Monday, 9 April 2018

Readings, hymns and
sermon ideas for
Sunday 15 April 2018,
Third Sunday of Easter

Christ appearing to his disciples at the table, Duccio, ca 1308-1311

Patrick Comerford

Sunday next, 15 April 2018, is the Third Sunday of Easter. The readings in the Revised Common Lectionary are: Acts 3: 12-19, or Micah 4: 1-5; Psalm 4; I John 3: 1-7; Luke 24: 36b-48.

There is a link to the readings HERE.


If you were not a regular church-goer but went along on Easter morning and paid close attention, you may have gone home with two clear impressions:

● Easter is all about chocolate and fluffy little bunnies

● Easter is over once Easter Day is over.

In conversations over the past week, it appears that Easter is over for many of our priests, parishioners and parishes. Not because the children are back at school and most Easter Vestries have met. But the special Easter greetings, preface, blessings and dismissals are gone, we have stopped singing the Easter Anthems and Easter hymns, and the readings from the Acts of the Apostles have been forgotten.

Many of our clergy seem to have forgotten – and so people in our parishes so often are not taught – that Easter is not just for Easter Day. The Risen Christ is not placed back into the tomb nor is the stone rolled back across it after Easter Day is over.

This season is a celebration of our new creation in the Risen Christ, and is a full season of 50 days. The whole season is Easter, just as the twelve days of Christmas are Christmas. Easter, Ascension, and Pentecost do not form three seasons. This Easter Season celebrates the three dimensions of the Resurrection, the Ascension, and the sending of the Spirit.

These 50 days amount to one-seventh of the year, and they form our great ‘Sunday’ of the year. Just as Sunday is the first and the eighth day, so the ‘great Sunday’ of the 50 days of Easter begins with the day of the Resurrection and continues through eight Sundays, or an octave of Sundays, a ‘week of weeks.’

The readings and the collect of the day (the Third Sunday of Easter) are reminders that we are still in the Easter Season, that we ought still to be rejoicing that Christ is Risen! The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

This posting looks in particular at the reading from the Acts of the Apostles and the Gospel reading.

‘Jesus, whom you handed over and rejected in the presence of Pilate’ (Acts 3: 13) … Christ stands condemned before Pilate, a scene on Gaudí’s Sagrada Familia in Barcelona (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The First Reading (Acts 3: 12-19):

12 When Peter saw it, he addressed the people, ‘You Israelites, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we had made him walk? 13 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our ancestors has glorified his servant Jesus, whom you handed over and rejected in the presence of Pilate, though he had decided to release him. 14 But you rejected the Holy and Righteous One and asked to have a murderer given to you, 15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. 16 And by faith in his name, his name itself has made this man strong, whom you see and know; and the faith that is through Jesus has given him this perfect health in the presence of all of you.

17 ‘And now, friends, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. 18 In this way God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, that his Messiah would suffer. 19 Repent therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out.

This year [2018], the Easter season continues until 20 May, the Day of Pentecost. But to walk in the light of the Risen Christ is a call to us not just on Easter Day, not just on Sundays, but every day, for ever and ever. And this reading from the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 3: 12-19) shows how the Apostles lived out that life in the Risen Christ even after the Day of Pentecost.

Peter and John are on their way to the Temple when, at the gate to the Temple courtyard, they meet a man who has been lame from birth. This man, like Lazarus outside the gates of Dives (Luke 16: 19-31), or the blind man outside the gates of Jericho (Luke 18: 35-43), is forced outside the gates, outside the community, outside the social and religious community, because of his disability, marginalised and forced to beg to survive.

But Peter challenges custom and convention, and commands him ‘in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk’ (Acts 3: 6). The man jumps to his feet like a child filled with joy, walks into the Temple precincts with Peter and John, ‘leaping and praising God’ to the astonishment of all the people.

And this is where our story picks up this morning, with Peter preaching to the crowd, telling them it is not by the power of Peter and John that this man has jumped up and walked, but rather by God’s power, through Christ.

The titles of God that Peter uses (verse 13) are the same titles God identifies himself with to Moses in the burning bush (Exodus 3: 6). And this is the God who has ‘glorified’ or lifted up Christ. Peter says that only recently, at the crucifixion, people ‘acted in ignorance,’ yet God’s plan is accomplished, and there is a second chance.

The Resurrection is a second chance. And that is how it is also presented in the reading for Sunday morning.

‘They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence’ (Luke 24: 42-43) … fish on sale on a stall in Bologna (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Luke 24: 36b-48:

36 While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ 37 They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. 38 He said to them, ‘Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.’ 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’ 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate in their presence.

44 Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you – that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.’ 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46 and he said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.

The fish provide a literary devise for Saint Luke, marking beginnings and endings … fish on sale in a market in Thessaloniki (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Looking at the Gospel reading

You will recall how Christ calms the storm on the sea and the fear of the disciples earlier in this Gospel (Luke 8: 22-26). And the bread at Emmaus and the fish in the Upper Room recall the five loaves and the two fish that Christ feeds the multitude with in this Gospel (Luke 9: 12-19).

So, Saint Luke is using the beautiful literary form of enclosure in his Gospel. He is linking the incarnation with the resurrection, weaving them together in so many ways. God becomes human in Christ and identifies with us. Now God in Christ is inviting us to be like him, not just in some abstract, philosophical way, but in a real, incarnate way.

In my beginning is my end …
… In my end is my beginning. (TS Eliot, East Coker)

What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from … (TS Eliot, Little Gidding)

The Risen Christ has appeared to two disciples on the road to Emmaus and has shared bread with them (Luke 24: 13-32). Instead of staying on in Emmaus, these two return to Jerusalem, and they hear from ‘the eleven and their companions’ (verse 33) that Christ has also appeared to Peter. As they are talking, the Risen Christ comes and stands among them, and declares: ‘Peace be with you’ (verse 36).

The peace he proclaims is the peace the angels proclaim at the birth of Christ (Luke 2: 14). Luke begins and closes his Gospel with similar promises. The appearance of the incarnate Christ at the first Christmas and the appearance of the Risen Christ at the first Easter are heralded by angels proclaiming peace (Luke 2: 9-15; 24: 4-7).

And as the shepherds, once counted out, once left in the dark and in danger, outside the city and outside the community, socially and religiously, make haste and give praise to God for what they have heard, so too in our reading in Acts the man left in physical darkness and forced into the role of an outsider is soon ‘walking and leaping and praising God’ (Acts 3: 10).

The initial response to the incarnation was one of terror and fear (Luke 2: 9-10). The initial responses to the Resurrection are ones of fear and terror too, on the part of the women at the grave and on the part of the eleven hiding in the Upper Room (Luke 24: 5, 37).

With the horrors of Calvary still in their minds, it is no wonder the presence of the Risen Christ is too much to comprehend. Resurrection is not easy to grasp, and so there is this story is filled with a mixture of too much fear and too much joy for belief. Saint Luke gives us a powerful description of the disciples disbelieving for joy – ‘while in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering’ (Luke 24: 41).

But the Risen Christ calms both their fears and their disbelief by eating fish – the fact that it is broiled fish provides an earthy detail in an event beyond belief – and he begins to interpret, as he had earlier in the day on the road to Emmaus, all that is written about him in Scripture.

The incarnate Christ is the Risen Christ in flesh. Touch me and see (verse 39). Just as he takes the fish in his hands, we are invited to take hold of the Body of Christ. It is no accident that the Greek word here for fish, ἰχθύς (ichthus) is a common acronym in the Early Church for ησοῦς Χρειστός, Θεοῦ Υἱός, Σωτήρ (Iēsous Christos, Theou Yios, Sōtēr), ‘Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour.’

Christ feeds us spiritually and physically, and he comes to dine with us, not just in the past, not just on one Easter Day, but now, on this coming Sunday morning. And we are to be his witnesses, proclaiming his name to all nations, all ethnicities, all languages, across all divisions.

There is no room for division in the Body of Christ. Instead, there is ‘repentance and forgiveness’ (verse 47).

With a play on words in Latin, Tertullian, one of the patristic writers, wrote: Caro cardo salutis, the flesh is the hinge of salvation (Tertullian, De resurrectione mortuorum VIII, 6-7). The Paschal Mystery, the mystery of life, and our personal and collective participation in those mysteries, ‘hinges’ on the flesh. ‘Handle me,’ says the Risen Christ to the startled disciples. ‘See my hands and feet, that it is I myself.’ If touching him does not convince them, his asking for food does. He eats, this friend who came among them eating and drinking, ‘a glutton and drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners’ (Matthew 11: 19), who changed in his body this innermost reality of our flesh.

On the great day of the Resurrection, Saint Luke portrays the Risen Christ doing precisely what Christ does before the Crucifixion: he eats with us, he dispels fear, he proclaims peace, especially to those caught up in spirals of violence from which they cannot escape, he opens the meaning of the Scriptures to those who listen – just as he does at the very beginning of his public ministry when he opens the scroll of the Prophet Isaiah in the in the synagogue in Nazareth (Luke 4: 16-19).

It is he who tells us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick, attend to the stranger, uncover the structures that mask injustice and challenge the institutions that perpetuate suffering. Now, on the Easter morn, he commissions us to be his witnesses (Luke 24: 47-48). We are to do the same.

Today the scripture has been fulfilled in our hearing, every time we eat with him, proclaim his word and invite the world into the kingdom.

Today is the day to do that. Today is the day of salvation, the glorious day of the Lord, the day of Resurrection, the day of the coming of God’s kingdom.

Today is the day of resurrection, of the in-breaking of God’s kingdom, and no regrets of yesterday or anxieties about tomorrow should keep us from it. Christ is Risen!

Liturgical Resources:

Liturgical Colour: White.

The Greeting (from Easter Day until Pentecost):

Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Penitential Kyries:

Lord God,
you raised your Son from the dead.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Lord Jesus,
through you we are more than conquerors.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Holy Spirit,
you help us in our weakness.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

The Collect of the Day (Easter III):

Almighty Father,
who in your great mercy gladdened the disciples
with the sight of the risen Lord:
Give us such knowledge of his presence with us,
that we may be strengthened
and sustained by his risen life
and serve you continually in righteousness and truth;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Introduction to the Peace:

The risen Christ came and stood among his disciples and said, Peace be with you. Then were they glad when they saw the Lord. (John 20: 19, 20).


Above all we praise you
for the glorious resurrection of your Son
Jesus Christ our Lord,
the true paschal lamb who was sacrificed for us;
by dying he destroyed our death;
by rising he restored our life:

Post Communion Prayer:

Living God,
your Son made himself known to his disciples
in the breaking of bread.
Open the eyes of our faith,
that we may see him in all his redeeming work;
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.


The God of peace,
who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus
that great shepherd of the sheep,
through the blood of the eternal covenant,
make you perfect in every good work to do his will,
working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight:


God the Father,
by whose glory Christ was raised from the dead,
raise you up to walk with him in the newness of his risen life:

Dismissal: (from Easter Day to Pentecost):

Go in the peace of the Risen Christ. Alleluia! Alleluia!
Thanks be to God. Alleluia! Alleluia!

Christ is Risen ... a Resurrection scene in a stained-glass window in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Suggested Hymns:

The hymns suggested for the Third Sunday of Easter (Year B), in Sing to the Word (2000), edited by Bishop Edward Darling, include:

Acts 3: 12-19:

381, God has spoken – by his prophets
551, How can we sing with joy to God
99, Jesus, the name high over all
231, My song is love unknown
104, O for a thousand tongues to sing
234, O Love divine, what hast thou done?
288, Thine be the glory, risen, conquering Son
117, To the name of our salvation

Micah 4: 1-5 [6-9]:

118, Behold the mountain of the Lord
501, Christ is the world’s true light
263, Crown him with many crowns

Psalm 4:

63, All praise to thee, my God, this night
652, Lead us, heavenly Father, lead us
620, O Lord, hear my prayer

I John 3: 1-7:

516, Belovèd, let us love: love is of God
92, How sweet the name of Jesus sounds
226, It is a thing most wonderful
7, My God, how wonderful thou art
214, O Love, how deep, how broad, how high

Luke 24: 36b-48:

256, Christ is risen as he said
263, Crown him with many crowns
264, Finished the strife of battle now
219, From heav’n you came, helpless babe
338, Jesus, stand among us
424, Jesus, stand among us at the meeting of our lives
104, O for a thousand tongues to sing
306, O Spirit of the living God
505, Peace be to this congregation
286, The strife is o’er, the battle done

Scripture quotations are taken from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA, and are used by permission. All rights reserved.

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