First Sunday of Easter 2021 – Sermon – Deacon Kay Williams

May we have eyes to see our blessings, ears to hear God’s words and the humbleness to praise and honor Christ our Lord. In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, AMEN

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” John 20: 19

Today, the first Sunday after Easter we have heard the Easter story and celebrated Christ’s victory. But have we taken the time to truly realize we are the benefactors of our Risen Savior’s victory over death, hell and the grave. Today’s scriptures show us a glimpse of the disciples shock and efforts to comprehend Jesus’s resurrection and the implications on their lives. Today’s readings demonstrate the spiritual progress the disciples made in their earnest efforts to live their lives according to the firsthand knowledge and lessons learned from the Son of God.

In the gospel of John it had been three days since the disciples watched their leader, master, and liberator die a very public and horrible death by crucifixion. Now on the first resurrection Sunday they have been startled by Jesus’s empty tomb. They have also just been shaken by the message Jesus sent to them through a woman, Mary Magdalene. In a state of great fear, anxiety, disappointment and maybe anger they huddled behind locked doors with thoughts of the Roman’s and Jewish leaders searching for them; when before their astounded eyes stood Jesus. The master they had forsaken and ran from in his hour of capture. The one Peter denied three times. The one some had watch be crucified and heard his last words from the cross.  There he was with reassurance to them with his first words, “Peace be with you.” He did not come to them about their failures but to give them a deep soul filling peace. A solace that comes only from a loving God. He met them where they were physically, emotionally and spiritually. He went into the locked room and showed them the physical marks from the crucifixion. He allowed their eyes to take in what their minds could not yet grasp. Jesus instructed them to move beyond their fear, and from behind the locked doors to continue God’s work of sharing His love and forgiveness through the power of the Holy Spirit. 

However, a week later the disciples are still huddled in the same house but Thomas is with them when Jesus appeared a second time. Again Jesus began with giving all in the room his peace. Just as he did with the disciples earlier he showed Thomas his crucifixion marks, but this time with an invitation to touch them. He came and gave Thomas exactly what Thomas needed to believe. Thomas did not need to touch the marks, he openly and verbally declared Jesus as his Lord and Master. Thomas’s declaration is the highest Christological confession of anyone in the Gospel. He went beyond a belief statement into a proclamation of trust and relationship: “My Lord and my God!”

The disciples went from a huddled group of dismayed, and distressed followers in a locked house to spiritual leaders who proclaimed the Gospel boldly where ever the Spirit led them.  In Acts the description of the community of believers established by the disciples demonstrated the transformation the Holy Spirit has had on the disciples and their actions. They no longer lived by the letter of the law, or by a list of do’s and don’ts. They spoke with the authority of eyewitnesses to the Risen Savior and through the empowerment by the Holy Spirit.   The disciples boldly proclaimed Christ’s resurrection and lead a community of believers full of grace and compassion to live counter culturally. They freely gave of all they had so all could have enough and preferred the needs of others over their own possessions. They participated in the Eucharist, formation of new believers and in spiritual unity.

Their actions of love, unity and the putting others before themselves had resulted in an amazing growth of the new church. This growth continued until we read in the letter of First John where a problem developed that was splitting the church a part. In an effort to reaffirm the struggling church, the writer of the letter passionately reminds church members the same Jesus who was with God in the beginning  was also human and  walked, taught, healed, ate and fellowshipped with them. Like the disciples and other eyewitnesses of Christ’s resurrection and life changing signs the author of First John proclaimed to the church I saw Jesus, and heard him! He really is alive!  The church was established on the resurrected Son of God. The risen Christ was one with God and the light of their lives. Through Christ their eyes were opened, their hearts touched, they had tasted the joy of the true God.  As followers of Christ, the eternal God had revealed himself to them. Their lives had been spiritually awakened and changed forever. 

We to as baptized believers have been changed and sealed with the Holy Spirit.  We like the disciples have been given instructions to share the gospel in our words and actions. The same God of eternity, the Risen Savior is present with us today.  Although we have not seen him we rejoice in knowing Jesus is alive! Regardless of our doubts, sins, or hesitations he has reached out to us. We like Thomas can look up in awe at his presence in our quiet moments, in the spring flowers, in the Eucharist, and even through our tears and fears. He is with us daily. This Easter let us like Thomas grasp the awesome wonder of his presence and with true joy claim him as our God and Lord.  Jesus lives Alleluia, Alleluia!!