe.
Locking themselves in rather than shutting the world out.
We try to hide from our shame and disappointment in ourselves by locking the doors to our hearts and not letting anyone in. We become prisoners of our own making.
The Easter story is the culmination of Good News. In the middle of the disciples’ fear, anxiety, and shame, Jesus comes and stands among them.
He restores them with the gifts of his peace and the Holy Spirit and charges them to carry on his ministry, his mission of reconciliation.
“To forgive,” in Greek, also means “to set free.” It means to release from bondage and captivity. When Jesus stands among the disciples in a room with a locked door and announces, “Peace be with you,” he is saying not only are “You are forgiven,” but also “You are free.”
We receive the same charge given to the disciples. We are to be about the ministry of reconciliation.
We are to be about the ministry of unlocking the doors to people’s hearts so that they too can experience the freedom and healing of God’s love in Christ.
We are called to set people free by pouring out on them the same forgiveness we have received. We are to be Christ’s disciples in the world; forgiven, restored, reconciled, and freed from the power of sin and death.
In the same way that the disciples were inspired by their faith in the resurrection to preach in the face of threats, so we can be inspired to befriend strangers and outcasts, to include the marginalised, and to celebrate in the face of war, violence, crime, poverty, dread disease and climate change – in defiance of pessimism and death, and in faith that God’s life cannot be quenched by the forces of injustice, inequality and evil.
If our lives express the same fear, cynicism, negativity and hostility that we see in the world around us, nothing we say about Christ’s resurrection will be heard or believed.
It is our capacity to love and forgive in the midst of life’s crises that really witnesses to Christ.
Peace be with you. You are sent by the Father to forgive and to love.
Lord Jesus Christ, risen from death,
we praise you for changed lives and new hope at Easter.
You came to Mary in the garden,
and turned her tears into joy.
You came to the disciples in the upper room,
and turned their fear into courage.
You come to your people now,
and turn our weakness into triumph.
For your love and mercy, we give you thanks.
We bring before you now those who need your love:
For the Church
that where there is disunity
unity in Christ may grow,
where there is failing,
may the Church return to you.
We pray for those who govern.
May they use their power wisely
For the benefit of all.
Especially today we pray for Her Majesty the Queen,
who mourns her strength and stay, the Duke of Edinburgh.
We give thanks for his life.
We remember his distinguished service during the Second World War
and his devotion to duty, his work for young people,
especially the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme,
And the National Playing Fields Association and the Outward Bound Trust.
Most of all we give thanks for a life of service to our Queen and country.
May God grant him eternal rest
and comfort those who mourn,
especially the Queen and family, and those who loved him.
For those who still make Jerusalem a battleground,
For those who have the courage and honesty
to work openly for justice and peace,
For those who live in fear of war, violence and persecution.
Especially at this time we pray for Iraq, Syria and Pakistan.
For those in the darkness and agony of isolation,
that they may find support and encouragement,
For those who, weighed down with sickness, bereavement,
hardship, or sorrow, or feel that God is far from them,
may they know your loving comfort.
In the silence of our hearts
we bring those known to us
who have a special need at this time
be near to them Lord Jesus, and give them now your healing.
who chose the way of the cross in the Garden of Gethsemane,
help us to turn our backs on self interest
and to support policies that sustain the poor,
the vulnerable and the frightened people of this world.
God of all,
Help us to be the people who would build
your kingdom here in this place.
Protect us from the sins of despair and cynicism,
Guard us against the idols of false utopias
and strengthen us to proclaim your love
that serves the common good of all.
We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ Our Lord who first loved and forgave us.