Acts 5:27-32: The apostles, who were previously arrested and were freed from prison by an angel, are arrested again for refusing to stop preaching about Jesus, and when challenged declare that they must obey God rather than human beings.
Psalm 150: The closing song of the Psalter calling God’s people – and all creatures – to praise with everything they have, and to express this praise through all kinds of musical instruments.
Revelation 1:4-8: John’s introduction to the Revelation, praises Jesus as the resurrected witness, the one who has given us life, and who is God eternal.
John 20:19-31: Thomas, who is not present at the first appearance of Jesus to the disciples, is confronted with the Risen Christ, and invited to put his doubts to rest. He responds by affirming his faith in the Risen One.
(Bible readings summary by John van de Laar, Sacredise)
Textweek.com is a great repository of resources for worship planners.
“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands,
and put my finger in the mark of the nails
and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
You want to see real resurrection,
not its paperwork. You want to touch it.
And you know where to look.
Ignore your packaged and trimmed doctrine,
don’t even look in your slick success stories.
Look in your wounds.
Reach out and put your hand in your losses,
the mark of your shame.
Where is it empty?
Where does your failure flop out of its costume
and bleed all over the floor?
Go ahead. Touch it.
Put your hand on your inadequacy.
The deepest wounds go deeper than you.
Sit a while with the corpse of yourself.
Wait for what you can’t wait for, can’t ask for.
Let that great emptiness open up in you.
Let it be as vast as God,
the wound divine,
your anguish and your Beloved: one.
There, where it’s hopeless,
that’s where the hope is. Go there.
Listen for the voice.
(Source: Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Unfolding Light)
Blessed are those who have not seen, but who come to belief and faith,
Who take up the call to follow.
But, blessed are those who doubt,
Who search and find you before them, discovering you as God and saviour.
Blessed are those who question and ask,
Whose search for truth leads them to the compassion of your woundedness and power of your resurrection hope.
Blessed are those who are honest in their skepticism,
Who don’t believe blindly, but build their house of faith on the rock of your reality.
Blessed are those who struggle,
Who wrestle in their search to discover their call and your Word whispered to them.
Blessed are those who wonder,
Who search for meaning and purpose in the mystery of your presence.
Blessed are those who remember,
Who know the miraculous to be signs which confirm you as Lord, but who know your call to discipleship and all of what that means.
Blessed are those who can sit with ambiguity,
Who are always open to learning and whose faith widens their world.
Blessed are those in the Spirit,
Who open themselves to the inspiration and leading of your counsellor.
Blessed are we who follow you,
When we allow you to break into our world, enter the locked places of our fear and shake up our existence as the Word of God,
Blessed are we who seek to be and make disciples,
Who have experienced your gospel
Who embrace your grace and love, not only for ourselves, but for others..
Who help all to discover the challenge of your way which leads to essential life.
Blessed are we who bear the name of the Christ
Who become a blessing to all when you are preached, and lived out in our worship, witness and service on the way of the cross to the promised end.
Rising Lord, May we be blessed and be a blessed.
May this be ever so. Amen.
(c) Jon Humphries
Thom Shuman communion liturgy and service: COCU32C.Easter2C.ThomShumanliturgy
The work of God surrounds us: We respond with praise
The risen life of Christ is with us: We respond in faith
The wind of the Spirit is blowing: We respond with joy
In a world of cynicism and suffering, it can be tempting to see celebration as something flippant, irrelevant and even heartless. However, in the light of risen life, and in witness to Christ, celebration takes on a prophetic character. This week as we continue to celebrate the risen Christ, we are also called to the prophetic work of celebration in the midst of life’s circumstances.
In times of great joy
we give thanks and praise to You, O Christ.
In times of hardship and trial
we pray for strength and endurance, O Christ.
In times of darkness and doubt
we pray for hope and courage, O Christ.
In all of life’s journey
we know that the risen Christ is with us.
Call to Worship (based on Revelation 1: 4)
“Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come….”)
We come diffidently,
weighed down by the excesses and the sorrows of the past.
Grace to you and peace,
from the God who is and who was
and who is to come.
We come hopefully,
knowing that the presence of God will not be limited by our human constructs.
Grace to you and peace,
from the God who is and who was
and who is to come.
We come thankfully,
discovering abundance born not of possession but of the heart.
Grace to you and peace,
from the God who is and who was
and who is to come.
(Source: Katherine Hawker. Posted on Liturgies Outside)
Call to worship: Amen! Amen! Amen!
(may link to celebratory tone of Psalm 148 and Psalm 150)
May none of God’s wonderful works keep silence, night or morning.
Bright stars, high mountains, the depths of the seas, sources of rushing rivers;
may all these break into song as we sing to Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
May all the angels in the heavens reply: Amen! Amen! Amen!
Power, praise, honor, eternal glory to God, the only giver of grace.
Amen! Amen! Amen!
(anonymous Christian author, from sometime during the 3rd to 6th century)
Improv on Psalm 150
Praise God on every platform!
Praise God with the teen’s newest app
and the grandmother’s desktop monitor!
Praise God in the Cloud!
Praise God whose search knows
anyone who is running away from life.
Praise God whose browser
retrieves every doubter’s prayer.
Praise God with the trumpet of social media!
Praise God with LinkedIn and Foursquare,
for we are connected and found.
Praise God with creativity on Tumblr
toddler pictures on Facebook,
selfies on Instagram,
with the playlist of Pandora,
and thought-posts of WordPress.
Praise God with Twitter’s tambourines,
eastering it away from thosewho use it to crucify.
Praise God with GroupMe that gathers,
with Gofundme, Kickstarter, Patreon
that shift power,
and with Freedom giving hope
to those who have become addicted.
Praise God with arts on YouTube
from garage band garage or concert hall,
from church camp and refugee camp!
Praise God with flash-mobbing Vimeo
and the little church’s prayer chain.
Let everything that has code – Praise God.
Praise God. Send.
(Source: Maren C. Tirabassi. Posted on Living Psalms Project, part of the UCC Worship Ways, which gives worship resources tied to the lectionary for each week. Living Psalms tries to re-shape or re-imagine each week’s lectionary psalm)
Words of Greeting/Call to Prayer
Come, let us praise God, let us worship the risen One,
for death has given away to life, despair has been overwhelmed by hope;
Grief has been replaced by joy, and darkness has been dispelled by light!
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!
Opening Prayer (inspired by John 20: 19-31)
On this Eastertide morning, we come to you,
singing alleluias, celebrating new life all around us,
not quite believing it all, but going along with it, just the same.
We celebrate the doubters and questioners among us,
who simply keep our faith real,
who demand that we live our believing
into faith that works towards justice and peace,
and making sure that the hungry are nourished and loved.
We celebrate the saints among us,
whose courageous faith
flies without a safety net,
reminding us that true discipleship is risky and radical
in the face of a world held hostage by greed, love of power, and denial.
We are your Easter people, Holy One.
Doubters, saints, sinners, questioners, spiritual and religious,
who skip, run, and stumble on the journey.
We pray that whoever we are this journey,
that you might open our ears and eyes
to your call,
to be Your love,
where ever we are.
In the name of Christ we pray, Amen.
(Source: Rev Karla, and posted on RevGalBlogPals)
Call to Worship & Prayer (inspired by John 20: 19-31)
Christ is risen!
The disciples clung to each other.
They huddled in the upper room, waiting.
Would the authorities come to take them, too?
Instead, Jesus himself appeared, despite the locked door.
Next came doubts and questions,
assurances and instructions, and a last word:
“Blessed are those who have not seen
and yet have come to believe.”
Christ is risen! Now what?
Now we come together to wait for him.
May the risen Christ bless us
as we worship what we have not seen, yet believe.
God of new life,
move through the locked doors of our hearts.
Open us to your love moving in the world.
Instruct us as you taught the disciples.
Make a new church of us,
a blessed place where we live in unity.
Help us to learn from those first believers who prayed as we do,
using the words Jesus taught (Lord’s Prayer)…
(Source: Rev. Martha Spong, posted on LiturgyLink)
Words of assurance (after prayers of confession)
Christ comes into every shadowed corner of our lives with the light of Easter. Christ comes into the locked rooms of our faults and graces us with hope. Christ enters rooms of despair and uncertainty to fill us with peace.
May we open the doors of our lives to receive the light, and may we open ourselves to receive hope, peace, and freedom as signs of risen life. Amen.
Prayer of approach
God, whose love and care for us extends far beyond our human understanding, whose presence in our midst is greater than our fears and doubts, we come offering ourselves to you – our weaknesses and our strengths, our faith and our fears. We seek to know the risen Christ among us in this gathering, and trust you to reveal him to us once again, as we wait upon you in hope and expectation. Amen. (Life in Liturgy)
Meditation on the healing power of celebration
In the midst of grief we choose to celebrate, because it reminds us of hope, and brings comfort to our broken hearts;
What brings comfort when grieving?
In the midst of poverty we choose to celebrate, because it speaks of wealth beyond material things, and gives dignity to our humbled hearts;
What gives dignity when poor?
In the midst of conflict we choose to celebrate, because it turns us to peace, and restores humanity to our angry hearts;
What does it mean to turn our hearts to peace, when in conflict?
In the midst of suffering we choose to celebrate, because it lightens our darkness, and inspires strength in our fragile hearts;
What gives strength to our fragile hearts in the midst of suffering?
In the midst of injustice we choose to celebrate, because it defies evil, and renews determination in our compassionate hearts.
What helps renew determination in the face of evil?
Though cynics may scoff as we follow your example, Jesus, we still choose to embrace and enjoy for our own sake, and that of the least, the healing power of celebration. Amen.
(c) John van de Laar, Sacredise
Drama based on Acts 5 (characters – Peter & narrator) Dialogue based on Acts 5
A reflection on Peter’s courage to witness:
In the early Church, witnesses to the faith who had been persecuted and tortured but not killed were known as “martyr-confessors.” It’s been one of the great privileges of my life to have known such men and women: Czech priests who spent years as slave laborers in uranium mines; Lithuanian priests and nuns condemned to Perm Camp 36 in the Gulag; a Ukrainian Greek Catholic scholar who knew the bone-chilling bite of the Siberian winter because of his fidelity to Christ and to the Bishop of Rome. These modern martyr-confessors are part of that “great cloud of witnesses” who form a living link between the Church here and now and “the assembly of the first-born who are enrolled in heaven” (Hebrews 12. 1, 23).
I treasure the memory and the friendship of these great souls. All their stories are remarkable; so was the equanimity they exhibited as I got to know them—the sense they conveyed, quite naturally, that it was a privilege to suffer for the faith. Comparative martyrology is out of place in such a company of heroes. Still, none of the martyr-confessors I have met had a story quite like that of Father Douglas Bazi, of the Chaldean Catholic Diocese of Erbil, whom I met three weeks ago.
Simply because he was a Christian and a Catholic priest, Father Bazi had had his teeth knocked out, his nose smashed, and his back broken with a hammer. And that was before ISIS turned large parts of Iraq into a killing zone in which Christian lives were automatically forfeit. Today, Father Bazi lives with his exiled people in the Kurdish Autonomous Region of crumbling Iraq. The ISIS assault on his people, he told me, was but the latest of eight different assaults on Chaldean Catholics over the last century, which have reduced what was once a population of three million to about 180,000. In the brutal politics of a region where the withdrawal of American power has led to seven demons worse than the first, Chaldean Catholics are especially at risk because, as Father Bazi put it, they “can’t play the game the way the others do”—they can’t indulge in revenge killings because their faith forbids them to do so. Read more here.
A reflection on fear
(the disciples were hiding for fear of the authorities)
“If you’re not careful trauma and fear will occupy every room of your house. You need to make some space for goodness, joy and laughter. When everything seems wrong you need to look for what’s right. Look for, pause and take in goodness today. You might even find it in unexpected places.”
Negativity is Velcro. Positivity is Teflon.
Neuroscience has proven the mind attaches like Velcro to anything negative, fearful or traumatic. Fear and trauma makes itself at home in every room of the house refusing to budge.
Anything positive, good, joyful and beautiful is like Teflon and doesn’t stick.
Neuroscience has shown that if you have a moment of goodness and beauty, you have to pause and savour this positive experience for a minimum of 15 seconds or it doesn’t imprint on the brain. Negativity, fear and trauma are like Velcro making an imprint neurologically instantly.
It explains why you can look at a beautiful work of art and not be changed because you didn’t pause to savour the beauty. At the same time, you can hold on to trauma for years.
Trauma and fear will occupy every room of the house. It is essential for the health of your soul to mindfully take in and savour love, beauty, goodness and those things that call forth joy.
In this world saturated in fear and trauma, give yourself the gift of a daily practice of: listening to music, losing yourself in art, playing with children or just playing, mindfully savouring the beauty of nature, keeping a gratitude journal, noticing beauty in unexpected places, looking for moments of goodness and kindness, and laughing as much and as long as possible.
It would seem our souls need space for joy the most when fear and trauma are trying to occupy every room.
(Source: Rev Steve Koski, Facebook post, April 2019)
Invitation to the offering
God is at work in the world, renewing, remaking, resurrecting, bringing hope through the faith, the gifts, and the work of the church. We trust in God, and together we work for peace and justice through God’s Spirit as we offer our tithes and gifts. Let us rejoice in our God-given opportunity to share in God’s work. (the offering is received)
We know, O God, that the good news of the resurrection is not to be kept a secret, hidden away as the private promise to a few. Rather, it is to be universal communication of hope and joy to all people; and to that worldwide proclamation we dedicate our gifts today. Amen.
(Life in Liturgy)
Prayer of Dedication
Generous and surprising God,
when we thought that death was the final word,
you amazed us with risen life.
Surprise us again
with your ability to turn these humble offerings
into gifts that will transform the world
through our witness to your love.
We lay our very lives at your feet, O God,
knowing that you will use us
to proclaim and embody the gospel. Amen.
(c) Laura Jaquith Barlett, and posted on Ministry Matters. (adapted)
Prayer of dedication
There are many doorways to cynicism, Jesus, many reasons for despair, many causes for fear; but we need not give them ultimate power, for our own lives bear witness to risen life and it constantly reveals itself in our world. And so, in spite of the fear that nags at us, in the face of the despair and cynicism that taunts us, in denial of all that would seek to steal life away, we offer you our love, our devotion, our lives, as an offering of resurrection faith and defiant praise. Amen.
Loving God, through Jesus Christ you bring light and life to a dark and dying world. We give you thanks and praise for your love which he reveals to us, even today, and for the hope which his life and death and resurrection unfolds for our world. Even as you love the world so greatly and sacrificially in Jesus, help us in his spirit to live and to love your world today, especially as we lift to you the lonely, the hurting, the sick and the dying.
Where there is injustice, renew our mission to do your will and bring about reconciliation, healing and peace. Where there is pain, make us agents of your regenerative power and your healing caress. May we discover and shed abroad your great love among those we encounter who are alone, or grieving or lost. Make us, as your church, your hands and feet and voice in this world, especially as we pray for those whose lives are closely linked with our own and for the needs we bring with us this day which we offer to you in silence.
As we celebrate your presence with us this day and commit ourselves to you afresh within the covenant of your love, help us to be a willing church—ready to do whatever the day demands, in order to bring the joy of your resurrection to those of our world who have no cause to celebrate. In this great season of new life, awaken us, empower us, renew us, to be faithful to you in the Spirit of Christ. (Life in Liturgy)
A sermon by Rev Andrew Prior (2019), One Man’s Web
Blessing: Peace Be With You (inspired by John 20:21)
Peace be with you.
Behind doors closed & locked in fear,
peace dwell with you.
On this path where the footing is tricky,
peace walk with you.
Through the mist with its disorienting shadows,
peace gaze calmly with you.
At the table, whether crowded or quiet,
peace sit with you.
No matter the turbulence or shifting ground,
peace stand with you.
In every breath, in each wound & every exuberance,
peace be alive with you.
Peace be with you.
(c) Rachel Hackenberg, posted on RevGalBlogPals.
Blessing: May Peace Be with You / Salamun Kullaheen (Arabic/English)
Pronunciation Guide: Salamun [sah-lah-moon] Kullaheen [koo-lah-hain]
May peace be with you,
may God’s peace be now with you!
May hope be with you,
may God’s hope be now with you!
May joy be with you,
may God’s joy be now with you!
May love be with you,
may God’s love be now with you!
Words: author unknown; English para. S.T. Kimbrough Jr.; Music: trad melody, Lebanon
(tune in More Voices, United Church of Canada)
A plethora of prayers for Easter 2C at re-Worship, by Christine Longhurst
Invitation to communion
Luke wrote of our risen Savior, who at the table with two of the disciples, took bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. Their eyes were opened, and they recognized the risen Christ in the breaking of the bread. In company with all believers in every time and place, and beyond all time and place, we come to this table, to know the risen Christ in the breaking of the bread. (Life in Liturgy)
Prayer of Thanksgiving (for Communion liturgy) – includes prayer of consecration
Gracious God, who sees through the gloom of our fears and the shades of our doubts, we seek today to see Christ among us here, at the table where he gathers all who hunger and thirst for new life. Today we proclaim our faith anew in Jesus, and look to you for a deeper understanding of how we are to live as people of faith. Pour out your Spirit upon us as we break this bread and as we receive this cup, that in them we may know him afresh, and be revived to serve him not only with our lips, but with our lives. Through him, with him, and in him, in the power of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor be to you, O God, now and forever. Amen. (Life in Liturgy)
Frederick Buechner’s sermon for Easter 2, “The Seeing Heart”
(Gospel reading, John 20:19-31)
There was a great teacher of the Old Testament at the seminary where I studied for the ministry years ago, and one thing he told us that I have always remembered is that we really can’t hear what the stories of the Bible are saying until we hear them as stories about ourselves. We have to imagine our way into them, he said. We have to imagine ourselves the prodigal son coming home terrified that the door will be slammed in his face when he gets there, only to have the breath all but knocked out of him by the great bear hug his father greets him with before he can choke out so much as the first word of the speech he has prepared about how sorry he is and how he will never do it again, not unlike the way Sunday after Sunday you and I say in our prayers how sorry we are and how we will never do it again. We have to put ourselves in the place of the good thief spread-eagled in the merciless sun saying to the one who is dying beside him, “Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingly power,” the way at the heart of every prayer we have ever prayed or will ever pray, you and I are also saying it in one form or another: Remember me. Remember me. Jesus, remember.
I don’t know of any story in the Bible that is easier to imagine ourselves into than this one from John’s Gospel because it is a story about trying to believe in Jesus in a world that is as full of shadows and ambiguities and longings and doubts and glimmers of holiness as the room where the story takes place is and as you and I are inside ourselves.
It is the evening after the resurrection, and all but one of the disciples are gathered together in this shadowy room. The door is bolted tight because they are scared stiff that the ones who seized Jesus in the night will come and seize them next, and every sound they hear–the creaking of the house, the stirring of air through the trees, a dog barking–becomes for them the dreaded sound of footsteps on the stair. If they speak at all, you can imagine them speaking almost too quietly to hear. The room is small and crowded and the air acrid with the smell of their fear. That morning just after dawn, Mary Magdalene told them that she had seen Jesus alive again, but even the ones who believed her were not much comforted because he was not alive again with them there where they needed him. Then suddenly he was there. “He came and stood among them,” John says, and he spoke to them.
“Shalom,” was what he said, “Peace be with you,” which was of all words the one that in their un-peace they needed most to hear, but the way John tells it, it is as if they were too stunned to understand what they had heard, even to know who had spoken. So Jesus had to show them what had been done to his hands and to his side, and it was only then that they recognized him. ”As the Father has sent me, even so I send you,” he said, and then he breathed on them.
Can we imagine ourselves into that part of the story, I wonder? Can we put ourselves into their place as they breathed his breath into themselves, his life into their lives? I think we are often closer to their experience than we believe we are. I think that Christ dwells deep down in all of us, believers and unbelievers both, and that again and again, whether we realize it or not, he brings us healing and hope. I think there have been moments for all of us when the hand we reached out to another’s need was not our hand but Christ’s hand, and moments when the tears that have come to our eyes at another’s sadness or joy, or even at our own sadness, our own joy, were Christ’s tears. “Receive the Holy Spirit,” he said to them there in the shadows, and I think we have all of us received more of that spirit into our own shadows than we dream.
The one disciple who wasn’t in the room when Jesus appeared was Thomas, of course, although he was as much a friend and follower of Jesus as any of them. As far as Thomas knew, Jesus was dead and that was the end of it. He was aware of what Mary Magdalene claimed she had seen, and now, that evening, his friends were claiming the same thing, but Thomas himself had not seen him, and the words he spoke when they told him about it have the ring of unvarnished truth. “Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his side,” he said, “I will not believe.” Thomas is called the Twin in the New Testament, and if you want to know who the other twin is, I can tell you. I am the other twin, and unless I miss my guess, so are you.
How can we believe that Christ is alive when we haven’t seen him? I believe the sun rose this morning because there it is in the sky above us. I believe you and I are alive because here we are looking at each other. But when it comes to this central proclamation and holiest mystery of Christian faith that after his death Jesus returned to life and is alive to this day, how can we believe that?
There are lots of other things we can believe about him. We can believe that of all good people, he was the goodest. We can believe that no one else in history embodied the love of God so movingly and unforgettably. We can believe that although down through the centuries endless follies and barbarities have been committed in his name, the beauty and holiness of his life remain somehow untouched, and that of all the great saints the world has produced, he remains the loveliest and the one most worth following. But when Thomas says that unless he sees him with his own eyes, he will not believe that he is actually alive the way you and I are actually alive, I think we all know in our hearts what he is talking about.
What we have to remember is that our eyes are not all we have for seeing with, maybe not even the best we have. Our eyes tell us that the mountains are green in summer and in autumn the colors of flame. They tell us that the nose of the little girl is freckled, that her hair usually needs combing, that when she is asleep, her cheek is flushed and moist. They tell us that the photographs of Abraham Lincoln taken a few days before his death show a man who at the age of fifty-six looked as old as time. Our eyes tell us that- the small country church down the road needs a new coat of paint and that the stout lady who plays the pump organ looks a little like W. C. Fields and that the pews are rarely more than about a quarter filled on any given Sunday.
But all these things are only facts because facts are all the eye can see. Eyes cannot see truth. The truth about the mountains is their great beauty. The truth about the child is that she is so precious that without a moment’s hesitation we would give our lives to save her life if that should somehow ever become necessary. The truth about Abraham Lincoln is a humanness so rich and deep that it’s hard to stand in his memorial in Washington without tears coming to our eyes, and the truth about the shabby little church is that for reasons known only to God it is full of holiness. It is not with the eyes of the head that we see truths like that, but with the eyes of the heart.
Eight days after Jesus’s first appearance to the disciples, John says, Jesus came back to them again in the same room, and this time Thomas was with them. Again Jesus said “Peace” to them. Then he turned to Thomas and spoke only to him as if there was no one else in the world just then who mattered, and you can imagine the two of them standing there looking at each other with maybe no more than an oil lamp to see by and their shadows flickering on the wall. Less as a reproach the way I hear it than as an enormous kindness, Jesus said, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not be faithless, but believing.” It was an extraordinary thing for him to offer, but it is as though Thomas didn’t even hear him. It’s as though maybe for the first time in his life it wasn’t just the fact of Jesus that he saw but the truth of Jesus and the truth of who Jesus was for him. In light of that truth everything else became suddenly unimportant, and there was no need to touch him with his hands to make sure he was real because suddenly Thomas was so moved by the reality he was experiencing within himself that all he could do was to say something that I suspect he said in a whisper–“My Lord and my God!” He had seen him with the eyes of his heart, and there was nothing more he could say, nothing more he needed to say. Can we imagine ourselves into that part of the story? Have we ever even come close to seeing the truth of Jesus the way Thomas did just then?
I believe we have, more than we know, and I believe that, in the last analysis, those glimpses more than anything else are what bring us to church Sunday after Sunday. I believe we have glimpsed the truth of Jesus in the faces and lives of people we know who have loved him and served him, and let each of us name their names silently to ourselves. I believe we have glimpsed him in the pages of the Gospels when by some miracle of grace those pages come alive for us and it is as if we ourselves are the ones he is speaking to when he says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11 :28). I believe we have caught sight of him in works of art that have been created to honor him, like the St. Matthew Passion of Bach, or the flaking, faded frescoes of old European churches where he moves like a dream across the walls.
I believe we have seen him once in a while even in our own churches, especially when there is a pause in our endless babbling about him and for a moment or two he is present in the silence of waiting and listening. I remember how once when the minister was administering the chalice to me he made my heart skip a beat by calling me by name and saying “The blood of Christ, Freddy, the cup of salvation,” and I saw suddenly that Christ not only remembers us but remembers each one of us by name as surely as he remembered the good thief, and that he welcomes us to his table not in some sort of impersonal, churchly sense but as if the party wouldn’t be complete without every last one of us the way the father in his story threw his arms around the prodigal and welcomed him home.
I believe we have seen him in those rare moments when, moved by his spirit alive within us, we have been able to be Christs to one another and also at those moments when we have resisted his spirit within us and turned away from each other full of a kind of dimness and sadness. Most of all, I believe, we have seen him in our endless longing for him even when we don’t know who it is we are longing for.
“Have you believed because you have seen me?” Jesus asked Thomas, our twin, and my guess is that Thomas believed not because of what his eyes had seen but because of what his heart had seen. With his eyes he had seen only Jesus the son of Joseph and Mary, a man much like any other man-so many inches tall, so many pounds heavy, hair this color, eyes that color-but with his heart he saw, maybe for the first time in his life, the one he was destined to love and search for and try to follow as best he could for the rest of his days when Jesus was no longer around for him to see with his eyes any more than he is around for us to see with ours.
The last thing of all that Jesus said to his disciples that day was, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe,” and I think that among others he meant you and me. We have not seen him with our eyes the way Thomas did, but precious as that sight would have been, I wonder in the long run what difference it would have made. What makes all the difference in the world is the one whom from time to time, by grace, I believe we have seen with our hearts or who is there to see always if we will only keep our hearts peeled for him.
To see him with the heart is to know that in the long run his kind of life is the only life worth living. To see him with the heart is not only to believe in him but little by little to become bearers to each other of his healing life until we become finally healed and whole and alive within ourselves. To see him with the heart is to take heart, to grow true hearts, brave hearts, at last. That is my dearest hope and prayer for all of you and also for me.
Source: Secrets in the Dark, Frederick Buechner
(you can subscribe to weekly sermon illustrations by email here)
Pastoral Prayer: Holy Humour Sunday
Holy Humour Sunday is often celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter (Easter 2C)
O Lord, giver of joy and laughter, we thank you for giving us these gifts.
For the moments of laughter and unbridled joy you give to us:
for opportunities to laugh at ourselves,
for the belly laughs of children,
for friends and family who love us because of our quirks,
and not just in spite of them,
for artists who give us the opportunity to see the world
through the surreal,
for the courage to smile even when difficulties arise,
for those who have hope even when others think there is
for saints in the Lord who overflow with laughter and
spread your joy to all of us.
For the words of Jesus that defy our logical minds;
for teaching us that we can be born again,
for the woman who finds a lost coin and calls her
friends and neighbors to celebrate,
for the absurdity of a camel
trying to fit through the eye of a needle,
for the father of the Prodigal Son who is willing to look
like a fool as he runs to greet his son,
for the generosity of the landowner who will pay
workers a whole day’s wage when they only worked one hour,
for tiny bits of faith that can move entire mountains,
for the reality that nothing can live unless it first dies.
For the great reversal of the Gospel:
that the last shall be made first,
that the rejected stone became the cornerstone,
that those who wish to become great must serve,
that the lost will be found,
that the small will become great,
that though you are Wisdom,
you choose to forget our sins,
that when we are weak, your strength shines through us.
O Lord, giver of joy and laughter,
we thank you for giving us
Thank you for the gift you give us
that allows us to enjoy these things to the full.
We can laugh because of the most amazing thing of all –
that you conquered death,
that the tomb is empty,
that light shone so bright
that it overcame the darkness.
Thank you, thank you, thank you! Amen.
Singing from the Lectionary is a great resource for music (chosen for each of the lectionary readings). Thanks to Natalie Sims for her work on compiling the resources.
Just discovered this website Joyful Noise with new words by Rev Rachel Frey, set to familiar tunes.
Here are some suggestions for Easter 2C:
Hymn: Give us courage to invest in peace (tune TiS 282 St Lucia)
Though still the walls of hate and fear divide
suspicion and mistrust on either side
so that both hope and justice are denied.
Lord, give us courage to invest in peace.
In love you chose to take the uphill way
confronting bitter hate and enmity
to draw together those once far away
till through your cross you paid the price of peace.
When we are tempted by the careless way
of hasty prejudice and bigotry,
awaken us from all complacency
and give us courage to invest in peace.
(c) Iain D. Cunningham 2011
(note: original title is Lord Jesus, You Wept for Jerusalem, from the World Mission Council’s Invest in Peace resources)
Praise the One who breaks the darkness
(tune: Nettleton or Joel)
Praise the one who breaks the darkness
with a liberating light.
Praise the one who frees the prisoners,
turning blindness into sight.
Praise the one who preached the Gospel,
healing every dread disease,
calming storms and feeding thousands
with the very bread of peace.
Praise the one who blessed the children
with a strong yet gentle word.
Praise the one who drove out demons
with a piercing two-edged sword.
Praise the one who brings cool water
to the desert’s burning sand.
From this well comes living water,
quenching thirst in every land.
Praise the one true love incarnate:
Christ who suffered in our place.
Jesus died and rose for many
that we may know God by grace.
Let us sing for joy and gladness,
seeing what our God has done.
Praise the one redeeming glory,
praise the One who makes us one.
Words: Rusty Edwards
Words © 1987 by Hope Publishing Co., Carol Stream, IL 60188.
Song: True faith needs no defence
True faith needs no defense,
it echoes in the soul;
a faithful life gives evidence
of grace that makes us whole.
True faith, like music, soars
beyond cathedral walls;
on city streets and ocean shores,
from age to age faith calls.
Expect your faith to grow;
begin by being still,
and in the quiet come to know
God’s living, breathing will.
To live the faith we find
is all that love can ask,
so sing God’s praise with heart and mind,
and rise to meet the task.
Words & Music: Daniel Charles Damon © 2005 Hope Publishing Company.
Sheet music here.
Together in Song 691 Faith will not grow from words alone
Song: When Thomas Heard from Jesus
This hymn celebrates Thomas’ whole life and shows “doubting” is not the best adjective for him.
Turn our sadness upside down
A song that speaks about turning sadness and despair upside down – pertinent to the Easter readings where the disciples are fearful, disheartened and disconsolate. Written by Leigh Newton and sourced from Seasons of the Spirit.