‘Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you […] Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.’And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.’ Luke 24:36, 39-40
Brothers and sisters, it’s the wondrous Easter season! We rejoice in Jesus’ defeat of death with a celebration feast including lots of chocolate and cake! Perhaps your Easter day started with a huge amount of chocolate and then you felt a bit sick to have a bit of a sugary hangover? I’m sure that will have been be true for some of us, especially our younger members, or those who are simply young at heart! For many of us there is a different kind of hangover. It’s an unusual one, not caused by any of the things we might over indulge in such as wine or beer or chocolate. This one’s different. It’s affecting almost everyone I know because it’s caused by the covid pandemic. It’s had to believe that it’s a little over a year since we first went into lock down. So much of life has changed in these past twelve months. My occasional Friday working from home became my everyday working from home. I think I’ve only been in my office on a handful of days in the past year and when I have been in it has been so different with lots of precautions to keep us all safe. Work, school, shopping, socialising have all changed. We keep our distance, wear masks and avoid people as much as possible, fearful that we might be next to get this terrible disease. For some the change has been life changing as they have lost loved ones. Some have been victims of this terrible disease – it’s just over a year since the first person I knew died from covid - but even when our friends and family members have died from other causes our ability to mourn and grieve have been so restricted by covid. This has been an extraordinary year. We’ve lived with so much uncertainty and isolation that we have a kind of covid hangover and there’s a widespread weariness in almost everyone I speak to.
And yet… we are also Easter people! Christ is risen! There is hope. There is life. There is light. For many years I’ve often been struck at how we in the west have become so comfortable. There has been a widespread myth that we’re supposed to be happy and have what we want when we want it all the time. I’ve seen it in church too – we like the feasts of Christmas and Easter but not the prayerful fasts of Advent and Lent. We like Easter but all too often we have skipped the pain of Good Friday and the emptiness of Holy Saturday. This pandemic has been utterly horrific for so many people but it has been a kind of year long fast. A stripping away of so many things that we seek comfort from. So much so that we’re weary and a bit vulnerable as we celebrate this Easter. Strangely, I think that puts us in a better place than usual to empathise with how the disciples felt that first Easter. That first Maundy Thursday they found themselves isolated and living in fear as Jesus was arrested. That first Good Friday there was nothing good in it for them. Jesus who they thought was going to reign as king of an earthly kingdom was publicly humiliated and executed as a criminal. They had every reason to believe that they would be next. That first Holy Saturday they huddled in fear, hiding away in an house, doors locked to keep the danger out, terrified of what might happen next. Everything they thought they knew had been turned on its head. There’s plenty of common ground for many of us this morning. A huge amount of fear and change, hiding away from the world because of the danger lurking outside.
What happened next transformed the disciples. Into the fear, into the isolation, the risen Lord Jesus steps in and speaks to them saying “Peace be with you”. Out of the darkness of death steps the Light of Life himself. The disciples were understandably troubled and had doubts but Jesus reassures them that it really is him, showing them his nail marked hands and feet, and eating some grilled fish. He spends time teaching them and helping them to understand what has happened, how it is all in keeping with the scriptures. This encounter with the Risen Jesus transformed the disciples from people filled with fear to people filled with faith. This Easter my sisters and brothers, the Risen Lord Jesus says to each one of us afresh “Peace be with you”. We’ll each have our own share of troubles and doubts but this Easter he invites us to look afresh on his risen body and to know that we too can be filled with faith not fear. In this year when so many have died, this Easter reminds us that death does not have the last word. The power of sin and death has been broken by the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. I know we feel weary. I know that it has been a hard year but hear those words of the risen Jesus ‘Peace be with you’. Hear them. Hold them tight in your heart. ‘Peace be with you’. This is what the disciples did. There was no return to the old ways for them because everything had changed. There would be tough times ahead for many of them but knowing the Risen Jesus changed everything about how they lived because their fears had been replaced by faith. Faith in the one who had died and rose again. Faith in the one who has defeated death. Faith in the Risen Jesus.
This Easter, hear those words of Jesus ‘Peace be with you’. Hold them tight in your heart and allow the risen Lord Jesu to take your weariness, your fearfulness and replace it with faith-filled-ness. Bring him your troubles and doubts and exchange them for his peace. Allow him to meet you in your home as you hide away from the danger outside. Allow him to meet you in your isolation and fear. Allow the risen Lord Jesus to transform you just as he did for the first disciples that first Easter Day. Christ is Risen, He is risen indeed alleluia! alleluia! Amen. (from Rev. Nick McKee).