Worship for April 19, 2020 Second Sunday of Easter

Prayer of the Day: Almighty and eternal God, the strength of those who believe and the hope of those who doubt, may we, who have not seen, have faith in you and receive the fullness of Christ’s blessing, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Acts 2:14a, 22-32:Paul Addresses the Crowd

But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them. “You that are Israelites, listen to what I have to say: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through him among you, as you yourselves know–this man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law. But God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power.

 For David says concerning him, ‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand so that I will not be shaken, therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; moreover my flesh will live in hope. For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One experience corruption. You have made known to me the ways of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.;

“Fellow Israelites, I may say to you confidently of our ancestor David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Since he was a prophet, he knew that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would put one of his descendants on his throne. Foreseeing this, David spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, saying, ‘He was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh experience corruption.’ This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses.”

Psalm 16: Song of Trust and Security in God

Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuge. I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord, I have no good apart from you.” As for the holy ones in the land, they are the noble, in whom is all my delight. Those who choose another god multiply their sorrows, their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their names upon my lips. The LORD is  my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; I have a goodly heritage. I bless the LORD who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me, I keep the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices; my body also rests secure. For you do not give me up to Sheol, or let your faithful one see the Pit. You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

1Peter 1:3-9: A Living Hope

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith–being more precious than gold that, though prishable, is tested by fire–may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

John 20:19-31: Jesus Appears to the Disciples, Jesus and Thomas and The Purpose of This Book

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Judeans, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them, if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hands in his side, I will not believe.” A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

Sermon:

Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Today’s Gospel reading is a continuation of last Sunday’s Easter reading. The disciples have been told that Jesus has been raised from the dead, but they’re still frightened–so scared that they are hiding behind locked doors. And no one can blame them. They had just witnessed the one they claimed to be the Messiah betrayed, arrested, convicted and then brutally executed. They were afraid because the next step of the authorities would be to round up Jesus’ followers and do the same to them. But then Jesus appears on the scene and their fear falls away and is replaced with joy.

This is the way we assume faith should work. We have doubts and questions, but then God arrives and these all fall away and are replaced with joy and wonder and faith. But that’s not what happens with Thomas. He has doubts and questions. He disbelieves and isn’t satisfied with what the other discipes tell him. He wants to see for himself. And we can’t blame him. He saw everything that had happened to Jesus and knew that Jesus was dead. The only other people he had seen raised from the dead had been raised by Jesus. But Jesus was sealed in a tomb. There are more Thomases than we realize in our world today. Some of us may have been a Thomas at some point in our lives.

Thomas does come to believe. He sees Jesus for himself. After that experience he believes the witness of the other disciples and makes the most profound confession of faith about Jesus contained in the New Testament, calling Jesus, “my Lord and my God.” 

But all of that comes after Thomas has a chance to voice his doubt. And sometimes faith is like that–it needs doubts and questions asked and answered to be vibrant. Otherwise, faith might simply be confused with the repetition of the faith statements of others. But vibrant faith can come from the freedom to question, to wonder, to doubt. But not for everyone. For some faith comes more easily, but for others it’s harder. While John may have included this story of Jesus and Thomas in his Gospel to affirm the faith of his community; a group of people who “had not seen yet believed,” but I also think that it’s important to make room for a little doubt.

But if we look seriously at this story, we should have some doubts. Think about what we’re confessing. We confess that the Creator of all not only knows that we exist, but cares deeply for us–our hopes and dreams, our ups and downs. We confess that God became one of us, lived as one of us experiencing everything that we experience, died as one of us, and was raised from the dead never to die again! This confession is quite literally in-credible; not believable. And yet we come to believe.

For some of us it’s easy. For others it’s more difficult. For some of us it’s a mixture of both. For some, hearing the testimony of Scripture is enough. For others we need something more personal and direct. Both are acceptable ways to belief. It’s okay to have questions–notice that Jesus answered Thomas’ questions before Thomas could even ask them. Questions, and wonder and doubt are signs of interest and curiosity in which a vibrant faith is born.

Thomas comes to faith because he first has the chance to voice his doubt and questions and then experiences Jesus for himself. So today I want to honor your questions. You can email or call me with your questions. We can discuss them if you want, but I won’t promise that I’ll have all the answers. But I want to honor you’re faith journey. All questions and conversations will be kept confidential, but hopefully through the process Jesus will appear to you too. And then we can proclaim like Thomas, “My Lord and my God!” Amen.

Alleluia! Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Prayers:

Uplifted by the promised hope of healing and resurrection, we join the people of God in all times and places in praying for the church, the world, and all who are in need.

Open the hearts we close, O God, to the cries of those in pain. We pray for those isolated physically or emotionally through incarceration, addiction, mental illness, chronic suffering, grief, and all in need especially Kim, Audrey, Arlene, Loren, Karen, Harlan, Nathan, Madelon and those we name in our hearts. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.

Merciful God, your healing power is everywhere about us. Strengthen those who work among the sick; give them courage and confidence in all they do. Encourage them when they are overwhelmed with many pressing needs or when their efforts seem futile. Increase their trust in your power to bring life and wholeness even in the midst of death and pain and crying. May they be thankful for every sign of health you give, and humble before the mystery of your healing grace. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.

Almighty and merciful God, you are the only source of health and healing; you alone can bring calmness and peace. Grant to us, your children, an awareness of your presence and a strong confidence in you. In our pain, our weariness, and our anxiety, surround us with your care, protect us by your loving might and permit us once more to enjoy health and strength and peace. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.

O God, the heavens declare your glory and tell of your work in creation. From you come the gifts of our bodies and minds, our skills and abilities, and the opportunities to use these gifts in sustaining our lives and in helping our neighbors. We pray for those whose livelihood is insecure; for those who are bearing heavy burdens and stressful times at work; for those whose work is tedious or dangerous; for those who have experienced failures at work; for those who have lost a job; and for all who face any difficulty in their lives of labor. We especially lift up to you this week: George and Alberta Aldahl; Daniel and Diane Bergstrom; Kristina, Tiffany, Tyler and Justin Ferguson; Michael, Lexi, and Gage Helgeson; Audrey Krupicka; Robert Kittelson; Dan, Edie, and Madelyn Lenz; William, Diane and Will Maxwell; Kari Peterson; Nicole Trostem, Derek and Brecklynn Bultman. Surround them with your never failing love; free them from restlessness and anxiety; keep them in every perplexity and distress; and renew them in facing the opportunities and challenges of daily life and work. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.

Open the way to eternal life, O God, as we remember those who have died in faith. Free us from the fear of death, that we embrace the peace you have promised. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.

With bold confidence in your love, Almighty God, we place all for whom we pray into your eternal care; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Lord, remember us in your kingdom and teach us to pray: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kindgom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.

Blessing:

May the One who brought forth Jesus from the dead raise us to new life, fill us with hope, and turn our mourning into dancing. Almighty God, Father + Son, and Holy Spirit bless us now and forever. Amen.

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