2nd of Easter
Acts 5: 27-32. The Apostles filled Jerusalem with Jesus’ teaching and caused quite a stir. They were witnesses, to the resurrection and to the power of the Holy Spirit.
Revelation 1: 4-8. Jesus (via John) addresses the universal body of Christians (“made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and father” – verse 6) via these seven specific congregations in Asia Minor. Remember that seven symbolises perfection or completion as in “the seven spirits before the throne” (verse 4). Jesus comes with the clouds, signifying divinity, and his rule is established for ever.
John 20: 19- 31. Jesus appears in a locked room and breathes the Holy Spirit on his followers on Easter Sunday, but Thomas was not with them. He wouldn’t believe the others until he had seen Jesus himself. Thomas is forever saddled with the moniker “doubting” Thomas but in fact is the first one who declares “My Lord and My God” and in fact went on to found the Thomist church in India which is alive and flourishing today. The significance for us of course is that if we can believe without the necessity to touch Jesus’ wounds we are blessed indeed.
The central character in today’s readings as is the central motivator, inspiration, mentor and guide of the Christian church then as now – the Holy Spirit.
God raised Jesus from the dead to live for evermore, but how is He present to the church? Answer – by his Holy Spirit.
It is His Spirit that strengthened and filled the disciples with courage that caused such a stir in Jerusalem.
It is the Spirit of Jesus speaking through the words of Revelation that binds the universal church together – that points out our deficiencies and challenges us to be better witnesses.
It is in the power of the Spirit that we will baptise Hamilton later in this service.
The Holy Spirit is the active presence of God in our lives which is why we are a church of the Holy Trinity. We believe in God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
The essential truth of this is spelled out in that iconic gospel story of Jesus appearing to the disciples in the locked room in Jerusalem on Easter Sunday evening.
There are two main acts. The first is that Jesus commissioned the disciples to go and tell everybody the good news, and to give them the courage and joy to do that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit”.
That this was effective is evidenced by the Acts reading. The disciples were full of God’s Spirit and creating a real stir in the city.
They made a bold claim that they were following God’s orders which superseded all human authority. They said in their defence to the religious authorities that “God had exalted Jesus to his right hand as leader and saviour” (v. 31) carrying on the same crime that got Jesus killed in the first place – that followers of Jesus owe their primary allegiance to the kingdom of God before any worldly kingdom.
The second act of the gospel story is Thomas who for some reason wasn’t with the disciples at their first encounter with the risen Jesus.
At first he found it hard to believe and demanded physical evidence. He wanted to touch the wounds to his hands and sides.
In actual fact he didn’t do that, What he actually did and said recognise the divinity of Jesus straight away and exclaimed “My Lord and my God”.
Jesus follows this with a blessing on all us, his millions of disciples that have come after who wouldn’t have the risen Christ standing in front of them but believe without seeing that miraculous sight.
Thomas became in fact a wonderful disciple traveling to India and starting the church there in AD52 in Kerala which still exists and thrives today.
That anyone can move from doubt to faith, not necessarily as quickly as Thomas, but no less dramatically is a fact of life.
When we cast our eye over modern Western society it is easy to think that Christianity is on its last legs. But the church is 2000 years old and we have been in this position before.
The very fact that we do believe in an active living God, present by his Spirit means that we never give up or lose hope.
One such sign of hope is Hamilton this morning, who will be baptised in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
God is constant. It is us that career around in our beliefs, going this way and that. God is always there, always waiting for us to find our way back to him just like the son in the story of the prodigal son.
We are accepted back with open arms and with joy without reproach and afforded every courtesy, God our Father even throwing a party for us when we do.