SERMON FOR EASTER OCTAVE 2021
PEACE BE UNTO YOU.
Now let us in heart and mind enter the upper room…the scene of the Last Supper and the first Eucharist….where the followers of Christ gathered on the day of Pentecost, and continued to gather there for Holy Communion, prayer and teaching each Lord’s Day, from then on. This is probably where the Apostles held their first council, opening the way for Gentiles—people of any national or racial background– to become full-fledged members of the Christian Church.
But now they gathered in fear. The Roman officials and the Temple hierarchy were after them, in the aftermath of the crucifixion, and especially now that rumours were moving with lightning speed around the city, about an empty tomb, and the astonishing report that Jesus had risen from the dead.
In that tense atmosphere Our Lord suddenly came among them. ‘Peace be unto you,’ he said, and that is always God’s blessing, the assurance that he understands and is sympathetic to his people.
Jesus reaches out to calm our unquiet hearts; peace that will bring us close to our Heavenly Father once more.
Before Jesus spoke those words, there would have been turmoil and anguish at their first sight of the master: in that little gathering was confusion, worry, and for some of them, a deep sense of guilt, because they had let down their ord.
They looked into his eyes, and knew how well aware he was that they had forsaken him and fled, and that Peter—just as the Lord had predicted—sat in the high priest’s courtyard and denied him.
But instead of recrimination, instead of righteous wrath, he reached out to them with peace, comforting them for the wounds that they bore…not the horrible evidence of suffering which they could see hideously etched on his hands, nor the spear’s print in his side. instead, these were the psychic wounds that ordinary men endure, when they are caught up in tragic and terrifying events, when all their certainties seem to have failed them, when they think they might even be tortured, and suppose that they have lost everything.
Now these emotions and bad memories were overwhelmed by the presence of Jesus, and his peace enfolded them like a mantle. They knew calm and certainty again, to a degree that they had never really known before….which would grow from this fulfillment of Jesus’s prophecy of his resurrection, on to Pentecost.
In the peace that Jesus had created in that room, he spoke so simply in words that they would never forget. But first he did something totally unexpected. he quietly breathed on each of them as they stood there in silence.
We can only imagine this scene. Jesus moved from man to man, and before each of them he stopped, and very solemnly exhaled. He was the one who had breathed life into creation. We, who are familiar with the techniques of resuscitation, by which one person’s breath can be transferred to another, and rouse the breath within them, will therefore understand—at least to some extent—how Jesus, the Son of God, could supernaturally transfer the breath of new and eternal life into his beloved apostles.
He had called them earlier from their ordinary occupations. He had trained them and sent them on missionary tours. Now he ordained them, not with hands, as they would ordain others, but in this most personal way.
He did not send them forth merely as messengers. ‘Receive the Holy Ghost.’ He was conferring authority on them now. Spiritual power would come at Whitsuntide.
Then he uttered words that made their knees weaken, not now with fear, but with awe. ‘Whose sins you remit, they are remitted unto them. whose sins you retain they are retained.’ Authority over the church, the right to absolve sin, the responsibility for the salvation of souls, were solemnly given to them in that instant.
He had spoken of this long before, but they had not fully understood. now they knew; what Jesus had previously told them, that he would not stay on earth. The ministry was now up to them; but just as he had promised on Maundy Thursday, the Holy Ghost, the Comforter, would be with them.
Jesus had spoken about the keys of the kingdom before. In Roman Catholic doctrine this came to mean the primacy of Peter. But in the early centuries of the church such great leaders as St Cyprian understood that this authority had passed to all the Apostles, and so do we believe. St Peter was not capable of taking over the full leadership, especially after he had denied his Lord. But now, he was first among equals, just as, five hundred years later, St Gregory the Great, himself a Pope, would declare the same, and confer it upon, the Patriarch of Constantinople.
This short gospel is filled with anticipation of the future of the one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. For centuries this developed from the little church in Rome, led by Saint Peter. Later God would lead to the fulfilment of a wider vision of the church. Although this caused conflict and disillusion, in the long run there has come to be more understanding and mutual acceptance of every Christian Church body.
We are justified in thinking that we are on the threshold of a great new age….a coming together of historic church traditions, of Christians surrounded by an increasingly hostile world. So in our time, Christ comes into our midst spiritually, with the blessing of peace, bringing an increasing reconciliation to us with our fellow Christians, just as he has first reconciled us to the Father.
The Apostles continued to have their differences, as we have. Think of St Peter and St Paul: at once devoted to Christ’s ministry and uncomfortable because of what had happened in the past. But they worked together under the banner of Christ, to spread to “the faith once delivered to the saints” to many parts of the world “faith in God the Father, faith in God the Son, and then faith in the Holy Ghost. Faith that we are saved by the blood of Jesus on the cross. Given new life through his Resurrection, united in the Church, his own Spiritual Body, all receiving the Communion that he had begun, and called to spread the good news of salvation.
The Apostles from the start were armed with the three witnesses of which the Apostle John speaks in the Epistle. The Water of Baptism, the living water, as water had flowed from his crucified body. The Blood, his own blood, sacrificed with such love. and then the Spirit. With these three remarkable signs givent o his faithful people, the seed of the Church was able to flower and spread, bringing Christ’s Peace to faithful souls all over the world.
You and I, who have received the cleansing, life-quickening waters of baptism, will always have our hearts quietened by his peace, and our common life nourished by his sacramental body and blood. Currently, we are isolated from the full life of the Upper Room, but it serves to make us realise just how vital and valuable they are, so we may more deeply and faithfully fulfill our lives as Children of God.
So here we are, with all our limitations and need to grow in grace: still we have the witness of Christ in ourselves. and as Jesus said, May peace be with you
O Risen Lord, we pray, may we serve thee in purity of living and in our dedication to the truth, so thou shalt be more and more glorified in us, so that thy Church may grow in faithfulness to thee, that the day will come when
The earth shall be filled with the Glory of God, as the waters cover the sea. Amen.
Today we have so many special memories of Prince Philip: meeting him accidentally outside St Paul’s Cathedral, as he complained about some rubbish left there! We then overheard a conversation in which it was mentioned that he would be speaking at the cathedral service for some special occasion. We hurried over and were about the last of those admitted. He gave a moving address.
A year or two later by chance we passed him in the main corridor of a Regina hotel (his visit had not yet been announced, so that was quite a surprise). More years passed, then in Victoria we remember he and the Queen and Prince Edward came to Beacon Hill Park. The Duke, as he now was, kept picking up little kiddies and taking them to the Queen (no doubt so their families would have that special memory). Then we “met” him when he and the Queen greeted us and others who had performed for them at a concert in Regina. These were just little moments out of his long and busy life (30 visits to Canada alone) but memorable for us. Too bad he did not live for that century birthday, but he certainly came close.
We have known some young people who were awarded the Duke of Edinburgh Award for their public service. What a grand idea that was, and how it evidently spurred on many to achieve their highest aspirations. He had made the most of his love of the sea, and had a notable record as a Naval officer during World War II. There had even been time spent in California that had been mentioned in our local newspaper.
We grew up Anglican after all, and that gave us a special interest in the Royal Family. My mother set the alarm so that we could wake in the wee small hours for the radio broadcast of the Royal Wedding. When I was a university student our Canterbury Club rented a TV, still somewhat of a rarity, so that we could go into the parish hall when possible to view at least part of the Coronation ceremonies.
We have enjoyed some of the anecdotes about him, including the recollections of a former Canadian Governor-General, about a trip into the Scottish Highlands for a barbecue with the Queen and the Prince, and the shared laughter at the anecdotes which were traded between them and the Royal couple en route to the picnic spot.
You too may have special memories of some encounter with the Prince. At the very least we all have known of his doings, including the reclamation of his former warship that has figured in his story.
May he rest in peace and rise in glory.
Fr Stan is the spiritual mentor of Mr Berkeley Stewart, who is a member of the congregation at All Saints.
With his permission, Berkeley has been forwarding us Fr Stan’s sermons. They are published here, as well as a brief biography of this remarkable priest:
The Rev. Canon Stanley R. Sinclair
The Rev. Canon Stanley R. Sinclair of Church of Our Saviour, Victoria, was born in 1931 in Ross, California, across the north bay from San Francisco. In the coming years his family lived in the Sierra Mountains and later in the Napa Valley. At an early age he felt called to the ministry and after graduating from the University of California at Berkeley in 1956 he fulfilled his vow and entered the Church Divinity School of the Pacific, also in Berkeley, under the authority of the Bishop of San Joaquin (the central valley diocese of the Episcopal Church in California).
In December of 1953 he married Sonja Swinnerton von Savoye in the historic church of St James’, Sonora, which was “family church” to both the Sinclairs and the von Savoyes. During these years he was employed at the University Library and he graduated as Master of Divinity Cum Laude in 1956. He was ordained Deacon in the family’s parish church in Sonora, CA, and later priest as Curate in St John the Evangelist, Stockton, California.
In the Stockton years Sonja and Father Stan became the adoptive parents of baby Erik Alexander von Savoye Sinclair, and of Grace Amy and Sarah Mary-Elizabeth, the two girls who had come to them as foster children—all within one year!
The following decades took the Sinclairs to various parish assignments, which included new fledgling congregations, fading parishes in need of a “lift,” from less than a hundred faithful up to 1300 in one parish! It involved building churches, starting two parochial schools, and working with many wonderful people, both clergy and laity; and finally moving all the way to Canada. After 15 years in Victoria and Calgary, since 1991, Father Stan has served as rector successively of two churches in Victoria. Although now officially retired, he is still serving as best he can at the age of 89.
Although now unable to travel, both for reasons of the pandemic and old age, the Sinclairs have previously enjoyed spending a good deal of time both in their ancestral homeland of Scotland and seeing many parts of the United States, Canada, and on the continent of Europe.
It has been a full life, with many sorrows but also many joys.