An Epistle for Eastertide By The Rev’d Neil Bunker
The Gospel Reading for the First Sunday after Easter commonly called Low Sunday (John 20: 19-23) describes how on the evening of the Day of Resurrection, the Disciples were gathered in a place with the door shut out of fear and how Jesus came and stood among them and gave his gift of peace. Jesus shows them his hands and his side, to which the Disciples respond with gladness. The second greeting of peace is followed by a commission in which the Disciples are sent out, but so as they don’t go out under their own strength, Jesus breaths on them and gives them the Holy Spirit. As we contemplate these events, there are three reflections that I would like to share with you.
First of all, Jesus was able to stand in the midst of his Disciples, even though the door of the place where they were gathered was shut. Every day when I celebrate the Eucharist, I always conclude with the Blessing, but make the sign of the Cross towards a wall, in the room where the celebration takes place. The reason for this, is that it is my personal prayer and intention, that God will grant his Blessing to the places where I both worship and exercise Priestly Ministry in the course of my daily life, namely Central London and in the church and borough close to the River Thames, between central London and where I live. So rather than stand before the Altar in St Giles, my prayer is that our Lord will bless the parish of St Giles from afar, knowing that his gift of Blessing and presence is not confined to a particular room or place surrounded by walls and a close door.
Secondly, Jesus came and stood in their midst. In these troubled and difficult tiles, is there a place for Jesus to stand in our midst and to give to us his gift of peace? It is very easy to become overtaken by the sudden changes that have taken place, but the Disciples of Jesus had also experienced sudden changes and loss. They were also part of a community and not in the room individually, on their own. We too at St Giles are part of a community, wherever we are spending most of our time, either at home, in hospital or at a place of work. It is helpful in the context of wherever we are, to contemplate Jesus coming and standing amongst his disciples and saying “peace be with you” and to picture St Giles, realising that we are not on our own, but we are part of a community.
Thirdly, Jesus wanted his Disciples to know that they were not on their own, which is why he breathed upon them and prayed “Receive the Holy Spirit”. It is those same words of prayer that I believe he speaks to us during the Easter season and beyond. The giving of the Holy Spirit was followed by a Commission, enabling the Disciples to go forward into whatever our Lord wants us to do next, reminding ourselves that in our journey, we will not be on our own, but his abiding presence in and through the Holy Spirit will go with us.
May God Bless you this Eastertide and beyond.
Rev’d Neil Bunker