Preached at All Saints, Collingwood, Anglican Diocese of Toronto, 16 April, 2023, the Second Sunday of Easter.   Readings for this Sunday:  Readings – Acts 2:14a, 22-32; Psalm 16, 1 Peter 1:3-9; John 20:19-31 

21Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” (Jn 20:21)

In my homily for Maundy Thursday last week, I had a few kind words for Judas, who is usually seen as the great villain of our faith.  If I could find some kind thoughts for Judas then, well, today I’m sure not going to throw our friend Thomas under the bus.

Many sermons on this reading from John 20, which we usually hear on Low Sunday, the Sunday after Easter, urge us not to be like Thomas.   We are told not to be like Doubting Thomas, but rather to simply believe as Jesus tells the disciples they should.  This gospel thus becomes a kind of extra beatitude, “blessed are those who don’t need proof to be Christians”.

But Christianity doesn’t work that way.  Jesus isn’t content to be an abstraction.  Jesus doesn’t want to be some dogma that the faithful believe in.   No.  Jesus wants to show up in our lives.  And he does.   

Let me tell you one story about a time that the risen Jesus showed up.

This story was told by the late Uruguayan journalist, Eduardo Galeano, of a time of repression by the military dictatorship in Uruguay.   It was 1973 and some political prisoners had been rounded up and held in an army barracks.

A rotten night. Roar of trucks and machine-gun fire, prisoners facedown on the floor, hands behind their heads, a gun at every back, shouts, kicks, rifle blows, threats. …


In the morning, one of the prisoners who hadn’t yet lost track of the calendar recalled, “Today is Easter Sunday.”


Gatherings were not allowed.

But they pulled it off. In the middle of the yard, they came together.


The non-Christians helped. Several of them kept an eye on the barred gates and an ear out for the guards’ footsteps. Others walked about, forming a human ring around the celebrants.


Miguel Brun whispered a few words. He evoked the resurrection of Jesus, which promised redemption for all captives. Jesus had been persecuted, jailed, tormented, and murdered, but one Sunday, a Sunday like this one, he made the walls creak and crumble so there would be freedom in every prison and company in every solitude.

The prisoners had nothing. No bread, no wine, not even cups. It was a communion of empty hands.

Miguel made an offering to the one who had offered himself. “Eat,” he whispered. “This is his body.”

And the Christians raised their hands to their lips and ate the invisible bread.

“Drink. This is his blood.”

And they raised the nonexistent cup and drank the invisible wine.

What I love about this story is the reality of it.  This was not a pretend eucharist.  Jesus showed up. Jesus is so present in the moment that he doesn’t need bread or wine or chalice to be present.  What’s sacramental here is that Jesus’ love for the oppressed, his desire to shepherd his people and give them hope.  Jesus defeats the gate and the guards, just as Jesus defeated Pilate and the guards posted at his tomb.   Even the non-Christians see this and use their bodies to encircle and protect the moment.  Jesus in the moment is real to them as well.  Jesus brings them all the peace of his presence.

“Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you” (Jn 20.   Perhaps the most important word in today’s gospel is not “believe”, but “peace”.   Three times in our gospel Jesus says these “peace be with you” to his disciples. 

Jesus says “peace be with you” to friends have been traumatized by the violent death of their teacher.   They’re burdened by their deserting Jesus, perhaps Peter most of all.   They’re shaken by one of their own, Judas, betraying Jesus.    They’re fearful that they will be the next ones to be arrested and killed.  Despite the testimony of witnesses, one of them is sceptical.  

The traumatized, the fearful, the guilty, the doubting, the doubting, all receive the same words:  “Peace be with you”.  

Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ 

That Easter Sunday in Uruguay, Jesus said these words to friends who have been rounded up, brutalized, and locked in a prison courtyard.    He says these words to atheist revolutionaries and priests and parishioners hungry for justice.   All receive the same words:  “Peace be with you”.

Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’

Last Easter Sunday in Collingwood, Jesus said these words to 120 people gathered in this old church.  Some were faithful lifelong believers.  Some were polite non-believers obliging an older relative.   Some were grieving old losses, some were thinking of their lunch.   The point is that Jesus appeared before all of us and said “peace be with you”.   

And Jesus keeps doing appearing.  He appears in quiet homes during morning devotions and on on busy factory floors.  He appears in long term care homes and prisons and schools.  He appears to the bullied kid and the self-satisfied matrons at posh restaurants, to the homeless and to the old person far gone in dementia, and to the lonely soldier and the busy cop.   He appears in the long dark nights of the hospital ward and in the morning light of parks.   And always he appears with the same words, “peace be with you”.

So if Easter poses a question to us, it’s not “do you believe?”  Jesus is real and Jesus will show up in our lives, regardless of what we believe.   Rather, the question of Easter is simply, will we  accept the peace that the risen Christ offers us?   Will we let Jesus pass through the locked doors of our lives and of our hearts?    And if we let Jesus in, are we willing to let our lives transformed by this peace?

Jesus comes and stands among them and says, ‘Peace be with you.’

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