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Octave Day of Easter

D. G. Phillips

Holy Communion

LaHave, Broad Cove, Crousetown  March 30, AD 2008

1 John 5:4f      John 20:19-31

 

"Jesus came and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.

And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side.

 

Peace be unto you. 

What are the things that keep us from knowing peace?

 

In the world, we hear of war and rumours of wars on the news.  We follow daily accounts of bombings or insurgencies and we pray for peaceful resolutions of these conflicts between nations and within nations.  Something is not right in this world, peace is fragile.  But we know a certain social peace and stability here, [these external wars are not what disturb our peace, unless we are directly involved in their resolution – as soldiers or the family of those involved in trying to bring peace.]  But we may have anxieties closer to home about our safety – in our homes, in our daily lives – we have to lock our cars – some people would steal them – we take steps to minimize our insecurity – of body, of finances – but we can never have complete peace in this world.

 

In our world, our day to day world of encounters with one another, a spouse, a friend, a member of the Church or the wider community.  We know a certain lack of peace with one another, don’t we?  We offend and are offended in small ways by one another and there is a certain unease in each others presence, an unease that we hope and suspect will be done away with in heaven – we would like greater peace even now. 

 

In our own souls we know, if we are reflective, a certain lack of peace – a lack of peace between what we know to be the way of holiness and of our outward actions; a certain discomfort within ourselves, we see an inner battle – I have left undone those things that I ought to have done and have done those things which I ought not to have done, and there is no health in me – that is, if I rely only on my own strength, my own character, I fail.  And my faith, my trust in God’s help, is imperfect.  There is a war within me between the flesh and the spirit – a lack of peace.

 

There is something which perhaps shatters our peace more than any other disturbance in our lives, and that is the death of a loved one.  So much so, that no matter how much we are prepared for it, we can never know it or prepare ourselves fully before it happens.  How could someone we love so much be taken away from us – and it also raises deep questions for us and for our own future, the severing of the soul and body, there is something so profoundly wrong with that – and we have no peace.

 

These are all of these sources of dis-ease in us, things that cause a lack of peace in us – our world and social order, our personal safety, our lack of reconciliation with others, our lack of reconciliation within ourselves, the loss of loved ones, and our health and our coming death.

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On the third day after Jesus’ crucifixion, the disciples were greatly distressed in soul, and they had many reasons to not be at peace. 

 

The Gospel says that they were locked in a room, afraid of the Jewish authorities – if Jesus had been arrested and condemned to such a horrible death, surely they were next on the list.  They lived in a very violent world.  There were unfriendly soldiers everywhere in the streets.

 

They were greatly distressed in soul because they had given up all to follow Jesus and had trusted that he was the Messiah, only to see their hopes of a new Kingdom dashed.

 

Each one of them had their own personal reasons to feel shame –all of the disciples, who had spoken so bravely in his presence, fled when Jesus was arrested, Peter had later denied that he even knew Jesus, not once, but three times – and he knew Jesus knew it.

 

Perhaps their greatest distress was their deep grief at the death of their dearest friend, their teacher, and their Lord.  But their deep distress was soon to be changed.

 

Then came Jesus and stood in the midst [of the disciples], and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.  And he showed them his hands and his side.  Then the disciples were glad, when they saw the Lord. 

 

Their biggest distress – the death of a loved one, and death itself, as such an offense to every human being – is overcome in a moment – it is really him, the same one that was nailed to the Cross.  If he can do this for himself, be raised from the dead, he can do this for us – because God is good, and if it makes so much sense to us that this would be a good thing, how much more it makes sense to God who is all Goodness. 

 

Jesus’ resurrection is the only thing that can restore peace to our souls in the face of death – our own death and the death of a loved one.

 

But if we are going to live beyond this life, it means that we carry the guilt of the things we have done in this life into the next.  Can we face our Maker, with this guilt, can we ever have peace with what we have done in the past?

And he showed them his hands and his side.  Then the disciples were glad.

 

Here is the only thing that can give us peace – the certain knowledge that Jesus’ perfect offering of himself, his sacrifice, on the cross has been accepted – my Father hath sent me for this purposeFor God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned.  [John 3:16-17]

 

Peace about our death, peace about the death of loved ones, peace about the forgiveness of our sins.

 

What about peace with others?

Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.  And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained.

 

Peace with others comes about primarily, by our forgiving of them.  As I have loved you, so should you love one another.  His dying for us, His forgiveness of us – these are the primary ways that God loves us, and we are given supernatural power, even the Holy Ghost to enable us to do the same – to give up our lives for one another, and to forgive one another.

 

Jesus breathed on them and gave them the Holy Ghost.  How do we get this Holy Ghost? 

 

In the Epistle, St. John speaks of our overcoming the world by being born again.  And we are born of God by our baptism and through faith.  There we were washed by water and blood – the precious blood of Jesus – and we were incorporated into His mystical body. 

 

The reconciliation, the peace we desire with God and with one another, flows from our union with our risen Lord Jesus Christ.

 

The overcoming of the battle within us between the flesh and the spirit has begun – so that we might always serve him in pureness of living and truth.  Here, even in this world, our soul and body can begin to be reconciled.

 

Can you think of any distress of the human soul, that the death and resurrection of Jesus does not touch?

 

To all of our insecurities, to all of our fears, to all of the disquietudes of our souls, Jesus says to us this morning, as he said to the disciples on the first day of the week – Peace be unto you.

 

In the Holy Communion of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus, we show forth His death.  And as we pray the words of the prayer of Consecration over the bread and the wine, we believe that by Word and Spirit the risen Lord Jesus comes to be in our midst.  And it is why after these words are spoken, there is a little silence, a moment of awe, a moment for adoration.  Then the priest says,

The peace of the Lord be always with you.

 

Let us rest there, in the peace that passes all understanding.  It is truly a foretaste of the perfect peace we will know forever in heaven. 

 

Christ is risen!  The Lord is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

 

 

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