The peace of Christ be with you all.
Call to Worship –
Come and worship:
the doubters and the questioners,
the ones who hover to observe, feeling unsure,
the ones who skip and dance and enter with joyful step,
the ones who want proof and evidence,
and the ones who hold truth with firm clasp.
However you are – come. God calls us to worship.
Jesus Christ, you are present with us regardless of whether our faith is enough,
or our questions answered. It is not about how much we believe or the items we tick. You love us unconditionally.
You do not ask us to be worthy, or to pretend we are perfect.
You simply invite us to come and be in your presence because you are worthy.
Breathe your peace upon us, Jesus Christ,
that we may be assured of your presence and understand that we are enough, however we come. Amen.
AHB 277 The day of resurrection
Psalm 16; 1 Peter 1: 3-9; John 20: 19-31
Prayer of Confession-
Merciful God, you come offering us peace, but we hold onto our fears.
You come offering us faith, but we cling to our doubts.
You come offering us a future filled with promise, but we retreat to pleasant memories of the past.
We want to believe that you offer us an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading. We want to live as you would have us live.
We want to believe that life is stronger than the death we see all around us.
Help our unbelief, O God, that we may truly know and live your gift of resurrection Amen.
Words of Assurance-
Even when we are consumed by doubt, God is always faithful.
Even when we lose our way, God is able to find us and bring us home.
Even when we are at war with ourselves, God is able to bring us peace.
Through Christ, our sins are forgiven. Thanks be to God!
Sermon – Locked in & Sent out
This year, unlike any previous one, we can identify with the disciples hiding behind locked doors in fear of those who may harm us. The Good News of Easter is that God was not kept out of locked homes – Jesus comes in despite the locks. Today in the twenty-first century we are comforted by the technology that allows safe outside contacts – telephones, computers and internet, emails and downloaded programs, TV and radio broadcasts.
Jesus came to that locked room two weeks in a row on the day after the Sabbath. Our Scripture passage for today includes both visits, with a different purpose for each.
The first one, on Easter Sunday night, amidst the confusion of grief and hopefulness, doubt and belief, Jesus came to the group of his followers, his special friends and supporters, with the assurance that he was alive in a new resurrection way. 2000 years later, we still cannot fully grasp this ‘resurrection’ form of Jesus. It is enough to TRUST and BELIEVE in him as he promised in John 14:3, 18-21.
Jesus came on the first day of the week. By the time of writing John’s gospel, that day had become the day on which the early Christians gathered to worship and celebrate Jesus’ resurrection – as we still do today. Jesus used the traditional Jewish greeting “Shalom – Peace be with you” and then showed them his hands and side to prove who he was. Only then did the disciples break into joy at recognising him as the Lord. After that recognition, Jesus greets them again – Peace be with you! I wonder if he meant “settle down now – be at peace – I have some instructions for you.”
Just as God sent him, so he was sending his followers to continue God’s work. He breathed on them – no fear of COVID 19 – which was reminiscent of God breathing life into the first human as the ancient story in Genesis 2:7 tells us. New Life for these disciples just as Jesus had a new, but different life. Now they were to forgive the sins of people as Jesus had done during his ministry. This is gospel – good news – for people to know they are forgiven and their relationship with God is restored. St Paul writes of this in 2 Corinthians 5: 14-20 – all of us can have new life with Christ because of what he did.
This is still the responsibility of the Church – the descendants of the original followers of Jesus – who have received the Holy Spirit at their Baptism and reminded of it at their Confirmation. For this purpose, you are living the New Life of baptism – you died with Christ and are raised with him to continue his work. You are to be witnesses to teach others that God loves people and wants them to be in communication, to trust and depend on God and not be afraid of punishment for their resistance or disobedience or failures in the past. Sins are forgiven – the gap between God and humanity has been covered by Jesus – there is nothing more to pay.
Jesus did not ask the disciples for perfection, nor to submit to a checklist of beliefs. He offered peace and the gift of relationship as he trusted them and asks us to trust him, too.
Sadly, Thomas missed the experience of that first commissioning and so we have the second visit by Jesus a week later. Rev Arthur Lane, retired UCA minister who lives up the road on Hawken Drive, wrote the following reflection for the Indooroopilly congregation and is happy to share it with you.
“Harry was an elder in a rural congregation where I ministered for some years. As a young man he had turned his back on the hard-line fundamentalist theology characteristic of many country churches, because his was the kind of mind which quickly saw anomalies and wanted to ask questions about them, which brought him into disfavour with those to whom questioning meant lack of faith or refusal to acknowledge Christ as Lord. He held aloof from the Church for many years, until a minister came who understood where Harry was at, and by introducing him to the teachings of modern theologians like Karl Barth helped him to see that faith did not necessarily mean absolute certainty on every point of doctrine – indeed quite the opposite. As Harry himself put it, “the Lord is not going to clobber me because I make a mistake!” He used to say that for him, the highest form of worship was in wrestling with a theological conundrum and seeking to deepen his own understanding. His faith found practical expression in mentoring several young men whose own fathers had died as they embarked on a life of farming; likewise, he took under his wing lads from broken homes. Yet sadly, to the very end there were those who referred to him as “that unbeliever!”
Today’s Gospel highlights Thomas, because of this story often called “Doubting Thomas “, I think unfairly – like Harry, he wanted to believe but was aware of the difficulties. He was one of the Twelve handpicked by Jesus at the very beginning – he didn’t just tag along as an afterthought. He was intensely loyal: when as we heard a couple of weeks ago Jesus declared His intention of going to Lazarus who had died, although this would take Him perilously close to Jerusalem where His enemies were already plotting against Him, it was Thomas who declared his intention of going with Him even if it meant death (John 11:16). At the Last Supper, when Jesus speaks of “going ahead “ and “you know the way “, it is Thomas who vocalises the question that was probably in all of their minds: “Lord, we don’t know the way!” thereby eliciting that great saying of Jesus: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” (John 1:4-6)
But now, it seems, all is in ruins. Like the others, Thomas would have fled from the Garden when Jesus was arrested, possibly he witnessed the Crucifixion from a distance – now he is confronted by a group of excited disciples babbling on about Jesus being alive: if you had been Thomas, how would you have reacted? “Sorry, guys, but I’m going to need something a lot more solid than your say-so before I can commit myself again.” And when a week later Jesus turns up and actually offers him the physical signs he had specified, I don’t think it was by way of rebuke, but encouragement: “Thomas, I know how hard all this is for you, but I really do want you to be sure: come, try Me out.” And from our reading of the text it does not seem that Thomas needed the physical touch after all: the sight alone was enough to elicit the confession of faith: “My Lord and my God!”
We are all different, as God has created us, responding differently to our surroundings and one another. But Jesus wants us able to trust Him, to serve Him in whatever way is appropriate.”
Response to the Word-
Even though we have not seen the Lord, we can still love God.
Even though we cannot touch God’s hands, we can still believe.
Gathered as the body of Christ, and seeing Christ’s love in one another,
we can say without doubt: We have seen the Lord!
When we witness the hands that touch us and behold the eyes that shine Christ’s love and peace, we can proclaim with faith: My Lord and my God!
We will not doubt, but believe.
HYMN: AHB 295 Hail thou once despised Jesus
Offering: St Lucia Uniting Church BSB: 334 040 acct: 553 842 259
Prayers for others –
Holy Spirit, bringer of peace, we pray for those who are grieving today, especially for Annette Watson and her family and friends mourning the loss of Alan and concerned for Stephen. Breathe your peace upon the world, Holy Spirit.
We pray for the leaders of the world at all levels of government and industry. May they acknowledge their failures honestly and stop blaming others. Give them the wisdom they need to co-operate with one another in this time of pandemic and economic crisis. Breathe your peace upon the world, Holy Spirit.
So many lives are lived searching for acceptance, belonging and meaning.
We pray for the restless souls and those who feel they are not worthy.
Breathe your peace upon the world, Holy Spirit.
For some, life is difficult and anxiety is overwhelming. We pray for all caring for those with COVID 19 or trying to prevent it spreading. We pray especially for Julie and Hannah and Rob and Catriona in their medical work.
For those who wait for test results, face separations or relationship challenges and those who are finding life difficult, we pray: Breathe your peace upon the world, Holy Spirit.
We pray now for our family and friends…… In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Pray the Lord’s Prayer.
HYMN: AHB 320 Breathe on me breath of God
We are sent by God into the world, entrusted with gospel message, and called to share the story of Christ with all.
Go in peace to love and serve our God, and may the love of God, the breath of Christ, and the encouragement of the Spirit be with us this day and forever more. Amen.
Resources used in this service include Words for Worship Easter Day year A 19th April 2020 by MediaCom (subscription of Rev Dr Elizabeth Nolan) and The Abingdon Worship Annual 2020 edited by Mary Scifres and B.J. Beu, Abingdon Press, Nashville USA (owned by EN); and Uniting in Worship People’s Book by Uniting Church Press (JBCE) 1988 Melbourne and The Australian Hymn Book multiple copies owned by the St Lucia Uniting Church congregation. Copyright license 217268.
Sonnet 9 by Madeline L’Engle
Resurrection’s not resuscitation.
What, in heaven’s name, do we expect?
I’m satisfied with no one’s explanation
Which seem to me more fancy than correct.
I know that our beloved body’s gone
And heaven’s not pie in some ethereal sky.
It’s you I want, familiar flesh and bone.
But my flesh, too, is mortal. I will die.
So what, then, do I hope from resurrection?
I hope beyond my wildest hope unseen
That there will still be some aware connection
‘Twixt what we will be and ‘twixt what we’ve been,
And you and I and all we love will meet
When Love has won, and we’re at last complete.