Sermon for the Second Sunday of Easter

Text: John 20:20
He (Jesus) showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy at seeing the Lord.

Hallmark of love

In the year 1300 King Edward I ordered that every gold or silver item should be analysed by the officers of the Goldsmiths' Guild in London before it could be offered for sale and each item was stamped to indicate that it had been tested.

These markings are called ‘hallmarks’. Hallmarks are etched or engraved into every item for two reasons.
Firstly, it is a guarantee of quality and purity. The item is in fact made of pure silver, an item that is not mixed with other, cheaper, materials.
Secondly, a hallmark tells you where the product comes from, when it was made, and in some cases, what individual made it.

In England, hallmarks are not only composed of letters or initials, often, and especially in the case of larger items, there is normally a crest incorporated into the markings. If there are 3 castles - the silver came from Edinburgh. The hallmark of Sheffield is a crown, the mark of Birmingham is an anchor, and the hallmark of the Australian Gold and Silver Guild is the head of a kangaroo.

From 1300 to this very day the practice of hallmarking has continued in one form or another. The genuine silver or gold article has a hallmark.

Late on Easter day the risen Jesus appeared to the despondent disciples. When they got over their initial surprise and fear, and as they ate and drank with the risen Jesus, they were convinced that this really was the same Jesus with whom they walked and talked as they travelled from place to place. They saw his hallmarks - the scars on his hands and his side and were filled with joy at seeing the Lord (John 20:20).

When the disciples told Thomas about their experience his first reaction was a normal one - he didn’t believe it. He would not believe until he first had some proof. He said, "Unless I see the scars of the nails in his hands and put my finger on those scars and my hand in his side, I will not believe" (John 20:25).

Well, we know how the story of Thomas ends.

Jesus appeared again and invites Thomas, "Put your finger here. See my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe." In my mind’s eye I can see the delight on Thomas’ face and the conviction in his voice when he said, "My Lord, and my God!"

The hallmarks of Jesus on his hands and in his side showed the disciples his genuine love for them. We see this love of Jesus in action as he comes to the doubting disciple to show him his scars and to prove to him that without a doubt, he was alive. Jesus doesn’t tell Thomas off for his lack of faith or give him a lecture about seeing and believing. He simply invites Thomas to witness for himself the scars in his hands and side.

The hallmarks on Jesus body convinced Thomas that this really was the man whom he knew to be crucified and buried in a tomb. The hallmarks on Jesus' hands told him this was not an impostor or a ghost or just a figment of his imagination - this was the genuine article. His fellow disciples were right - "The Lord has risen!" They had seen the marks on Jesus’ body, they rejoiced in Jesus' love and they went out and shared their faith with people all around the known world.

This morning when Megan was baptised you heard me say as I made the sign of the cross over her, "Megan, receive the mark (hallmark, if you like) of the cross as a sign that Jesus has died for you to make you one of his precious children".
This hallmark of a cross that Christ places on us, shows us that we are special in God's eyes.
This mark tells us that he sent his Son to die for us,
that our sins are forgiven and we are guaranteed a place in heaven;
that God loves us and that his promise to us to always be our helper and friend through life is genuine and true.

This mark is not visible like a wound or a scar as we heard about in the account of Jesus’ resurrection appearance to Thomas, but this hallmark in visible in other ways.

Quite simply our hallmark is a life that resembles his, a life of love. The hallmark that bears witness to the world that we are "in Christ" is our love for each other, our willingness, and indeed our active desire, to be at peace with each other, in harmony with each other despite all our differences of background, economics, interest, race, colour, class and creed. Like the hallmark on a precious metal shows its genuineness and its origins, this hallmark that proves to our family, our friends and the world our genuineness and origins – we belong to Christ and we show that by the way we love one another.

At a university there was a Christian Student Fellowship and members used to set up a table in the Student Union Building to promote faith in Jesus as Saviour.

One of the students loved to go to that table and make life hard for the "Christian suckers", as he called them. He sort of believed in a god but he didn't believe in Christ as his Saviour and he certainly had never gone to church. Just for fun he would go their table and ask them curly questions that he knew they couldn't answer.

A strange thing happened though - while he tormented them with his questions and made fun of their answers, they treated him as a friend even though he treated them as fanatics, as people out of touch with reality. They invited him to lunch, they bought him the lifeblood of all students – coffee - and he found out later that they even prayed for him.

He couldn't get over how patient they were with him,
they were kind to him,
they forgave him,
they answered his questions,
and they made him feel welcome.
In short they showed him something that he had never experienced before - Christian love. Within six months he became a Christian.

David Watson records this incident.

A young woman said, "All my life I've wanted to be wanted". She would not have listened to gospel words, and would not have read, through sheer lack of interest, a book about Christianity. But when she found herself surrounded by a small group of Christians who loved her and who loved one another in their love for the Lord Jesus, she knew that she had come home. A simple explanation was hardly necessary, apart from helping her to understand what she had already experienced (I Believe in Evangelism p 138).

These two people witnessed the hallmark of Christ's love in the lives of the Christians with whom they came into contact. Paul commends Corinthian Christians for the way they had demonstrated their faith in their daily lives. He says, "You are a letter from Christ … written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God" (2 Cor 3:2). The apostle is pointing out that the Christians of Corinth were like letters for everyone to read. Others could see the hallmark of Christ’s love through everything they did and said. They could see how God's love had changed their lives and were now demonstrating the same kind of love toward others.

Just as you find a hallmark on a piece of silverware and so can determine how genuine it is and where it is from, likewise the people of the world and our fellow members in the Church should be able to see our hallmark and recognise that we are genuine in our concern for others, and that the source of our love is Jesus himself. If we desire to communicate the love of the risen Lord we must concentrate on making love our aim. People must be able to see our hallmark.

Did those who visited us for the Easter services see our hallmark of love? I hope they did. This is just a small thing but has such a powerful impact. I can relate to you many incidences when people have expressed their appreciation for the acts of small and seemingly insignificant acts of love that they have experienced. In many cases we are never aware of the impact that our love, our patience, our friendliness, our generosity has on others. Be assured, people do notice.

A hallmark of Jesus’ love in this community is St Paul’s Aged Care Village.
It hasn’t been established to make money (if that was the case then we could do something far more profitable).
It hasn’t been set up because we feel sorry for elderly people. (Hardly a good motive for such a big enterprise. Feelings, like being sorry, easily dissolve when the going gets tough).
It hasn’t been created because we want to make a name for ourselves in the community. (There are easier and more glamorous ways to do this).
As we mark the 10th anniversary of the dedication of St Paul’s Aged Care Village, we are reminded that there can be no other motive than the love of Jesus – that love that led Jesus to his death because of our need for forgiveness, and that same love that reached out to Thomas who needed to be convinced that Jesus had risen from the dead.

Now it is with this same love that we are urged to meet the residents at their point of need –
the need for security,
the need for care,
the need for understanding,
the need for help in their health issues,
the need for comfort as they grieve the loss of friends and family members,
the need for reassurance and support as they face their own departure from this life,
the need to know Jesus as their Saviour and friend.

Today we thank God for the ministry of service to the elderly that he has provided, guided and supported over these past ten years. We thank God for the people who have served – the administration, the staff, the committees, the volunteers. We thank God for the people who have been served – the residents of St Paul’s Aged Care Village. We thank God for his grace and favour over the past ten years and look forward to sharing his love to those who belong to the St Paul’s Aged Care community in the future.

Jesus came to Thomas and showed him the marks – the scars – that he received because of his love for Thomas and for all people. May God grant that we too may do the same – show others the love of Christ in us as we show them love.

© Pastor Vince Gerhardy
18th April, 2004
E-mail: gerhardy65@hotmail.com

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