Sunday, May 1, 2022

Third Sunday of Eastertide

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INTROIT
No Doubt About It
by We The Kingdom

CALL TO WORSHIP       
This is the day to walk in light!
This is the day to share signs of peace.
This is the day to believe where we have not seen.
This is the day to embrace what we cannot touch.
Let us worship the Lord of life who unlocks every door.

PRAYER OF INVOCATION
Almighty God, we thank you for the uniqueness and love that has created us. We ask that your grace sustains us, your guidance corrects us, your patience holds us, and your love redeems us. We have come to worship you and find the peaceful center within. We come to rediscover the joys of our hearts and to reclaim a faith that believes in things we have not yet seen. In Christ’s name. Amen.

PRAYER OF CONFESSION
We can hide nothing from God, who knows our every thought.  God is aware of sins we have not recognized. We cannot be right with God unless we examine ourselves and repent. Let us confess our sin before God and one another, and may God have mercy.
May Christ have mercy.
May God have mercy.
O God, our lives are an open book to you.  Help us to recognize in ourselves what you have seen there. Remove the distortions that keep us from acknowledging our sin.  Awaken in us a sorrow over the wrong we have done and the good we have neglected.  Create in us an earnest desire to change. O God, we are in touch with the pain we have caused and the pain within us. Because of your love and care, we can face and overcome the sins we here confess. Amen.

WORDS OF ASSURANCE
Hear now these words of assurance:
Your struggles to know yourself are prompted by God’s love.  God leads the community of faith beyond what is lawful to what is holy.  We are not our own. We are Christ’s. By God’s grace, we may turn from self-serving ways to selfless ministries that glorify God.

GLORY PATRI
Glory be to the Father, and to the son, and to the Holy Ghost.
As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.


All readings are from the New Revised Standard Version bible.

PSALTER LESSON ………………………………………………….. Psalm 133
How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!
It is like the precious oil on the head, running down upon the beard,
   on the beard of Aaron, running down over the collar of his robes.
It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion.
   For there the LORD ordained his blessing, life forevermore.

NEW TESTAMENT LESSON ………………………………………………….. Acts 5: 25-32
Then someone arrived and announced, “Look, the men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people!”

Then the captain went with the temple police and brought them, but without violence, for they were afraid of being stoned by the people. When they had brought them, they had them stand before the council. The high priest questioned them, saying, “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you are determined to bring this man’s blood on us.”

But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than any human authority. The God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior that he might give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.”

GOSPEL LESSON ………………………………………………………… John 20: 19-28
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 Jews, 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 hand 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!”


SERMON ……………….… Peace Be With You …………………….Rev. Mike Daly
Psalm 133 speaks to a vision. Psalm 133 is brief, but it says a lot about the potential for positive human relationships. The psalmist speaks of unity and community and God’s blessings. The psalm reintroduces the vision in which the world is not only “pleasant” but also “good.” In other words, when life is peaceful.

Implied is the reality that life is good when God is nearby, even if the world looks bleak in the moment. It is like anointing a beloved high priest with oil. Oil symbolizes the Holy Spirit and the close relationship that is possible when people prioritize God and God’s purposes above their own. 

Psalm 133 comes out of a group of Biblical psalms known as a Song of Ascent. These psalms were used for worship and to celebrate how a scattered people can still travel and come together for festivals and holy days. Biblical scholars believe this psalm was most likely used “on the road” away from Jerusalem. It is a song that prepares travelers for the reunion to come!

Ascent psalms are pilgrimage psalms. Today’s psalm is short and easy to remember. It would have been used often by the faithful during the long pilgrimages to Jerusalem for festival days. They could sing this psalm with ease as they walked.

Traveling tunes are easy because they are familiar. They are enjoyable because they connect. These are familiar tunes. Today, we might sing a song like “Country Roads… take me home…” as we travel on vacation, for example.

Like contemporary songs of today, the psalms are a reflection of human life and drama. If things are always good, then we don’t need a vision of how things will someday always be good. When our personal lives or a particular community’s history is always one of struggle and challenge – there is a need for a source of comfort and strength.

Jews knew slavery in Egypt and captivity in Babylon. They knew the feeling of being separated and pulled apart – of being a foreigner in a foreign land. So they sang about a vision of unity.

It is a universal vision – hearts that beat as one, physical and emotional barriers are eliminated, hate and unrest go extinct. Peace and unity. Christianity proclaims this vision and seeks to channel it into being united as a body of Christ – one body with many members. Whether it’s Jesus or the Apostle Paul, the New Testament repeats the theme of unity over and over again. Jesus says in one of his prayers (Gospel of John 17:21) “…that they may all be one…”

It’s a good dream. Unity, peace, love. It can be a reality, and it is a reality…sometimes. Yet, there isn’t a generation that is immune from fear and dysfunction. Division among people is as real now as it has always been. There will be good times, and there will be hard times. The bible doesn’t ask us to try and change reality. It does, however, ask us to change how we handle this reality.

At Easter and the celebration of Christ’s resurrection, we celebrated the end of death’s grip on the world. And that is a good start! It is an event that seems like it would be the unifying event of all time.

Yet, on the night of the first Easter, the disciples were huddled together behind a locked door. What were they afraid of? Well, they had a lot to be afraid of. For one thing, they could be accused of stealing his body. They could be punished for guilt-by-association with his movement. Were they worried that those who killed Jesus would kill them as well? I think that could be part of it. However, did their fear go deeper? Maybe they didn’t want to deal with the scorn of those who knew they had failed. Maybe they didn’t want to face their new reality – as they perceived it. Whatever the case, they’re cowering, and the doors locked.

There is no denying that those early disciples were feeling undone by Jesus’ execution and his being buried like a no-good criminal. Now, his body is missing. They ask each other “what’s next” and “should we run our separate ways?” John’s Gospel says, “In the evening of the first day of the week, the doors were locked, and the disciples were together, but in fear.”

They are behind a locked door. They ask questions like, do we stay together, or do we go our separate ways? In time, they will once again see that Jesus’ broken body is not symbolic of what felt like a broken union. They will come to grips with something deep inside that Jan Love describes by saying, “Most of us yearn to redeem the brokenness…. Most of us long for the fulfillment of the biblical vision of shalom where all women and men, all children and youth will have their fullness of humanity restored.”

In the times of fear and doubt it is difficult to see that this is how the living body of Christ is to work. It is the lesson of all of us know, that we can be restoring agents of God because we know the complexities of brokenness from our own experiences. And this is why we join together to become a church, Christ’s body. John’s “early church” message to the “future church” (i.e. us) is UNLOCK YOUR DOORS. Together, we seek to learn, practice, and grow in faith. We work out our fears to achieve…. peace. We inspire each other with our passion…. so that we might know….peace.

People who find peace – within the certainties and uncertainties of life, and the beliefs and the doubts of faith – have something we will learn to call the Holy Spirit. When we combine our faith and our gifts the locked doors of exclusion – indifference – intolerance – elitism are rejected and no longer barriers to making God’s kingdom a reality. Church people make good things happen by enacting good upon the world. We have to because if what happens in the church stays in church, we have no real purpose.

One of the things I celebrate about our community of faith is our strong commitment to mission and reaching out in compassionate ways to those in need. I also appreciate that we are not afraid of our doubts. In our honesty, we are stronger.

Remember, when Jesus says to Thomas, “Touch my hand,” Jesus was not rebuking Thomas for his doubts. Rather, he was giving Thomas the proof that he needed. Jesus did not say to Thomas, “Now, close your eyes and try to believe real hard.” Nor did he say, “Thomas, if you would just have more faith, be more like the other disciples, you wouldn’t have a problem.”  Instead, Jesus gave Thomas the proof he needed. Out of love, he gave him tangible evidence.

Christianity is not just a wonderful spiritual ideal. Christianity is the living body that enacts spirituality into a tangible, visible reality by the power of the Holy Spirit. The resurrected Jesus meets all of us, including Thomas, where we are. Though Jesus’ words don’t reach Thomas, his hands do. Jesus is no ghost; he is no magician; he isn’t even a superhero. He is the living messiah.

Faith is a beautiful wonder. Jesus rising from the grave is wonderful news! He told us such things would happen, and now he is here to help us see him at work and believe in a world transformed. Again and again, the Spirit of Jesus meets us where we are, startling us and embracing us and breathing on us and sending us to be the embodiment of love, and hope for others. The Good News is clear. When you least expect him, and when you most need him, Jesus appears. Let us sing of the unity described in Psalm 133. A psalm about community and faithful followers on a journey with God. It’s positive, forward-leading, and energizing. When we hear the voice of Christ proclaiming, “Peace be with you,” we learn that Easter was not just another special day. It was and is a new way to live into our new life. A way that unlocks every door and removes every barrier so that in our calling to follow, we encounter the living Christ ….. AMEN.

THE LORD’S PRAYER
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day, our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

SPECIAL MUSIC
Doubting Doubts
by Citizens & Saints

DOXOLOGY
Praise God from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him all creatures here below;
Praise Him above you heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Amen

Benediction
May the Lord watch between me and thee, while we are apart one from the other, Amen.

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