Sermon for the Second Sunday of Easter (Year B)
Updated: Apr 13
Sermon for the First Sunday after Easter
April 11th, 2021
“And there was not a needy person among them”
The question before us now, one week after the tomb of Jesus was found empty, one week after he rose from the dead, conquering death, conquering sin, and having crushed the powers of darkness and the devil under his heel is – what does it mean?
What does it mean for you and me that Jesus has risen?
What does it mean for you and for me, here today in Summerside, that Christ is risen from the dead and death shall no longer have dominion over us?
To put it in words that are not my own, the question is – where does the rubber of the resurrection meet the potholed, muddied, and broken-asphalt roads of our lives?
As I preached all through the season of Lent, leading up to Easter, a large part of our work in Lent is acknowledging that our lives – more often than not – are more like the Spring-time, potholed and rutted roads we are now encountering in PEI than they are fresh smooth asphalt.
The work of repentance, the work of fasting, of prayer, of Lent itself is to acknowledge that alone we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves, as the collect in the Prayer Book puts it, that we need something else in our lives beyond ourselves and beyond the material things of this world to fill the hole in our hearts, the hole that is the source of deep longing and sadness within us.
The work of Lent then, is a bit like breaking something down so that it can be rebuilt; emptying it out so that it can be filled anew; letting it die so that it can be reborn.
And this is what our focus through Eastertide will be – what does it mean to be filled up, reborn, resurrected? What does the good news of the empty tomb mean for us eternally and what does it mean for us today?
One of the things that we will be reading in the coming weeks, all throughout Eastertide, is the Acts of the Apostles. The Book of Acts is an account, I think, of just how the rubber of the resurrection hit the potholed lives of the Apostles.
It is the “Okay, so then what?” book that picks up where the gospels leave off, it is the account of the Apostles going out and preaching Christ crucified, preaching the word, and telling others the Good News of Jesus.
And one of the things we will glean from the Acts of the Apostles is how transformative this resurrection is meant to be for us, that through his resurrection Jesus is able to transform the way we live, the way we love, and the way we relate to others in our community.
Consider today’s story from Acts 4. Already in this chapter the Apostles had been arrested for preaching by Annas and Caiaphas and even facing the threat of harm being done to them, they proclaimed Christ’s resurrection all the more. Even the crowds around them were amazed with the level of eloquence and truth they spoke, despite the fact that they were ordinary and uneducated people.
Such was the power, and the boldness of their proclaiming the good news that we get to the portion of Chapter 4 we hear this morning – that all those who believed them were moved to give up everything they owned. They sacrificed everything and yet, as verse 34 says, “there was not a needy person among them” (Acts 4:34).
Even if we were only to read this reading today what we would know from the testimony and account of the Apostles is that through Jesus’ resurrection, through that power being lived out in our lives, not only can we – no matter our level of education or our ordinariness – share the good news and bring others to God.
But also that even when we have little – whether because of misfortune or because we choose, like those people did to give it all up – we will never want for anything because we will have what we most truly long for and the Lord will provide the rest.
As I said in the beginning though, our quest this Eastertide is to discover together, perhaps for the first time, or perhaps for the 33rd or 66th or 80th year in a row what the resurrection means for our broken and imperfect lives.
And I think more often than not we find ourselves, our minds, and our hearts much like the disciples at the beginning of our Gospel today – locked away, shuttered, and hidden. Not open to possibility, not open to the transformation that is possible through Jesus, but tucked away, quiet, and afraid.
It’s been only a day and the disciples have already had the news of Jesus’ empty tomb proclaimed to them, already they knew that the promises and words of Jesus had come true, yet here they are.
Here they are in hiding, afraid.
And there the resurrected Jesus appears not with a knock, or with a boot to the door, but simply and quietly in their midst saying, “Peace be with you.”
But there is dispute amongst them when Thomas returns, missing Jesus’ appearing – this cannot be, thinks Thomas, he was dead, dead people don’t come back to life.
Yet a week later Jesus appears to them all once again, including Thomas, who reaches out and touches the wounds on Jesus’ resurrected body, immediately believing what at first seemed impossible to him.
The point of us hearing this Gospel today is twofold.
The first, it reminds us that Jesus’ resurrection was real. It is not a symbol, it is not a metaphor for spiritual change, it is not something that we can easily explain away. Jesus truly was raised from the dead; if he weren’t then we are all wasting our time.
The second thing it reminds us is that we, too, live with the kinds of doubts Thomas had. We too often shut and lock the doors of our hearts to spiritual growth, to being bold in proclamation of the faith, and to our being vulnerable to let God work in us what He wants to work, and use us for the things for which he wants to use us, to undo what needs to be undone, crucify what needs to be crucified, and find new life through it.
Even in that upper room Jesus reveals his purpose for them and for us – he tells them that just as the Father sent Him, so he sends them (us).
Living in the light of his resurrection (letting the rubber hit the potholed roads of our lives, as I have been saying) – a life not hemmed up and locked tight - is a life wherein we can proclaim to others the good news of what Jesus has done for us because we no longer need to be afraid. Of transformation, of suffering, of death.
He has risen and lives now to take away our fear, to heal and fix us, to bring us his peace not so that we can be free to live our lives on our terms, but so that we can be truly free in becoming like him and submitting to live the life he’s called us to live.
“And there was not a needy person among them”