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We have funny names for things in the church. The Sunday after Easter Day is traditionally called “Low Sunday.” It’s supposed to be a day that reflects a “somewhat less intense celebration” after all of the hype and excitement of Resurrection Sunday. 

There certainly was a lot of hype here at St Clement’s last Sunday. 125 people in church! Cam and Conrad had to put out extra chairs. About a dozen people attended St Clement’s for the first time, including a couple of families where Grandma had come to visit and suggested trying out the local church for Easter. Gotta love grandmothers!

This Sunday, there maybe aren’t 125 people in church. Anyone here at St Clement’s for the first time today? In the Bible readings appointed for this Sunday, there’s quite a lot of activity, despite what we might expect to be a lull after the initial shock of learning that Jesus, the one who was followed as saviour and Lord, who was crucified, has risen from the dead. 

In the book of Acts, the people first called Christians are on the move: folks from different tribes and nations pool their money and possessions; the word that Jesus is risen is out; in a subversive act, land is sold—the earth freeing up financial resources to flatten systems of oppression where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. 

In the psalm appointed for today, a mountain shows itself to be teacher: instructing the human kin in what it means to dwell together in unity. A beautiful illustration in the psalm of water pooling at the top of the Hermon mountain range in what is today Israel-occupied territory. The water pools at the top and then spills over filling the parched land below. 

Then, in a letter and a gospel from the Johannine community, we see the earth assuming the burden of proof in the case for Jesus in the famous doubting Thomas story. Where humans fail to believe, light and darkness step up to the witness stand—showing Jesus to be who he said he was, beyond a reasonable doubt. 

It’s our second reading and the gospel—the writings from John’s house—that I’d like to focus on for my sermon this morning, as we dig into a bit of Bible Study for this Low Sunday.

In the passage from the first letter of John, we see a number of allusions to ‘doubting Thomas.’ The writer of the first letter of John speaks of “what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands,” reminiscent of Thomas placing his finger in the resurrected Jesus’ side and touching his hands. 

Both the First Letter of John and the Gospel of John pull on language from the creation story in Genesis 1. In First John, we hear “God is light and in him there is no darkness at all.” In the Gospel of John, Jesus breathes on the disciples and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” 

Here, references to Genesis 1:1-3, “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light.” 

As we’re listening to these passages, we’re supposed to be thinking that something new is being made, something creative and life-giving is afoot.

In the gospel of John, we’re told that “it was evening on that day, the first day of the week” and that “the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews.” Modern English translations have “for fear of the Jewish leaders” or “for fear of the religious authorities.” The Jews refers to the religious leaders who had colluded with the Roman authorities to stamp out any opposition to the state. It does not refer to all Jews, or to the Jewish religion more broadly. 

“The first day of the week” is almost certainly a reference to the first day of creation in Genesis 1. The resurrected Jesus appears as the earth appeared; the earth is the pattern after which humanity is created and the pattern after which the Resurrected Jesus makes himself known to his disciples.  

As we said earlier, we meet Doubting Thomas in today’s gospel reading. Thomas the one called “Twin.” Thomas is called “the Twin” in two other places in the Gospel of John; the one I think is always important to point out is in John 11:16. Thomas says to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” There is sometimes a temptation to question Thomas’ commitment to Jesus because of the doubt he expresses at Jesus’ resurrection. This line from earlier in the story, though, when Thomas suggests to his friends that they follow Jesus even unto death is a good reminder that Thomas’ faith in Jesus includes doubt alongside unwavering commitment. It’s possible in life to have both. 

Given the links to the Genesis 1 Creation story in John’s gospel, we might read Thomas’ refusal to believe as Thomas not yet being able to see “that it was good” as God saw “that it was good” throughout the six days of creation. Thomas is invited to “put his hands to” Jesus as God put his [sic] hands to creation. When Thomas touches Jesus’ side and believes, he sees “that it was very good.”  

Today is Low Sunday. Perhaps this brief overview of the scripture readings will remind us that in those early days following Jesus’ resurrection, the mood, the atmosphere amongst Jesus’ followers was anything but “low.” It was charged with questioning, with doubt, belief, with planning and organising, mobilising and sharing the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

This year, on Low Sunday, we have the privilege of bidding farewell to Cam and Conrad, our vergers for the past two years here at St Clement’s. Throughout Cam and Conrad’s time here, the mood, the atmosphere in our church has been charged, at times with questioning and doubt, and then with belief, with planning and organising, mobilising and a whole lot of sharing the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

I don’t think I really believed that reconciliation between First Nations and the Anglican Church was possible before Cam and Conrad came to live at St Clement’s. I have seen it now; heard it and touched it with my own two hands. Cam and Conrad have been faithful parishioners and full members of St Clement’s. In what has grown to be a mutual partnership, this community has shown itself to be believers, witnesses to the reconciling love of the risen Christ. 

Cam and Conrad, thank you for sharing God’s peace in this place: thank you for dealing kindly with suspicious and at times aggressive neighbours. Thank you for smudging and leading us in prayers in the four directions. Thank you for cooking Bannock, for practising Indigenous ceremonies that in the past, the Anglican Church had attempted to rid this land of.

Thank you for turning the rental of our building into ministry—an opportunity for evangelism. Thank you for organising the furnace room. Thank you for planting an Indigenous healing garden and for all of the times you scooped water from the creek for baptism.


A blessing for Cam and Conrad

This is a prayer of the seven directions by Jose Hobday:

We begin facing EAST- This is where the sun comes up, and so the direction of new beginnings, hope, promise, and potential. Pray that you may be open to receiving these gifts this day.

We turn SOUTH - This is the direction of warmth, growth, fertility—also known as creativity and productivity. In addition, this direction represents faith, trust, and faithfulness in relationships. Pray for these things this day.

We turn WEST - This is the direction where the sun goes down. Thus, it is the direction of rest, of our dream lives, and of closure and endings that need to take place in order for there to be new beginnings. Pray for these things this day.

We turn NORTH - This is the direction of the cold, of winds, of strength, courage, fortitude, might, single-mindedness, focus, clarity and purpose. Pray for these things this day.

We turn back to the EAST - and turn UPWARD. This is the direction of Father Sky. Pray that your heart, mind, soul, and spirit will not forget to look upward this day, to the One who is so much greater than we are.

We turn DOWNWARD - and touch our Mother, the earth. Pray that everything you do this day will be in honor and reverence of our Mother Earth.

We turn INWARD- Place your hand on your heart and pray that all that you do this day will be true to the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit who dwells within you.

Finally, Cam and Conrad, we offer this prayer translated by the Lakota Sioux Chief Yellow Lark in 1887:

Oh, Great Spirit,

Whose voice I hear in the winds and whose breath gives life to all the world.

Hear me! I need your strength and wisdom.

Let me walk in beauty, and make my eyes ever hold the red and purple sunset.

Make my hands respect the things you have made and my ears sharp to hear your voice.

Make me wise so that I may understand the things you have taught my people.

Let me learn the lessons you have hidden in every leaf and rock.

Help me remain calm and strong in the face of all that comes towards me.

Help me find compassion without empathy overwhelming me.

I seek strength, not to be greater than my brother, but to fight my greatest enemy: myself.

Make me always ready to come to you with clean hands and straight eyes.

So when life fades, as the fading sunset, my spirit may come to you without shame.



Works referenced:

Image: Jenn Ashton

Helen Dunn, “Easter 2: Burden of Proof” in Wild Lectionary (07 April 2024). Accessed online.