Second Sunday of Easter - Choral Eucharist

  • Preacher

    Dean - The Very Reverend Andrew Nunn

  • Readings

    Acts 4.32-35; 1 John 1.1-2.2; John 20.19-31

It was 160 years ago, in 1861, that Prince Albert, the beloved husband and consort of Queen Victoria died at Windsor Castle


They’d only been married for 21 years – but he was her life.  When Prince Philip died on Friday all these years later, but in the same place, he and the Queen had been married for 73 years.  In the statement put out by the Palace he was described as the Queen’s beloved husband.  We can only imagine how Her Majesty is feeling.

A few year’s before Prince Albert died, the then Poet Laureate, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, had published a poem entitled ‘In Memoriam A.H.H.’. It’s reported that in her loss the Queen found it a great comfort.  The poem includes those well known lines


I hold it true, whate'er befall;
I feel it, when I sorrow most;
'Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.


Each of us who have loved someone and lost someone know that that is true.  Death is so painful for the ones that are left, separation is such a blow that we might ask ourselves why on earth we would love someone only to be left, only to be hurt by their leaving us.  And then we remember, and Tennyson’s words ring so true for us


'Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.


‘To love and to cherish till death us do part’– it doesn’t matter whether your a monarch or a commoner, a prince or a pauper in this country, the words are the same.  Whatever happens in reality to marriages, to relationships, the intention at that point of beginning is the same, ‘till death us do part’.  As often as I’ve led couples in those vows I’ve never ceased to be struck by the enormity of what we promise to one another, and the pain we’re therefore committing ourselves to. 


'Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.


Today is the Octave Day of Easter, the eighth day, the great recapitulation of the joy we felt and shared a week ago.  The disciples had been bereft.  They’d left everything, homes and jobs, their nets, their boats, their seat at the place of custom, their dreams, their loves, they’d left everything as they responded to the call to ‘follow me’ and had embarked on a turbulent love affair with Jesus.  This was an all or nothing way of life, an all or nothing relationship.  He asked for everything and they gave it to him.

So when on Good Friday they watched in horror – from a distance - as he was nailed like a common criminal to the wood of the cross and his life blood ebbed away, they were heart broken.  As Mary would say through her tears in the garden


‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’


The pain and the passion are raw.

And then, on this roller-coaster ride of emotions, the news was brought to them that he was alive.  But as we heard in the Gospel for today, not all of them believed, not all of them saw, not all of them could get beyond the horror of loss.  Thomas had yet to be convinced.

In fact it’s here, in the place of doubt, that Tennyson begins his poem ‘In Memoriam’, here in the Upper Room with the disciple who has the courage to give voice to his doubts, the courage to demand to see, and touch, the courage to demand to know. Tennyson begins


Strong Son of God, immortal Love,
Whom we, that have not seen thy face,
By faith, and faith alone, embrace,
Believing where we cannot prove;


We have but faith: we cannot know;
For knowledge is of things we see
And yet we trust it comes from thee,
A beam in darkness: let it grow.


‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.’


It was on this day, eight days later, on this Octave day of Easter, that Thomas saw and believed and made that greatest of professions of faith and love ‘‘My Lord and my God!’

Many of us have the courage to give voice to our doubts.  Doubt is not the opposite of faith; the opposite of faith is certainty.  ‘By faith, and faith alone, embrace, Believing where we cannot prove’ writes Tennyson.  Faith is so powerful; it is what drives the church forward. 

In the First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles we heard a description of something of the life of the early church, of the way in which those first people of faith, those first believers in the resurrection of Jesus began to model, to shape their lives.  They became people of testimony, testifying to the resurrection of Jesus in what they said but also testifying in what they did, how they lived, how they had everything in common and how there was no one needy among them.  ‘A beam in darkness’ the light of Christ shining into the world.

It was not Prince Philip’s way to want us to canonize him in death.  His mother may be regarded as a modern day saint and celebrated as such in parts of the church, but he would not want that for himself.  As a nation we’ll be marking his death as he wanted, with quiet dignity.  But what we can say of him is that his actions and his passions, his enthusiasm and his honesty could be a light in the darkness. 

To live out of the love that we have for Jesus is what each of us is called to do, to be salt and light, to live by faith and not by sight, to be disciples who are prepared to leave all things behind and to follow Christ, that is our calling as much as it was the calling of those first disciples. 

In a moment three of our young people, Albert, Carla and Cecilia, are going to be admitted to Communion with us, to be part of our community, at the table, at the altar, sharing the bread, sharing the life of Jesus.  But before they do they’ll be invited to say yes to this statement

You love God, you follow Jesus, and you live the Christian life.

We might add ‘till death us do part’.  They make that commitment and we today can reaffirm it for ourselves.

It’s the way we live, the way we love, a path that will bring pain, a path that will know loss.  It’s the life that sustains the greatest and the least, for in the kingdom of God we are all children, all equal, prince and pauper, for Jesus is Lord of all and brother of all, and with one bread he feeds us now, young and old, male and female, black and white, gay and straight and every non-binary way that makes us who we are, and with one equal love he will receive us into his eternity to live his life for ever.