Peace Be With You – Dean John’s Sermon – Sunday April 15

April 17, 2018
April 17, 2018 Michelle

EASTER III  2018 (Year B)

Sunday, 15 April

Ripon Cathedral 10.30am

 The Dean’s Sermon

 ‘Peace be with you.’

 ‘Peace be with you.’

Words of Jesus that always comfort and yet which, around the world this morning, will resonate in a way that gives pause for thought. Isn’t peace the prayer of the risen Christ for his world this morning?

“Jesus himself stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’”

As we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead through this Easter season, we pause each Sunday to ponder gospel passages that speak of that resurrection.  Like the gospels themselves, these are passages that were written from faith for faith. They were written by those who believed that the one who had come as Messiah had been raised to new life after crucifixion. And they were written so that others – people just like us – might come to accept that same truth in faith. Jesus of Nazareth was God’s Messiah and, though having been cruelly crucified by a fallen world too threatened by his perfection, had been raised to new life on the third day.

Last week, we reflected on the doubt and faith of Thomas, seeing that perhaps we might be more confident in both our believing and our doubting. This week, in St. Luke’s gospel, we are again back with the disciples, their companions and the two who had just come hot foot from the remarkable experience at Emmaus. The Risen Christ suddenly appears – as if from nowhere – and bids them peace! Little wonder when they were startled and terrified; wondering if they were seeing a ghost. Jesus, bidding them peace, asks why they are fearful and doubting and then presents them with evidence of the resurrection; his flesh and blood – his resurrected flesh and blood. He might have done well to quote Dr Spock – ‘It’s life, Jim, but not as we know it.’ This was a transformed, fuller, resurrected life. He could suddenly appear and just as suddenly disappear. But he was also still flesh and blood – he asked for something to eat. Yet, this was not flesh and blood restored to some perfect, un-crucified state. This is flesh and blood that bears the marks of crucifixion. Resurrection life, then, still benefits from the experience of suffering for the sins of the world. The one who is raised is the one who had said, ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.’ And it is this crucified and risen Lord who now says, ‘Peace be with you,’ to his still-doubting, fearful, confused, disciples and their companions.

‘Peace be with you.’

Perhaps this was just the way of Jesus calming down a troubled group. Don’t worry! But peace seems to have been his strong desire for them. ‘Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you,’ Jesus said to his disciples, according to St. John, after having washed their feet on the night before he died. ‘I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not let them be afraid.’ (Jn 14: 27ff)

The Secretary General of the United Nations has said that he believes that the cold war is back with a vengeance. The Prime Minister’s decision to give the support of this country’s military forces to yesterday’s attack on Syria certainly adds weight to that assertion. It is believed that Syria has used chemical weapons against its own people. A line has been crossed that cannot be ignored, so the logic of the moral argument goes. But all of this, added to the support of Russia for Syria, and the increasing sense of uncertainly and instability in relation to current world affairs suggests that troubled and fearful hearts might be as evident in political and diplomatic gatherings today as they were amongst the disciples on the evening of the resurrection. In which case, can we take comfort from the resurrection of Christ for the world today? And can we hear Christ’s blessing of peace for us now?

Well, the Church’s proclamation that Christ is risen from the dead matters for the world today. The powers of death and hell could not defeat the Son of God; the author of life was seen to be victorious. In our lesson from Acts, a lame man had just been healed. Peter is assuring the Israelites that this is through the power of the risen Christ. Through faith in his name, life has been strengthened and enhanced. But Peter makes his case boldly, ‘You killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead.’

Then Peter also makes it clear to the Israelites that access to the benefits of the risen life of Christ are there for them, but require a willingness to change, a willingness to put sin behind them. ‘Now, friends, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. In this way, God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, that his Messiah would suffer. Repent therefore, and turn to God so that your sin may be wiped out.’ We might say that Christ was offering an amnesty: Let us draw a line under past mistakes. Let bygones be bygones. In the power of the resurrection, let us move on to a new way of living.

It is helpful for us to remember that what the risen Christ offered to his disciples two thousand years ago, he still offers to his world today. And his world needs the offer of forgiveness, of a fresh chance, of an amnesty, of resurrection life, as much now as then.

The psalmist, as we have just been reminded, could say in Psalm 4,

“I lie down in peace; at once I fall asleep;

For only you, Lord, make me dwell in safety.”

None of this takes away the need for politicians to make difficult decisions in a complex and worryingly unstable world. We do well to pray that they may be guided by the one who is raised from the dead and offers peace. And, a hundred years on from the war to end all wars; and when the cold war seems to be sounding its drums once more, we do well to pray for our armed forces who are prepared to take life-threatening risks for the sake of the world’s wellbeing.

But we also remember that ultimately it is the one who was raised by God from death who is the Lord of this world. It is through him that we will have unity with God and each other; and ultimately he is the only source of peace.

We do well then to continue in our celebrations of Easter in the face of the world’s worrying political instability.

“Jesus himself stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’”

 

 

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