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'Alleluia is our song'

Fr Dennis Smith, Sunday, 10th April, 2016

The 21st chapter of St John from which we’ve just heard today’s Gospel contains in microcosmic form most of the elements of the previous narratives. We are back in Galilee, with Peter and his friends going fishing. Jesus reveals himself as he has done throughout. He feeds them by the lake. He offers forgiveness, challenge and commission.

Only now, instead of the drama moving forward inexorably to Calvary and Easter, it moves out from there. The fishing, the feeding, the forgiveness and the challenge are all shot though with a sense of something accomplished, now to be worked out, something achieved that must now be implemented, something which Jesus has done which must now sweep Peter and the rest along in the tidal wave of new life, new possibilities.

The scene is full of a sense of freshness and wonder: sunrise, lake and breakfast picnic hint at the transformation of creation itself. The whole story is pervaded with this sense of transformation. “None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord.”  Jesus is the same, yet somehow different. He is described as a man among men, yet he has somehow been changed.

The resurrection is a thoroughly Jewish belief, yet nothing in Judaism had prepared the disciples for this. The transformation spreads through the scene. Fishing, after a night of hard and fruitless work, becomes a sudden morning surprise. The consideration Peter needed, but no doubt dreaded, transformed his denials into stumbling affirmations of love and loyalty, with Jesus’ questions themselves being tuned into commissions: feed my lambs, tend my sheep, feed my sheep.

Finally, the transformation of vocation itself, no longer is Peter to be Jesus’ blustering right-hand man, ready (so he thought) to die for Jesus out of a sense of pride and self-importance; rather, because Jesus has laid down his life for Peter, Peter will in turn glorify God by his own humbling martyrdom.

What more natural, what more utterly challenging, than the simple command, “Follow me?”. Everything is different in the light of Easter, even God. “To him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honour and glory and might.”

Jewish monotheistic worship has been transformed from within, so that the one God is now known in Jesus of the Lamb and his victory.

In today’s New Testament reading from the Book of Acts we are given the insight into seeing that question that has faced the world since Easter, is the question that confronted Paul on the road to Damascus: granted that a new, transforming reality is let loose in the world, are we prepared to join in the song? And what song is that? The song is that given us by the fourth century Bishop Augustine, that we, Christ’s followers, are an Easter people and that Alleluia is our song.

In a few minutes time young George will come to the font, and in his being anointed with oil and receiving the water of Baptism, he will, although unconsciously, have taken the first and important step of Christian discipleship. He will, through the symbolism of oil and water and the affirmations and declarations of his parents and God parents, have become like us, one of God’s Easter people singing as we do in these Great Forty Days of Eastertide “Alleluia”. For Christ has indeed risen, has broken the powers of death and hell and now invites us his followers to share, taste and enjoy the triumphant victory of his new risen life.
Alleluia Christ is risen; he is risen indeed, Alleluia.

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