Almighty Father, you have given your only Son to die for our sins and to rise again for our justification: grant us so to put away the leaven of malice and wickedness that we may always serve you in pureness of living and truth; through the merits of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.
Risen Christ, for whom no door is locked, no entrance barred: open the doors of our hearts, that we may seek the good of others and walk the joyful road of sacrifice and peace, to the praise of God the Father.
Prayer After Communion
Lord God our Father, through our Saviour Jesus Christ you have assured your children of eternal life and in baptism have made us one with him: deliver us from the death of sin and raise us to new life in your love, in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Having brought the apostles, the captain of the temple guard and his officers made them appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.”
Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than men! The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead—whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Saviour that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel. We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”
14 The Lord is my strength and my song,
and he has become my salvation.
15 Joyful shouts of salvation
sound from the tents of the righteous:
16 ‘The right hand of the Lord does mighty deeds;
the right hand of the Lord raises up;
the right hand of the Lord does mighty deeds.’
17 I shall not die, but live
and declare the works of the Lord.
18 The Lord has punished me sorely,
but he has not given me over to death.
19 Open to me the gates of righteousness,
that I may enter and give thanks to the Lord.
20 This is the gate of the Lord;
the righteous shall enter through it.
21 I will give thanks to you, for you have answered me
and have become my salvation.
22 The stone which the builders rejected
has become the chief cornerstone.
23 This is the Lord’s doing,
and it is marvellous in our eyes.
24 This is the day that the Lord has made;
we will rejoice and be glad in it.
25 Come, O Lord, and save us we pray.
Come, Lord, send us now prosperity.
26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord;
we bless you from the house of the Lord.
27 The Lord is God; he has given us light;
link the pilgrims with cords
right to the horns of the altar.
28 You are my God and I will thank you;
you are my God and I will exalt you.
29 O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his mercy endures for ever.
John, to the seven churches in the province of Asia:
Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.
To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen. Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen.
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.”
A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
Sermon on First Sunday after Easter
Today is what is called “Low Sunday” – Why? Why do we call it that? It is the first Sunday in the larger season of Easter, the first Sunday after the Feast of the Resurrection. So why do we call it “low”? Surely we should still be flying “high” after our exertions of last weekend!
Or – are we deflated precisely because of the festivities of last weekend? All the liturgical activity of Holy Week and Easter? Are we exhausted because of our Lenten fast? Do we need to recover from the excesses of the feast we have just had?
Or – does nothing live up to the excitement and expectations aroused by Holy Week and Easter? Are we “low” because nothing in this life matches what we ultimately want?
Or is there a more prosaic reason? Perhaps because this is the weekend that priests have often taken as one of their “away days” and disappeared to some quiet cove to recover from the rigours of the last seven weeks. There may also be another reason – the congregations are very small – so perhaps we should amend the appellation to “Low Attendance Sunday”? These are not very profound reasons for this name, though.
Perhaps we should look to the readings we have been given for today to find an explanation for the very odd name for this Sunday. We learn that the disciples were all hiding away in their dark corner of the world, behind locked doors and fearfully cowering. They must have been terrified. They are feeling so very low after all that happened during that final week. Before all the appearances of Jesus, they skulked away hoping no one will come near them.
Are they embarrassed because of their hopes, their hopes which are now dashed by that horrible death Jesus underwent at the hands of Romans and Jews? Are they ashamed because they believed a man who spoke so eloquently of the Kingdom of God and now are bereft of his teaching – but, more importantly, they are lost without him? Are they mourning the death of such a dear, saintly man, that prophetic man, the man they reckoned the Messiah? Now are they low and depressed because all that happened in that last week has resulted in nothing?
Maybe it is all of this in some sort of combination within each one of us. The departure of the priests after their exertions of Holy Week, like the departure of the disciples to that darkened room, signify human weakness doesn’t it? We all feel deflated after Holy Week. We all need a rest, and so everyone – priests and their congregations – has taken time off. What could be more natural?
However, I don’t think this is natural behaviour for the faithful in any way. We have to be energised – after all, we are life in all its fullness. – Why, then, should we ever experience a “Low Sunday”?
You might say that nowadays we are enjoined by all around us to “feel the moment” to experience our emotions to the highest degree. To let go of all our inhibitions and let fly. I think this is an inheritance from the hippies, that generation of people just before mine, those people who turned on, tuned in and dropped out of the workaday world where there is only drudgery, hoping that the love they freely shared would be the one thing in their lives – apart from the drugs which only enhanced that engaged attitude. And my generation is not millennial, either, that generation which wants everything that they want – right now! Both of those generations live in a single moment of self-absorption.
But is that really what christianity – or any religion – is all about? Don’t we religious people calm everything down so that the peace of God which passes all understanding moves from one person to the next? We don’t go from the highs of festivals to the lows of this “Low Sunday”, do we? No, we are enthused to such a degree that there is no difference between Easter and any other ordinary (or holy) day during the year – every day is a day that the Lord has made – just for us. We treat them all the same, I hope. Every day is one of infinite splendour in which we live and move and have our being. How could any day be otherwise when we have the hope of ultimate salvation before us? How can anyone who has that hope be other than calm and open to everything – full of the joy of Easter and anticipating a Kingdom beyond all price?
That experience of living to the fullest does not raise us up so high that we have to crash to earth again. No, that lived experience is the fullness of the present, the presence of God, I would say. We are grounded in life in all its fullness. How can we have anything but an extraordinary attitude to all creation?
The faithful have been enjoined to “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” by Jesus in response to Thomas’ being of two minds. That is the meaning of Doubting Thomas, that all possibilities are of equal weight but we are burdened by them. Is that why we are here on Low Sunday? We like Thomas have our doubts about everything, don’t we? That is the reason, I think, Thomas is such an important figure linguistically for us. Everyone knows of this Thomas, don’t they? We, in fact, see ourselves as Thomas, don’t we? After all, we all have our doubts.
But Thomas is given this opportunity to put himself in Jesus’ place, isn’t he? With those words, Jesus is inviting us to an intimacy we can share with no other, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side.” Jesus is asking Thomas to take his place – whatever that is – and live the fullest of lives. That intimacy with Jesus, to put his hands in Jesus’ hands and in his side is not anything anyone would ordinarily do, is it? We do not embrace the dead ordinarily. But, imagine being invited to embrace the executed body of a man convicted of the most heinous of religious crimes! Imagine being asked to an intimacy of that sort. Would we be bold to say, as Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
Probably not. Maybe that is why we call this Sunday, “Low Sunday” – because we do not have the courage of our faith, because we are in two minds all the time. We must remember Thomas for all the right reasons. He is the cornerstone of our faith, we “who have not seen and yet have believed.” If, in spite of all of his grave doubts, he is able to greet the Christ with that expostulation of faith, “My Lord and my God!” and evangelise the ends of the earth. Why shouldn’t we be just as faithful as well?