Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth (Rev 1. 4b-5a).
God is our beginning and end (Rev. 1.8), the first and the last letter of all that is the alphabet of being. He is the creator of all things visible and invisible (yes, the fossil plants and dinosaur bones, and unicorns too). His creativity has inspired the creativity of humanity forever.
In the beginning, God created heaven and earth. He put the first humans, his creations, in charge of all the rest of what he made (Gen 1. 26).
That was the paradise: God and his stewards, all creation living in harmony.
But something must have gone horribly wrong, hasn’t it. Or why else did God have to send his son, his only son to die as the final sacrifice to buy back his creation? When it comes to it, why sacrifice anyone at all if all is well and right?
There are many versions of what the first sin was, and this is not the place for discussion of those, let it be enough to say that the first sin separated the creation from the Creator, and made permanent obstacles to love and caring among the creation. Because without God, there is no true love and caring.
Sin enslaved the people of God, all creation in fact, and it had to be bought back.
The maker of the world, God almighty stooped down to lift up his broken creation: that is the good news.
The result of Jesus sacrifice and death was this: he became the saviour of the world. All the world.
And that brings me to that event in the locked room in John 20.19-31.
The disciples are passive. They fear, see, rejoice, receive. Jesus is active. He comes, stands, speaks, breathes and gives. He sends the disciples out into the world.
How do they know it is Jesus? They recognise him by his wounds. The wounded healer is in their midst. They are forgiven: their fear, their treason, their ignorance have been forgiven. What they lack, is filled in by the Holy Spirit.
Receive the holy spirit, he says.
And now the disciples are sent out into the world as the proxies of the God Almighty, to forgive or to keep the sins of the world. They are invited into the communion with Jesus and God himself, to do what only God can do.
In that room, behind the locked doors, the disciples become doors to forgiveness.
Now they are empowered to do the works of faith. Literally inspired by Jesus, they can administer the peace that no-one else can give, the peace surpassing the understanding of men (or women), the peace we, too receive and share in our worship service.
Peace be with you. It is an absolute promise of the presence of God, Jesus (he is our peace) wherever it is that he sends his disciples, ourselves including. In peace are we sent to forgive and be forgiven. Just like the first disciples, we, here and now, are the instruments of God’s peace, charged to complete his work.
One of them, Thomas, wanted to check out the unseen and be very sure of who it is that sends people out into danger. He, too, was satisfied by seeing and touching the wounded hands and side of the Saviour. Our faith does not have to be only passive, it may and must be inquisitive and ask questions of God, and God will answer them.
What would you do after an encounter with Jesus who invite you to touch his wounds and have faith? What wouldn’t you do!
In the bread we break at the table of the Eucharist, we touch and taste the goodness of the Lord. When we meet the broken of this world, we meet the wounded Saviour. When we are vulnerable and allow someone else to touch and heal our wounds, we proclaim Him who was wounded because of our sins. By kindness and generosity, we make Him known to the world.
And then it matters to be kind in a world of death and terrorism.
It matters to love the unloved.
It matters to forgive because we too have been forgiven.
His blood is our blood, his peace – our peace. Jesus calls his disciples to radical faith, to radical worship: as the Father has sent me, so I send you, I fill you with my breath, with the Spirit that was at the beginning of creation, the Spirit that gives courage, peace and joy – go, be the doors of salvation. Of this world, you stewards.
To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.(Rev 1. 5b-6)