Monday, 24 April 2017

Can't make it to church - 23 April 2017

So here we are, Easter Sunday has been and gone and soon the response to, "He is risen. Alleluia!" will have dropped back to it's normal tired, "He is risen idea!". So let's make hay while the sun shine, eh?

Today we find Peter showing us how to give an answer of the hope that we have in Jesus, the Christ. It's called a 'kerygma' (ker ug ma) - a word that comes from the word 'herald' (in Greek that's 'kerux' ) and it's a model for all of us to take up, adopt and adapt and make our own. The answer we give for the hope that we have is both personal and tailored to the people listening to it - that's why Peter speaks as he does because he's using the understanding the people around him have (don't forget that he's in Jerusalem) and making the story accessible to them.

This is one of the reasons that so many of us struggle in sharing Jesus: we neither make it ours or tailor it to the people who are listening to us!

The 1 Peter reading is important as it is part of a complete picture we will be building up over the coming weeks. Today we find him speaking of God's great mercy - the coming, dying and rising of Jesus the Christ - by which we are born again: People of the second Adam, no longer of this world but in it.

We have, through the cross of Jesus, the Christ, become a new people! And that has to be worth a 'Hallelujah!'

We will see trials, troubles and tribulations but regardless of the battle's outcome - the war has been won for us by the sacrifice of the new Adam. Do I hear a 'hallelujah' ? Love Him, follow Him, learn about Him and proclaim Him to those around us. And surely, in the twinkling of an eye, he will be with us again - make it soon Lord, make it soon.

Here in first Peter the metaphor is of the devotion of the heart to God, both as it is refined, and in the joy it produces. This is faith. This is life in Christ. This is what 1 Peter is all about.

The Gospel is one of my favourites for we see Thomas join the disciples, who are still hiding in the same room they were on that Easter Sunday afternoon, 'seeing and believing'. So many people label Thomas 'the doubter' and yet he was the one in John (11.6) who was willing to head for Bethany with Jesus and die with him when the 'believers' weren't.

In a nutshell - doubt is not a sin, nor does it have to be something that weakens Church or us!

Doubt is the place where our faith is tested and made real. If you've never doubted then could it be that you might also never have fully believed?

Now that's a question for us all to to wrestle with, isn't it?

Some things need to be tested and challenged - as Christians we are people with brains who take things on faith and challenge them by thinking, study and the practice or reason. We do not 'leave our brains at the church door' - in fact I'd have to say that following like sheep is so often the province of the non-theists. If you don't believe me, ask those who oppose theistic thinking their reason and they will rarely give their own answer; instead they will roll out something one of their tiny gods have spouted - untested and repeated as if the words given were themselves the Gospel truth.

We give an answer for eh hope that we have - and we do it using study, reasons and rational thinking - even for the things which defy logic! Without it, we are not believers but foolish sheep.

So pick up your bibles, read theological(and other) books, ask questions and get stuck in to finding our how we might go about giving an answer to those that ask and develop some understanding as to what our faith is about and the person in whom faith is placed, eh?

The Collect
Risen Christ, for whom no door is locked, no entrance barred: open the doors of our hearts, that we may seek the good of others and walk the joyful road of sacrifice and peace, to the praise of God the Father. Amen.

Acts 2.14a,22-32
But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them: ‘Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say.

‘You that are Israelites, listen to what I have to say: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through him among you, as you yourselves know - this man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law. But God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power. For David says concerning him,

“I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand so that I will not be shaken;  therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; moreover, my flesh will live in hope. For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One experience corruption.  You have made known to me the ways of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.”

‘Fellow Israelites, I may say to you confidently of our ancestor David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Since he was a prophet, he knew that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would put one of his descendants on his throne. Foreseeing this, David spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, saying,
“He was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh experience corruption.”

This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses.

1 Peter 1.3-9
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

John 20.19-31
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.’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’

But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.’

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

Post Communion Prayer
Lord God our Father, through our Saviour Jesus Christ you have assured your children of eternal life
and in baptism have made us one with him: deliver us from the death of sin and raise us to new life in your love, in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

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