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  • Writer's picturePastor Elaine

Second Sunday of Easter: "Peace Be with You"

“May the words from my lips and the meditations of our hearts always be pleasing to you O God.”

Today we celebrate the second Sunday of Easter.  Yes, the second Sunday of Easter, not the second Sunday after Easter!  The Church takes 50 full days to live into the reality of the resurrection.  This means seven full Sundays to hear the resurrection stories and explore how these stories impact our life.

The second Sunday of Easter is also the Sunday that we always hear the story of Thomas - Thomas the twin.  Thomas who has been given the moniker of “doubting”.  We may well identify with Thomas as our celebrations of Easter quickly turn to questions or doubts about our faith. 

 As John tells the story, the disciples were gathered together behind a closed door.  They were afraid.  But Thomas was not with them - not on this the first day of the week - the first Easter.  The disciples had already heard Mary’s story of her encounter with the risen Jesus. But they did not believe her.  They were not living as Easter people but as fearful people hiding out.

And then Jesus is with them - Peace be with you!  And, again, Peace be with you!  The disciples, who have been paralyzed with fear, are offered Jesus’ peace - Shalom!  A greeting and a promise.  But the peace that Jesus brings is an unexpected one as he continues with a commissioning.  The disciples are going to have to leave this room - the disciples are going to have to go out into the world - sent by Jesus as God sent him.

But as John’s Gospel tells us the disciples do not leave.  Because a week later they are still in that room - still afraid.  But this time Thomas is with them and he refuses to believe their story.  And back Jesus comes and with his exchange with Thomas we have the Gospel’s declaration of Jesus’ identity.

Thomas is not unusual.  All the disciples have doubts and fears.  Just like us.  It is tempting for us, for the Church to remain behind closed doors.  To stay inside where things will be safer.  But that is not the message that John gives.

John’s Gospel shows us that a pattern had been established of believers gathering on the first day of the week.

The lesson from John is that it is not easy to live into the reality of Easter.  He tells us that Jesus came again to those scared and confused disciples.  With no questions asked, he offers himself and the gift of his presence and his peace.  He comes to the disciples where they are. They are not chasing him or trying to track down “Jesus sightings”.  No, they are back in that room or perhaps still in that room!   

And Jesus comes to them again.  He comes to them.  He offers peace.  As he does with us.

John’s Gospel reminds us that Easter is real.  It is not only the celebration of a week ago.  It is a season for a reason!  The season of Easter keeps us mindful of the resurrection.  John names the fears and the doubts of the disciples who are now to become apostles  - sent out.  We are in this story, too.  We have doubts and fears and questions.  This story is really a story about grace.  A reminder that Jesus comes to us as well.  That Jesus gives us his peace.

Peace that is necessary to calm fears.   To allow the doors to be open.  Grace and peace that encourage us to go out.

John’s Gospel reminds us that even when  - when - not if - doubts scatter hope we can believe, we can trust that Jesus will come to meet us where we are. Believe is an active verb.  But how will we recognize when God comes to us?  The disciples did not at first recognize Jesus in that room.   

Jesus’ greeting of “Peace be with you” may be our clue.  We will recognize God’s presence when peace is offered and we come to understand that we are not alone.

For Christians, to touch Jesus is to touch God.  We do this when we exchange the peace and when we receive the bread in our hands.

We follow a pattern of meeting on the first day of the week that was already a practice at the time of the writing of John’s Gospel. 

Each Sunday we share the peace with one another.  The peace of the risen Christ.  When we greet each other with 'Peace be with you' we are remembering the words from the 20th chapter of the Gospel of John.  We receive from each other the peace that Jesus gave to the disciples and we fill this space with the life of the Holy Spirit.

May the peace of Christ be always with you!



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