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Sermon: Second Sunday of Easter Eucharist

Sunday 12th April 2015
Acts of the Apostles 4.32-35
John 20.19-31
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‘Receive the Holy Spirit’

In nomine Patris…

Alleluia. Christ is risen.

He is risen indeed. Alleluia.

Last week I found myself locked out of our house. Happily it was in the beautiful weather. Being locked out is frustrating; there were things I could have been doing inside. But being locked in is more frustrating and it is form of punishment. The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is about unlocking - opening doors, opening tombs - declaring that death has no lock on us, that, though we all die, Christ has ripped open the doors of death so that even death itself is not the locked down end of the story but the unlocked door to the life of the world to come.

In today’s gospel we see how the enduring power of Christ’s resurrection is made known to us in the power of the Holy Spirit.

On the cross Jesus breathed his last: St John tells us, ‘he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.’ His dying breath was the gift of life in the Holy Spirit. Jesus kissed the world with his Spirit. In this morning’s gospel reading, Jesus, raised from the dead, breathes the same Spirit upon his disciples: the Spirit blowing and transforming, as it has done since the very foundation of the world.

St John begins his Gospel with the phrase, ‘In the beginning…’ which connects us to the very act of Creation, since Genesis begins, ‘In the beginning…’ Then the Spirit of God moved across the waters; and now the same Spirit is breathed out by the Word of God from the beginning, Christ Jesus, in that upper room where terrified disciples huddled.

That room was locked down by fear, a fear unlocked by the Risen Christ declaring peace and breathing his Spirit. This theme runs through this morning’s gospel reading: the Spirit that breaks open and unlocks.

The Spirit breaks open even the hardest of human hearts. The Spirit that brought form and life to the creation brings form and life to the New Creation that is initiated by the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. In baptism the Spirit moves over the waters of baptism and draws men, women and children into participation in the New Creation: life in Christ.

The Holy Spirit enables us to see the truth of the Resurrection, something the Elizabethan poet Francis Kindlemarsh calls the, ‘lively life that deathless shall persevere’. This is the invitation of Eastertide, living the New Creation in the power of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit gives us the proclamation that, ‘Christ is risen’.

The Spirit breaks open Thomas’ closed eyes. We often ask why Thomas did not recognise and accept that Jesus was raised from the dead. Well, he was the one disciple not present to receive the Holy Spirit. The mediation of the Spirit through the witness of the Church, Christ’s disciples, opens the eyes of those not present to see.

The Spirit breaks open the words of scripture. John tells us that even what he has written is not the end; in fact scripture, the Bible, is a beginning. Christians are not people of a book, we are people of a person, Jesus Christ, himself described as the Word of God, but more than that, the Word made Flesh; God, bound, of his own freewill, into the very fibres of human existence and being.

The Spirit breaks open tombs to enable the resurrection of our bodies. No more are we locked in to the fear of death. The Christian hope is founded on the promise of life in its fullness in this world, and in the life of the world to come, which we proclaim in the Creed.

The Spirit breathes upon bread broken for us. What we receive in that breath now is the invitation to participate in his life, the New Creation, through his Body and Blood: bread and wine through which the Spirit moves to bring the presence of Christ to us now, in this place, ready to blow us back out through the doors of this Cathedral Church of the Holy Spirit, forgiven and forgiving, to be Good News to the whole creation.

The message of Easter, the message of today: allow the Spirit to unlock your heart, so that the Spirit may breathe upon you to invite you into the New Creation in Jesus Christ, our Crucified and Risen Lord. May our lives, as those sharing in the life of God, through the power of the Holy Spirit in union with Christ Jesus be blessed and a source of blessing to the world and people he made, and loves and redeems.