Easter 2 – April 24th 2022 – Rev Alison Way
Acts 5:27-32, John 20:19-end
In the name of God, loving Father, risen Son and ever present Holy Spirit. Amen.
In the gospel reading we just heard, it began with Jesus appearing on the evening of the first Easter day, in the locked upper room with the disciples. He said a greeting to them – Peace be with you. Now this is a greeting we still use in Church. If I say it to you – Peace be with you. You automatically say back and also with you or and with thy spirit). Until recently this was accompanied by a handshake or for the more touchy feely hugs and kisses. It comes from the need “to be at peace with our neighbours before we receive communion”. I am not sure when we are going to get back to a more physical approach to each other, but I do hope we will when the rigours of COVID are further behind us.
Let’s go back to the point about Jesus when he said Peace be with you. What did he mean? – He meant completion – In what God had done through him rising from the dead. He meant wholeness – making things the way they would be from now on and forever. When we rest in God’s love for us we will be whole in his completion.
Interestingly the same word Jesus used for peace Shalom is a Jewish greeting – particularly something you would say when you are saying goodbye to someone. The Old Testament concepts around this word are very much a sense of “wholeness” that people enjoy when they follow God’s way for them and live in His power. It makes sense as that is opened up to all of us – that is the greeting and the wish of Jesus as he met with the disciples on the first Easter.
There are other Old Testament understandings as well as completeness, soundness, and well-being of the total person. This peace is considered God-given, obtained by following the Law. Peace sometimes had a physical meaning, suggesting security. For example in one of the psalms often used in Compline (night prayer). Psalm 4:8 I will both lie down and sleep in peace; for you alone, O Lord, make me lie down in safety. It can also mean contentment. The prophet Isaiah says Those of steadfast mind you keep in peace, in peace because they trust in you (Is. 26:3). And it can also point to prosperity (Ps. 122:6–7) Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: ‘May they prosper who love you. Peace be within your walls, and security within your towers.’
In the New Testament – the meaning of peace grows too! It often refers to the inner tranquillity and poise of Jesus. The peace that Jesus spoke of was a combination of hope, trust, and quietness in the mind and soul, brought about by a reconciliation with God. Such peace was proclaimed by Jesus in his teaching and the host of angels at Jesus’ birth.
Jesus also taught about this kind of peace at the Lord’s Supper, shortly before His death (John 14:27) – he said Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. And as we heard today he shared peace with them after the resurrection.
The apostle Paul later wrote that such peace and spiritual blessedness was a direct result of faith in Christ (Rom. 5:1). He said – Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. The kind of peace we are talking about is peace that affects our hearts and how we love each other. It is peace that unlocks our hearts. Remember when Jesus appeared to say peace to his disciples. He also appeared in a room that was locked and the reading does not explain how he got in. He just appeared – he did not unlock the door and walk in. Jesus also appeared to unlock their hearts mysteriously in this encounter and has been unlocking the hearts of people ever since. This is all just as mysterious but the unlocking – is to his peace and wholeness for us. Though in a way this can work just like a key in the door as the first time we really know Jesus for some people
For others this is a much more gradual experience: they have known Jesus all their lives and cannot pin down when it first happened. Somehow immediately or gradually Jesus opens our hearts – His key is his love for us
The difference is that once Jesus has opened our hearts to his peace with his key of love – he is there forever. Once our hearts our open to him through his spirit he tops us up with his peace! Day by day, week by week, year by year in this life. Until one day we will dwell with him forever in the fullness of his peace… that brings wholeness and inner tranquillity and hope in our hearts and allows us to live in the knowledge that we are loved!
Sadly, this deep inner peace we can experience and know for ourselves doesn’t necessarily bring wellness or peace in our world as a whole. We know this only too well at the moment. The wellness of our world is a real concern currently. As a world we need to face the consequences of our poor choices and step back from much of our consumption of resources and power. At the beginning of this month, the United Nations produced a sobering report pointing to the need for rapid, systemic changes to combat climate change.
The situation for world peace is equally challenging. Watching the unfolding story in Ukraine and other parts of the world where there is conflict and war is very hard to bear. Our best response has been to pray and to help out practically where we have been able to and we must continue to pray for peace in these places, and for a world that values peace and reconciliation over conflict. I end today with a Christian Aid prayer for Ukraine
God of all peoples and nations, who created all things alive and breathing, united and whole, show us the way of peace that is Your overwhelming presence. We hold before you the peoples of Ukraine and Russia, every child and every adult. We long for the time when weapons of war are beaten into ploughshares when nations no longer lift up sword against nation. We cry out to you for peace; protect those who only desire and deserve to live in security and safety. Comfort those who fear for their lives and the lives of their loved ones. Be with those who are bereaved. Change the hearts of those set on violence and aggression and fill leaders with the wisdom that leads to peace. Kindle again in us a love of our neighbour, and a passion for justice to prevail and a renewed recognition that we all play a part in peace. Creator of all hear our prayer and bring us peace. Make us whole. Amen
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 #
Order One for the Celebration of Holy Communion from Common Worship = Text copyright © The Archbishops’ Council 2000-2020