Third Sunday of Easter
Introduction and Call to Worship
Jesus is alive! Alleluia! He meets us here at St Mary’s through the outpouring of the Spirit as we gather in His holy and wonderful name. We worship with open hearts as we renew our commitment to service and love, offering the very best of who we are to Him who created everything – who walks with us today just as he met the disciples on the beach after that first Easter – Alleluia!
First Reading Acts 3:12-19 (must be used as either first or second reading)
Peter responds to the people’s wonder at his healing a lame man in Jesus’ name. He calls them now to repent and believe in the Messiah whom they previously condemned to death.
Second Reading 1 John 3:1-7
John rejoices that God in his love calls us his children. He urges us to respond by so living in Christ that we come to reflect his purity and righteousness.
Gospel Luke 24:36b-48
The risen Jesus appears to his disciples. Calming their fears, Jesus reminds them that in his death and resurrection the disciples are witnessing God’s unfolding plan of salvation for all nations.
Sermon “They were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost.” (Luke 24:37)
I remember one of my school reports, which said of me that I was committed to my work, although struggling with my spelling and at times prone to allowing my mind to wander. But I was praised for my inquisitive nature: ‘Damian takes great pleasure in working out how everything else works.’ The late actor, writer and director Peter Alexander Ustinov once said of his own school report: ‘Peter sets himself exceptionally low standards which unfortunately he fails to achieve.’
They were right; I have always been one of those practical people who needs to know more about things than meets the eye. I need to know how something works and what makes it tick. As a child I used to love taking things apart, so I could put them back together again and therefore learn how they work. That is all well and good if one can put something back together again! My mind works in a similar way with Theology – I really enjoy working through matters of faith and belief and asking the questions that others don’t like to – or are not willing to – or are told not to! As a child, when I was told that two opposite magnets would attract, I needed to know why and see for myself. It is also true with matters of faith. I have never found it easy just to accept, for I have always wanted to know more, to turn arguments upside down and inside out, to seek the truth where it is to be found. In many ways that is what Theology is all about, thinking outside of the box rather than just accepting someone else’s arguments. Thankfully we are all different! Some of us are happy to accept the world as it is and others, like me, must always find answers which will allow me, and hopefully others, to transform lives for the better.
Today’s Gospel according to John brings into focus the reality of the risen Lord Jesus. He is fully alive, walking, talking and even eating with his disciples! Perhaps we find it hard to understand how this can be; how a dead body can be raised to life and still be human? Indeed, we may well ask, ‘What sort of body did Jesus have?’ I wonder what the disciples’ thoughts were after the cross and before the resurrection Was Jesus really the great miracle worker and the friend of their dreams, or just a lovely man, come failed prophet, who died upon a cross? As the resurrected Jesus makes an unexpected appearance to the gathered disciples, He brings transformation. By rising, Jesus has transformed death by turning it from the scourge of humankind into a defeated enemy. Now the Lord of life and love comes to transform the disciples from a group of people terrified at the appearance of a ‘ghost’ into the outspoken witnesses of the greatest story ever told.
Their expectations, whatever they were earlier that day, are more than exceeded for Jesus is truly alive again! And now He challenges them to offer the very best of who they are in the service of His New Church. He also demonstrates in word and action - His enduring presence with them. They are not to go back to their old ways but be faithful to His teachings and active in service. He points to the future by drawing upon evidence from the past, because God has a plan! Not only for them – in their time of struggle (for there was much to come) - but for us too here in Thorpe, today.
As the disciples’ encounter with the risen Lord ends, they have been transformed from frightened victims to witnesses of the climax of God’s plan of salvation for all - Alleluia! And we too seek that same transformation today in the Church, our family of faith and in the world beyond, which is in desperate need of hearing all about the new life that Jesus brings. Considering that need for transformation it is so important that we, as Church here in Thorpe, take the message of Easter out into the community beyond the walls of this beautiful and historic place. Our 20:20 vision for Thorpe places that priority of mission right at the heart of who we are and our values - that same Spirit of God underpins our outreach. And friends, everything is possible as we work on God’s plan for salvation, as His Easter people.
With that knowledge we then proceed to shape the world around us, following the pattern and example of Jesus himself and the disciples whose faithfulness, in the face of great persecution and struggle, marked them out as the first saints of the Church. Now this is where the greatest challenge lies because the Risen Lord has expectations of us, just as we do of Him. He expects us to support and grow His Church in His name, by our example and conviction, in love for all, helping to nurture those who are on the fringe of the church that they too may learn to walk the path of faith and trust, and bring their families up in the faith of the Church. As we say at baptism and confirmation, ‘This is our faith’ and ‘We believe in one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.’ As we seek the transformation of this community we should reflect upon four aspects of our commitment:
Our belief in the resurrection as lived out daily. That’s right, putting into action what we learn.
Our commitment to grow St Mary’s Church and support the renewal of faith in Thorpe.
Our support as members of the Church practically and financially – offering back to God faithfully the very best of what He has given us.
Our participation in God’s plan for our lives and our church family at St Mary’s.
These are wonderful times for our Church – we are God’s Easter people and we have a mission to be about, bringing faith and transformation to the world beyond these walls. Amen – Alleluia!
1. Jesus’ resurrection means transformation and it brings challenge and change.
2. The disciples are initially fearful and confused at Jesus’ appearance. Like me, as a child, they question everything and want to know how this is possible.
3. Jesus reassures, teaches and encourages them as witnesses of His risen reality.
4. We have work to be about as the Church of today – the Saints – with a mission to transform the church and lives well beyond the walls of this building.