Each time you see a musical link in the liturgy, mute or lower the volume on your device before clicking on the link. Once you have done that then click on the link. If an ad pops up, you can then “Skip Ad” and not be disturbed by the noise of the advertisements. Once you see that the music is beginning then unmute or raise the volume on your device. This will allow a more meaningful worship experience for you. Peace be with you.
Prelude: ‘Rhosymedre’ R. Vaughan-Williams https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HQIu6xDyiwM
We acknowledge that we live and work on the unceded, ancestral and traditional territories of indigenous peoples. We accept that Mother Earth and the peoples near us and around the world are all our relations. Thanks be to God.
Let us worship God together.
Introit: Let All the World in Every Corner Sing A. L’Estrange https://youtu.be/MlEYV4N2iQ4
Let all the world in ev’ry corner sing, “My God and King!”. The heavens are not too high, God’s praise may thither fly; The earth is not too low, God’s praises there may grow. Let all the world in ev’ry corner sing, “My God and King!” Let all the world in ev’ry corner sing, “My God and King!”
The church with psalms must shout, no door can keep them out. But, more than all, the heart must bear the longest part. Let all the world in ev’ry corner sing, “My God and King!”
*Call to Worship: That first Easter morning,
Jesus’ women friends went to the tomb where Jesus’ body had been placed.
An angel greeted them there and said, “Do not be afraid.”
They were told that Jesus had been raised.
While they were running to tell the others what they had seen and heard,
Jesus met them and said, “Do not be afraid.”
Today we proclaim the mystery of our faith that Christ has died, and Christ is risen.
Christ is risen indeed. With praise and thanksgiving, we lift our hearts to God!
Hymn: Come, You Faithful, Raise the Strain Tune: Ave virgo virginum https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pbQ_5pzRllM
Come, ye faithful, raise the strain of triumphant gladness;
God hath brought forth Israel into joy from sadness,
loosed from Pharaoh’s bitter yoke Jacob’s sons and daughters,
led them with unmoistened foot through the Red Sea waters.
‘Tis the spring of souls today; Christ hath burst his prison,
and from three days’ sleep in death as a sun hath risen;
all the winter of our sins, long and dark, is flying
from his light, to whom we give laud and praise undying.
Now the queen of season, bright with the day of splendor,
With the royal feast of feasts, comes its joy to render;
Comes to gladden faithful hearts, who with true affection
Welcome in unwearied strains Jesus’ resurrection!
Hallelujah! now we cry to our King immortal,
who triumphant burst the bars of the tomb’s dark portal;
hallelujah! with the Son, God the Father praising;
*Prayer of the Day:
God of resurrection, you have rolled the stone away and the tomb of our world has been opened wide. With the dawn has come a new creation.
Let our celebration today empty our tombs, renew our lives,
and release your power; through the risen Christ we pray. Amen. VU 174
Listening for THE WORD
A Reading from the Gospel according to John.
Listen for what the Spirit is saying to the Church. (John 20:19-31)
19 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 [religious authorities] , Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 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.”
26 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.” 27 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.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 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.”
30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.
This is the story of our faith. Thanks be to God!
Choral Anthem: The Peace of God J. Rutter https://youtu.be/NP2QqUJutII
The peace of God, which passeth all understanding,
keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God,
and of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord:
And the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost,
be amongst you and remain with you always. Amen.
Reflection Rev. Jay Olson
The gospel of John, though not easy to understand, is easy to misuse. Knowledgeable theologians warn us to take care to not be too quick in our interpretations of this gospel. Thinking John’s gospel easy to understand is a sure sign that one most likely does not.
The gospel of John was formulated by people who by then had been marginalized by the religious establishment. If we are to hear the fourth gospel honestly in our time, then we must reject prejudice directed against Jews and Judaism and recognize that the marginalization of people in our communities of faith is a very real Christian problem.
The gospel of John reflects peoples’ fear of being thrown out of their family of faith because of their beliefs and practices as disciples of Jesus. The gospel is not about Christians versus Jews in any universal way. Instead, John’s gospel reveals a kind of “nobody’s innocent” community. The establishment of the day judged those who did not believe and practice belief as they did. It is understandable then that those who were marginalized, reciprocated by demonizing their “judges”.
What then is the message for us living in a world turned upside down? Perhaps it is that belief is a gift from the Holy. It is not something that can be dispensed by anyone or group except God. Faith is not a feature of religious prowess or something to be earned and it does not belong to the majority alone or to the elite Christian establishment, whoever we think “they” are. Belief, that when expressed in the world is life-giving, is a gift from God. Wrapped up in the gift are the complex roles of forgiveness and the emergence of new expressions of life.
In the reading, the disciples had gathered in a house behind locked doors; the lock was a symbol of their fear of the establishment and its power to judge and reject them. And Jesus just appeared. He was not locked out by fear but joined them with the offering of his peace. The breath is reminiscent of the Genesis story when the Spirit breathed life into creation way back in the beginning.
The Holy Spirit here is giving new life and intertwined in that life is the role of forgiveness and the forgiving of the sins of others. “…forgiveness of sins is not about the act of penance in relation to individual deeds. Rather, forgiveness of sins is the community’s Spirit-empowered mission to continue Jesus’ work of making God known in the world…” (NRSV footnote pg. 1949)
The forgiveness of which John speaks is not “anything goes”, nor is it a disregard for injustice or abdication of responsibilities. Forgiveness is to be restorative thereby witnessing to God’s grace at work. It is to result in new or renewed life. The community of believers, thanks to the faithfulness of Jesus the Christ, shares responsibility for the divine mission of restorative justice.
Let me be perfectly clear. It does not mean that people are not to be held accountable for their actions or that we should not be diligent in making our communities safe for everyone especially for the most vulnerable among us. It does mean that we should never confuse justice with retribution.
In this call to witness to God’s grace, Thomas is the figure that represents the spirit of the early community. He is not a doubting fool but appears to be rational and sensible. He is one who needed to see and to touch in order to believe. Proof! We believe it when we see it.
Lest we be too hard on Thomas, remember that in the verses previous to these, the disciples did not believe Mary when she declared that she had seen the Lord. They didn’t believe until the proof stood right in front of them.
Through Thomas the hearers were being told that believing without the standard empirical data was what God was asking for. God’s ways are not our ways. God’s grace is manifested in whatever ways God chooses and to whomever God chooses. God’s ways then and now are not always according to majority opinion, social standards or social measurements. Remember that into that small group on the fringe, on the margin of acceptability, clearly not the elite establishment or those who considered themselves to be the righteous, Jesus appears, offers peace and breathes a new community into being.
They were “sheltering in place”, locked in their fear and the gift of the vision of new life appeared to them, just showed up.
God in Christ came unsolicited. Then God in Christ came again to the stubborn community (Thomas) who would only believe on their own terms. In both cases, belief was a moment of visibility that they would learn to trust. There had been and would be more moments like that. God who went before their ancestors through the desert as a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night met them again.
These are fearful times and the fear reveals that we and our systems are grafted intimately to the idols of certainty, predictability and blame. Many are experiencing loneliness, total uprooting and situations so painful that we marvel at how they survive them. This is when Christ’s body should be its most restorative, a safe presence especially for those who cannot envision the next step ahead.
Christ continues to show up unsolicited with a peace that cannot be explained. Though we are not rescued in the ways for which we long, we are not alone in our need. Death did not have the last word and neither did those who abused their power.
And so, together in this new reality, in our own rooms of doubt, fear, hope and longing, the Christ is present gifting us with new life. Let that belief be enough for you today. Let it shine out of your soul so that others will feel God’s new life being breathed into them.
Let your faith be stronger than your fear. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=acgUnFmg03w
Prayers of the People and the Lord’s Prayer:
Loving God, let us know that you are here with us in each and every room.
We want to see you here and everywhere.
We want to know that you are the force for good behind the new life that is emerging.
We long to know that you hear us as we pray and that you answer.
Search our hearts and find gratitude. We are grateful for… (speak your gratitude)
We pray for the restoration of your world and all its creatures… (name them now)
We ask you to help us unleash all the powers of good to find cures, therapies and vaccines for devastating diseases.
We ask you to free us from our enslavement to the way things were so that we might make the world better than it was especially for “the least” among us. Breathe life into us again, into all of us.
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil for the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and forever.
Our Offering: Take a moment now to offer the gift of your gratitude for the resurrection moments in your life and those resurrection moments yet to come. Give thanks for the many who are saving and those seeking to save life today.
Choral Anthem for Reflection on our Offering: Hallelujah, Amen G. F. Handel https://youtu.be/ZmXOb0TzlX8
Prayer of Dedication:
God of grace, it is our delight and our devotion to give gifts to you.
All we are and all we have are yours alone.
May our offerings be tokens of our true abiding love that breathe peace, justice and comfort into all the world. Amen.
Hymn: Lift High the Cross Tune: Crucifer (lyrics included) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GbcBXYP4AlE
Commissioning and Benediction:
Be in the world as witnesses of God’s resurrection power by caring for the safety of others and doing so with all the confidence, joy and courage of an Easter. Shout with all your might that the God of Life has had the last word, for Christ is Risen! Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia! Amen!
Postlude: Wir danken dir, Gott, wir danken dir J. S. Bach (We thank you, God, we thank you) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RVRjK2bOxX4