Sunday 8 April - Low Sunday - Eucharist - Clephane Hume

Low Sunday 2018 

Acts 4. 32-35; 1 John 1.1-2.2; John 20.19-31   

My lectionary says very firmly, that the reading from Acts must be included in the main service. I take this as a message! How do we go about sharing goods in this consumer day and age? When many people in some parts of the world rate each other in terms of possessions as a demonstration of wealth. Which is not everything. Despite what the advertisers would have us believe, we are more than the things we own.

During Lent, I followed the Christian Aid count your blessings fundraising calendar. When it came to ‘give 20p for every pair of shoes you possess’, they did rather well out of me! And you can translate that sort of challenge into many different areas. There are several books with the phrase ‘enough is enough’ in their title. (and I also found a song which appeared to have a rather different message – ‘get out of my life’) but this isn’t a new concept – back in 1982, Horace Dammers wrote ‘Lifestyle – a parable of sharing.’ I lent my copy to someone and haven’t seen it since!

Here in Edinburgh we are moving towards our BIG diocesan day. At the Cathedral on April 28th – there are posters about this in the porch. Following the theme of SEEDS – serving (capital S) our communities, is top of the list. And I quote ’we are called to listen to the needs of the communities around us and to work for the Kingdom of God, by speaking and acting for change in our neighbourhood, our nation and our world.’ Serving.

Not exactly a small task! But it does match the reading from Acts for it may well involve sharing. Of resources, knowledge, skills and even people. The other members of the ministry team aren’t on holiday today – they are working in other churches.

I was away when the big snow event hit us, but I returned in time to find people still turning to our hospitality in the church, asleep under the pews. And it was patently obvious that there is an ongoing need for somewhere for rough sleepers to go between the closure of shops and museums etc and before the night shelter opens. Not much fun in the cold and wet if you have to hang around until about 9pm. The latest snowfall might serve to reinforce that, and I see that the USA is once more experiencing cold weather so there could be more to come.

The latest mural announces that we are still here, and contains words to signify what we stand for. It’s often easier to look further away, but now we have splendid new facilities, we must think about possibilities nearer to home. At home. Some churches have responded to current needs by providing early evening meals – we heard about what the Mustard Seed community are doing in that respect. And I understand that St Cuthbert’s next door offer fish and chips!

Which is great, but then again, it doesn’t tackle some of the root causes of the problem – not enough social housing, fair rents, the number of flats being used for holiday purposes – and what are we doing about that?  Jesus atoned for our sins, including those of omission, but……there’s a bit of a gap.

Meanwhile, through our Guardians, we can offer a welcome to all who cross the threshold of the church during the summer. Going on past years’ experience, there will be thousands of visitors, from places far and wide.

In contrast, turning to our gospel reading, we have the disciples, who are behind closed doors, for fear of any more trouble. Gathered together in what must have been a state of shock and grief. Trying to pick up the pieces of their lives again. It had all gone wrong. Their leader was supposed to be able to get himself out of any predicament, to perform miraculous deeds, so why hadn’t he sorted out this particular situation instead of allowing himself to be led away and deserting them?

The fact remained that Jesus had died in horrendous circumstances, been carefully placed in a tomb - and then mysteriously disappeared. Moreover, one of their number, Judas, had betrayed him to the authorities, and later on, another had denied any connection with the man fromGalilee, leaving him, Peter, with an uneasy conscience. And the rest weren’t exactly free of guilt on that score. So there must have been extra tensions among them to add to their complex feelings of loss.  And then Jesus appears. And greets them with a much needed message of peace.

How on earth could someone get through a closed, locked, door? No wonder Thomas had doubts when he heard about it all. Plus, I would think, feelings that he had lost out. Perhaps he thought his friends were imagining something, pinning their hopes on the impossible. People can get sightings of a lost loved one in the midst of their grief, carry on telling them the latest news. Reality tells you that turning the clock back is not possible, but hope remains. Thomas would desperately want to believe that Jesus was with them again, but was perhaps guarding against disappointment.

A bit of visible evidence does help. (That’s one reason why, even when the snow is falling, I find the new life of spring so helpful). So, in accordance with prophecy, Jesus reappeared. And Thomas was convinced. He saw the marks of the nails and the wounds in Jesus’ side. And the rather gory modern depiction, I don’t know who the artist is, on the cover of the pewsheet, illustrates this. St John’s gospel account reinforces the Easter message for subsequent generations. Right down to us.

Thomas is someone for whom I have a lot of sympathy. Doubts are part of our struggle with faith. And without them there is no growth. Or to put it another way, we grow by wrestling with some of the difficult issues.

St John ends with the statement that he has specifically recorded these events, as examples of some of the miraculous things, signs, which happened after Jesus died. Recorded so that we may believe. An instance of faith versus facts. This is evidence to strengthen our faith. And, he stresses, many more things were not recorded.

Jesus lives.

During the past week we have been reminded of the fact that its fifty years since Martin Luther King was assassinated. An inspirational leader and campaigner whose legacy still reminds us that there is room for action, if his message is to be fulfilled.

Jesus commissioned the disciples to carry on his work of redemption. Peter and Paul are doing something similar, encouraging new believers to continue in their efforts to preach and teach. To give the message of new life, and to commission people to carry out the work of the fledgling Christian community. And from those tentative beginnings we have the growth of a firm foundation for our church. 

For which thanks be to God.