07 April 2024

Christ is Risen! The Easter celebration continues with the familiar upper room appearances from John’s Gospel. But, this year the supporting texts highlight a feature of the resurrection that can easily be missed – the way Christ’s resurrection brings us into a unified, loving community in which we share joy and abundant life together.

May we find life in our connection with each other, with the world, and with God as we worship this week.

Acts 4:32-35: The early disciples of Christ bear witness to the resurrection through their generosity and care for one another, ensuring that no one among them had any need.

Psalm 133: A song of celebration for the blessing of living in unity.

1 John 1:1-2:2: John writes to testify to Jesus and to open the door to fellowship for the believers with one another and with God. However, if we claim to be in fellowship but live in “darkness” – denial and sin – we lie. But, if we confess our sin, and live in the light we do, indeed, have fellowship with God and others.

John 20:19-31: Jesus appears to the disciples in the closed upper room, giving them a gift of the Spirit, and sending them just as he was sent. Then, Thomas who wasn’t at this appearance, is encountered by Jesus, and his doubts are removed.

The surprising message of this week’s lectionary is one that is deeply needed in our world and our Church at this time. This second Sunday of Easter continues the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection, but it adds a facet to the story that is not often spoken of – the way Christ’s gift of life brings us into a unified, life-giving, faith community. In the Acts reading, the early church is described as a caring, loving and serving community in which all things were held in common and no one had need. The famous Psalm 133 celebrates the joy and life that is found in a united community. In John’s letter the testimony about Jesus connects with the call to live “in the light”, with honesty and integrity, and explains how living like this, in Jesus’ resurrection life, brings us into fellowship with God and one another. Finally, in the Gospel, the first appearance of Jesus includes both the sending of the disciples as Jesus was sent to welcome, forgive and heal – proclaiming God’s Reign – and the call to be people of forgiveness, which of course, is a key facet to reconciliation. In the Thomas story, the isolation that is felt by one who has not yet come to faith in Christ’s resurrection life is poignantly described, and then the joy when he finds faith and a place in the worshipping, faith community is expressed. The simple and obvious message is that the resurrection is not a personal, individual gift, but is also about reconciliation and community. Because of Christ’s life we find connection with one another and with God, and we are able to live out of this sense of belonging, welcoming others, as John does in his letter, into the joy that we have found. The truth is that life is always found and enjoyed together.

Global Application:
One of the biggest struggles we face in the world today is our inability to experience our connectedness with one another, with God, and with our planet. In the realm of religion, we have built an exclusivist culture that welcomes and accepts only those who think and act and believe as we do. This “us-and-them” worldview has led to religious violence, social fragmentation, political partisanship, and carelessness of creation. In the realm of economics we have underestimated both the impact that risky behaviour in one sector can have on the whole system, and how interconnected the global economy is. And in terms of power, resources, and technology, we have failed to grasp how significant our connections are as they bypass the false categorisations and lines of division that we have set up. One result of our failure to apprehend our connectedness is that we lose the joy and life that true community brings. The gap between rich and poor grows, the conflicts between countries, religions, and ideologies continue, and the destruction of our planet and its species is unchecked. If we could begin to believe in resurrection as a lived reality, though, we could turn so much of this around. Once we recognise that God’s life flows through everything and everyone, we can open ourselves to see the connections that God’s life creates, and then we can begin to experience and enjoy our connectedness, ultimately working toward unity and interdependence. But, the starting point is to receive God’s Spirit, to practice forgiveness and to go into the world as those who are sent, like Christ, to bring the grace, compassion, and justice of God into the world. Then, as we “walk in the light” with one another, we will begin to know the fellowship that John wrote about, and we find abundant, limitless life in our connectedness with God and one another.

Local Application:
Believing is often preached as a cognitive, intellectual thing, and resurrection as a doorway to personal, eternal bliss. Unfortunately, both of these views create division, conflict, and isolation of individuals and interest groups. The spread of individualism to the life of faith has left in its wake the remains of broken families, broken churches, and broken communities – the opposite of the resurrection life of connected community that this week’s readings celebrate. The resurrection, though, is a manifestation of God’s Reign that impacts every part of our lives – now and eternally. It is a life that is unrestrained, indiscriminate, and connecting. When we have truly believed, it changes how we live, and when what we believe is resurrection it moves us toward others in order to share life. Resurrection faith strengthens us when we grieve, because we are able to support and comfort one another. It inspires us when we celebrate because we are able to multiply our joy together. It makes our work more effective because we draw both on the resources of God’s Spirit and of our togetherness. In this way God’s resurrection life becomes more than just an idea that gives us hope. It becomes the lived reality of every day, and leads us inexorably into the glorious joy and sense of belonging that we find as citizens of God’s Reign.

A Place For Us
Invincible Life

Hymn Suggestions:
Jesus Calls Us
All Praise To Our Redeeming Lord
Shine Jesus Shine (Link to YouTube video)
Creation’s King (Link to YouTube video)
We Believe
King Of Glory
We Shall Go Out With Hope Of Resurrection

A Liturgy for the Agape
A Liturgy for Easter Sunday (Can easily be adapted to fit this day)

Video Suggestions:
Acts 4
Doubting Thomas
Doubting Easter