COCU32A.Easter 2A

Acts 2: 14a, 22-32 Peter declares the resurrection of Jesus to a crowd amazed at the signs of the Spirit’s presence and power.
Psalm 16 In you, O God, I take refuge
1 Peter 1:3-9 Salvation is the outcome of faithfulness
John 20: 19-31 Jesus appears to the disciples and to Thomas

Bill Loader Commentary: John 20:19-31, 1 Peter 1:3-9; Acts 2: 14a, 22-32

Easter is a season, not a one-day event. The Great Fifty Days reach from last week up to and including the Day of Pentecost. The discipling purpose of Easter Season historically is twofold.  The first purpose is doctrinal. Easter Season was (and is) a season to for “mystagog,” teaching the “mysteries of the faith” (core doctrinal matters) to the newly baptized and reminding the rest of these core teachings. Second, it is a time to help the newly baptized, and indeed all the baptized, discern, claim or reclaim their spiritual gifts and their calling to ministry in Christ’s name and the Spirit’s power. Easter Season culminates with Pentecost, where we celebrate the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (doctrine) and commission persons into their ministries (ministry). (UMC)

At times my heart cries out with longing to see these things. If I can get so much pleasure from mere touch, how much more beauty must be revealed by sight. Yet, those who have eyes apparently see little. The panorama of color and action which fills the world is taken for granted. It is human, perhaps, to appreciate little that which we have and to long for that which we have not, but it is a great pity that, in the world of light, the gift of sight is used only as a mere convenience rather than as a means of adding fullness to life.
(Source: Helen Keller)

A reflection on joy/happiness
Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:8-9
Rollo May’s book “Freedom and Destiny” differentiates “happiness” and “joy”: “Happiness is a fulfillment of the past patterns, hopes, aims. Happiness is mediated, so far as we can tell, by the parasympathetic nervous system, which has to do with eating, contentment, resting, placidity. Joy is mediated by the opposing system, the sympathetic, which does not make one want to eat, but stimulates one for exploration. Happiness relaxes one; joy challenges one with new levels of experience. Happiness depends generally on one’s outer state; joy is an overflowing of inner energies and leads to awe and wonderment. Joy is a release, an opening up; it is what comes when one is able genuinely to ‘let go.’ Happiness is associated with contentment; joy with freedom and an abundance of human spirit…..Joy is new possibilities; it points toward the future. Joy is living on the razor’s edge; happiness promises satisfaction of one’s present state, a fulfillment of old longings. Joy is the thrill of new continents to explore; it is an unfolding of life.” pp. 241-242

Easter 2A elements of worship

I Place My Trust Only In You (Psalm 16)
Protect me from fear
For I place my trust only in you.
My soul has said “You are my guardian
Sole foundation of my happiness
And I will find my delightIn all that is yours on earth”
As for all that shuts you out –
Great will be their sorrow
I will not pour out their offerings
Nor call their names – even in my dreams.
You, you, only you
Are my share and my cup
You have drawn my lot
And it has fallen out agreeably
Lovely indeed is my estate
My heritage is pleasant to me
I bless you who brought me to this day
And even at night in the trying times
My trembling body is tethered to you
Your presence is always before me
In all the deeds of my hand
I will not be shaken from it
So my heart rejoices
My spirit is glad
And my body rests secure
For you will not abandon my soul to darkness
You will not suffer me to be overwhelmed in terror
You will teach me the path toward life
Your presence is my sweetest joy
Your right hand is my chief delight
(Norman Fischer, Opening to You)

Easter Prayer
God of Creation,
creating anew,
the silence is broken.
With the women in the garden
we catch our breath,
wipe our tears,
and try to articulate our experience with you.
What words can describe
shadows fleeing from the tomb?
How can we tell of the morning
the world turned upside-down?
No mortal words will do.
Still, we must spread the news: Christ is risen!
Our knees are weak from running
our voices tremble on the edge of fearful joy.
Our eyes have seen the glory
of the Lord loosed upon the world!
May every breath we take,
every word we utter,
everything we do,
witness to the truth
of Christ’s resurrection.
(Source: Sharlande Sledge, Prayers and Litanies for the Christian Seasons)

Christ who is God,
God who is Christ.
Spirit in all,
Help us to be deeply Easter people.
Bearers of good news for hard times.
Strip off the candy coating of hollow triumphalism and empty piety,
Cast into the glory of resurrection the shadow of the cross,
So that we might remember that ours is not a fairy tale faith,
Full of magic and happily ever-afters
But is the way of the Christ,
Where eternal life is the resourcing of hope and perseverance,
The power of love and grace,
To lift us from the dying of dreams and wishes,
And bring resurrection in the hard realities of life.
Help us embrace the mystery of your call,
Which takes us through the valley of the shadow of death,
And helps us embrace our fear and doubt,
To transform them into healing and wholeness,
Where redemption and renewal become possible,
Even though things once were hopeless.
May we learn this Easter what it truly means to take up our cross and follow you,
Sharing in your life and walking in your way,
Living your love and grace as we work with you to build God’s Commonwealth of the common good.
Thus may it be ever so.

(Source: Jon Humphries, Prayers that Unite)

Jesus said, “Peace be with you. As God 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.”
John 20.21-23
This is why Jesus has been raised from the dead:
to give us his Spirit.
This is how Jesus has been raised from the dead:
not in his own body now but ours:
we, the Body of the risen Christ.
God now sends us as Jesus,
to forgive.
When we forgive, all are set free.
When we retain sins we are stuck with them,
the burden ours as much as theirs.
But we are Spirit, sent to be free,
and to set free.
Breathe in all judgment.
Breathe out God’s grace.
God breathes us into the world,
grace-filled and free.
Breathe deeply, and go.
Breath prayer: + Free … to forgive +
(Source: Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Unfolding Light)

Your door’s too light to shut out God.
Young man –
Young woman –
Old man –
Old woman –
Middle-aged man –
Middle-aged woman –
Your door’s too light to shut out God.
You may think
You’re safe from trouble
And nothing can get in,
You may think
The door is barred
For fear of what has been,
You may think
That what you’ve done could
Never be forgiven,
Or most of all,
That love is gone,
Along with joyful living;
But when for all
That you’ve been through
You then expect the least,
The Lord of love
Will walk right in
And say just one word: Peace.
(Source: Scott L. Barton, Lectionary Poems)

Reflecting on 1 Peter 1:3-9
Quasimodogeniti Sunday*
As in the style of newborn babes
We do not know what’s yet to come;
Believers, by the world’s strong powers
May, like our Lord, be yet undone;
And yet, there’s more that’s up God’s sleeve,
An unformed hope by which we live,
It cannot be imagined; yet,
We trust the one who gives and gives.
Such trust is what will save our souls,
In gladness, now, our God extol!
(Source: Scott L. Barton, Lectionary Poems)
This poem was also inspired by an interview with Bishop Thomas of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Al-Quosia, Upper Egypt. 

Living, loving God, we give thanks and praise that the doors of our hearts can’t keep you out, and the doors of our churches can’t keep you in! May your breath blow anew through the world, may your spirit fill the lives of those who believed they were beyond your reach! May we who have been so blessed with the joy of this Easter redemption be generous in sharing all that we are and all that we have, so that the power of your risen life might reach people everywhere. In Christ’s Holy name, we pray. Amen. (Source: adapted, UMC)

The gift of doubt—from Between the Dark and the Daylight by Joan Chittister (Penguin Random House)
As Voltaire remarked, “Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.”
The problem is that certitude seduces us. It enables us to believe that what was said to be true is true because someone else said so. It simply cuts off thought. It arrests discussion in midflight. And yet we yearn for it with a passion. We spend endless, sleepless nights grappling with intellectual options in order to wiggle them into a satisfying kind of certainty without so much as a scintilla of evidence.
Rulers of all stripe and type dispense certainties—theirs—with great abandon. They do whatever it takes—define cultural dogmas, assert organizational doctrines, impose decrees, and use power, force and penal systems—to suppress the ideas of anyone who dares to question them. Ideas, after all, are dangerous things. Ideas have brought down as many myths and mysteries as they have toppled kingdoms.
But there is another way to live that runs hot and bright through darkness. There are always some in every population who know that life is not meant to be about certainty. Life, they realize, is about possibility. They see certitude as a direction but not an end.
Doubt is what shakes our arrogance and makes us look again at what we have never really looked at before. Without doubt there is little room for faith in anything. What we accept without question we will live without morality. It is in populations like this that monarchs become dictators and spiritual leaders become charlatans and knowledge becomes myth.
An ancient people tell the story of sending out two shamans to study their holy mountain so that they could know what their gods expected of them. The first shaman came back from the north side of the mountain to tell them that it was covered with fruit trees, a sign that their god would always bless them abundantly. The second shaman came back from the south side of the mountain to tell the people that it was barren and covered with rock, a sign that their god would always be with them but intended them to take care of themselves. So, which shaman was right? If both, then it is dangerous to dogmatize either position.
It is doubt, not certitude, that enables us to believe, because it requires us to think deeply about an entire subject, and not simply depend on the side of reality that is on our side of the mountain. Only when we look beyond absolutes to understand every level of life can we possibly live life to the fullest, with the deepest kind of insight, with the greatest degree of compassion for others.
Voltaire was right, of course. Certainty is comfortable but always unlikely and forever disruptive. As life changes so must our explanation and response to it.

Pilgrim 9.30am Order of service 010511 In our midst 9.30

: Christ is risen while earth slumbers (could be used as processional)
Words: Iona Community. Tune: Hyfrydol

Christ has risen while earth slumbers,
Christ has risen where hope died,
As he said and as he promised,
As we doubted and denied.
Let the moon embrace the blessing;
Let the sun sustain the cheer;
Let the world confirm the rumour:
Christ is risen, God is here!

Christ has risen for the people
Whom he died to love and save;
Christ has risen for the women
Bringing flowers to grace his grave.
Christ has risen for disciples
Huddled in an upper room.
He whose word inspired creation
can’t be silenced by the tomb.

Christ has risen to companion
Former friends who fear the night,
Sensing loss and limitation
Where their faith had once burned bright.
They bemoan what is no longer,
They expect no hopeful sign
Till Christ ends their conversation,
breaking bread and sharing wine.

Christ has risen and forever
Lives to challenge and to change
All whose lives are stressed or damaged,
All who find religion strange.
Christ is risen. Christ is present
Making us what he has been —
Evidence of transformation
in which God is known and seen.

Progressive Hymn(Tune: ‘Marching’, 87 87)
When life juggles with our learning,
with the things we thought secure,
then it seems the artist’s palette
spins and faith becomes obscure.

In the wash of different colours,
as we seek for shape and form,
others paint their faith by numbers
forcing God to fit some norm.

But when life has torn the canvas,
when the numbers twist and slip;
then we need to find an image
that will help our hope to grip:

holding us, when we’re past holding,
grounding when we’re insecure,
till we find a faith, not drifting,
still dynamic, free, yet sure.
(Source: Andrew Pratt 2010)

He came singing love”  (Tune: ‘Singing love’) – many Youtube clips of this song
He came singing love
and he lived singing love;
he died singing love.
He arose in silence.
For the love to go on
we must make it our song:
you and I be the singers.

He came singing faith
and he lived singing faith;
he died singing faith.
He arose in silence.
For the faith to go on
we must make it our song:
you and I be the singers.

He came singing hope
and he lived singing hope;
he died singing hope.
He arose in silence.
For the hope to go on
we must make it our song:
you and I be the singers.

He came singing peace
and he lived singing peace;
he died singing peace.
He arose in silence.
For the peace to go on
we must make it our song:
you and I be the singers.
(Source: Colin Gibson, Alleluia Aotearoa.  Hymns and songs for all churches. 1993. NZ: Raumati. New Zealand Hymnbook Trust)

These things did Thomas hold for real:
The warmth of blood, the chill of steel,
the grain of wood, the heft of stone,
the last frail twitch of blood and bone.

His brittle certainties denied
That one could live when one had died,
until his fingers read like Braille
the markings of the spear and nail.

May we, O God, by grace believe
And, in believing, still receive
the Christ who held His raw palms out
and beckoned Thomas from his doubt.
(Source: Thomas Troeger, 1984, Psalter/Hymnal of the Christian Reformed Church)

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Rev Sandy Boyce is a Uniting Church in Australia Minister (Deacon). This blog may be a help to people planning worship services.
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