Thursday, 8 April 2021

MRUC Worship for Easter 2 - 11 April 2021

 


Marsden Road Uniting Church Carlingford

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A Week Late to the Resurrection

Sunday 11th April 2021

Easter 2 Sunday - year of Mark 9.30am 

Gathering God’s People       

Call to Worship - (Abingdon Worship Annual 2018)       

How pleasing it is to God when we live as one family, sharing all that we have in holy love. How eager is our God to bless us with everlasting life when we move from the shadows and forsake the works of darkness. How joyous is the life we find in Christ?

This is the day to walk in the 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. Come! Let us worship the Lord of life. 

Hymn TIS 382: Now the green blade rises from the

                       buried grain.

                 (tune – Noel Nouvelet) 

     Opening Prayer

     God of manifold blessing come to us this day. Come and bless us. Come and lead us into the light. For we come to you to find peace. We come to rediscover joy. We come to believe where we have not seen. We come to touch the glory of everlasting life, through the power of your Son. We come to truly live. Amen. 

Prayer of Confession

Heart of all hearts, Joy of all joys, teach us how to live as one.

You offer us your abundant grace, and yet we still long to find rest and peace.

You have shown us the light of our salvation, yet we often lurk in the shadows.

You promise us the glory of everlasting life, yet we settle for the tarnished glow of selfish pursuits. Forgive us.

Help us believe where we have not seen; help us walk bravely in the midst of our fear, that we may truly know your peace each and every day. Amen. 

Declaration of Forgiveness

In Christ, God has forgiven not only our sins, but the sins of the whole world. Rejoice in the light and peace of the Holy One. Rejoice in the blessings of our God.

Thanks, be to God! 

The Peace

After his resurrection, Christ greeted his disciples with these words: “Peace be with you.” As disciples of Christ, let us greet one another with these same words:

Peace be with you!

And also, with you! 

A Word with the Children/Young People

Theme: Thomas doubts Christ's Resurrection

Object: A driver's license or some other photo identification card

Does anyone ever ask you for identification? It happens to me all the time. In the old days when I went into a store to buy something and I want to pay for it with a cheque, the person behind the counter would take my cheque and then asks, "May I see your driver's license please?" Why does the person need to see my driver's license? The answer is quite simple. The cashier wants to see if I match the picture on the driver's license. Am I really who I claim to be?

There may be other times when you will be asked for identification. You may need a picture ID to get a library card. You might even need a picture ID to sign up for youth soccer. Many schools are now requiring students and teachers to wear a picture ID at school. Almost every day we are asked to prove that we are who we say we are.

On the Sunday that Jesus rose from the grave, he appeared to a group of his disciples. One of the disciples, whose name was Thomas, was not with them. When the disciples told Thomas that they had seen Jesus and that he was alive, Thomas said, "I won't believe it until I see it with my own eyes. I want to see the nail-prints in his hands and put my hand in the place where the spear was thrust into his side."

A week later, Jesus appeared to his disciples again. This time Thomas was there. Jesus said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Put your hand into my side. Stop doubting and believe." Then Thomas believed!

A lot of people today won't believe that Jesus really rose from the grave because they haven't seen him with their own two eyes. They want "proof of identity" before they will believe. Jesus said, "Blessed are they who have not seen, and yet have believed."

How about you? Do you have to have "proof of identity" before you will believe in Jesus, or will you accept him by faith? 

Offering

God of abundant grace, we live in a world where people’s worth is often tied to their wealth. You have shown us how good and pleasing it is when families live together as one. May the offerings we bring before you now be signs of our commitment to help those in need and to live together as the family of God. Amen. 

Hymn TIS 649: These things did Thomas count as real.

                        (tune Kedron (Dare) or Yellow Bittern) 

The Service of the Word 

The First Reading:                                            Acts 4:32-37

The Gospel Reading:                                        John 20:19-31

After the final reading the reader will say            For the Word of the Lord

Please respond by saying                                    Thanks be to God. 

Readings: NRSV Translation 

Acts 4:32-37.

32 Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. 33 With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 34 There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. 35 They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. 36 There was a Levite, a native of Cyprus, Joseph, to whom the apostles gave the name Barnabas (which means ‘son of encouragement’). 37 He sold a field that belonged to him, then brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet. 

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 Jews, 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 Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name. 

Preaching of the Word - A Week Late to the Resurrection

Today, the first Sunday after Easter, is traditionally known as Low Sunday. Low Sunday—that’s a tremendously unflattering nickname for us as the Church. Last week we presented the triumph of the church year. We announced to the world the Good News of Jesus Christ: Jesus died and rose again to new life for love of us. And the result is that the next Sunday is the lowest attendance of the whole church year, all the way across Christendom. Ouch. Was it something we said?

It may well have been. It’s a shocking gospel, frankly quite hard to believe. It was hard to believe even for people who knew Jesus in person while he was alive and witnessed his many miracles. Today we tell the story of Doubting Thomas, the apostle who had to see to believe.

Thomas, along with Peter, is the most human of the disciples, and this story is rich with interesting questions. The first thing that we notice is that Thomas misses out on Jesus’ first appearance to the disciples. It’s Sunday night, and they have been locked in the Upper Room, afraid for their lives since Friday night.

But not Thomas. Where is he? Was he terrified and trying to hide by himself, not wanting to be found by the Romans right in the middle of a pack of ringleaders of Jesus’ rebellion? Was he instead full of stoic courage, the only one brave enough to venture out and bring back food to his friends?

Whatever it was, he was definitely not there when Jesus appeared in the locked Upper Room. He missed the Resurrection. Many of us can identify with that sort of frustrated futility. We wonder if we’re missing the Resurrection in a lot of areas in our lives. God is raising things to new life and our attention is elsewhere, checked out, missing in action, like Thomas.

Thomas does eventually show up with the rest of the disciples, and they tell him, “We have seen the Lord.” And what is he supposed to think? If he was the only one who had been brave enough to leave, he has watched his brothers and friends driven nearly mad with fear and grief over the last three days. He probably feels great compassion and love for them. They so desperately want their dead friend and leader not to have been condemned to death and executed, that they have dreamed up this vision they experienced.

And who knows, Thomas wouldn’t put it past Jesus to come to them as a ghost. Lord knows he did stranger things than that when he was alive. But he is no longer alive. He is dead, and Thomas knows that denying that won’t help anyone. It’s never brought back any of the rest of the family and friends he’s lost over the years, and it won’t bring back Jesus.

Thomas remains in this state, unable to trust the word of his friends, for an entire week. What was that week like for him? The rest of the disciples were floating on air knowing that Jesus had been raised from the dead. But where was Jesus for that week? And why did he leave the disciples alone? It’s like Low Sunday. Last Sunday we saw him raised from the dead. Now we’re back and starting to wonder, did we really see what we thought we saw? At least we have witnessed him alive. Thomas has had only his own stubbornness to keep him going.

Stubbornness and maybe a tiny spark of hope. Because what made Thomas stick around for an entire week with what he believed to be friends driven to delusions by grief? If Jesus was truly dead, there was nothing left for him anymore with this group of people. By all rights, he should have gone home to his fields or his fishing boat. Remaining with the disciples was a dead end—the longer they stayed together, the greater the danger of being arrested by the Romans. And spending time with them would only serve to bring home every minute of every day that their friend Jesus was dead.

But Thomas did stay. Is it possible that a small part of him wondered if this story his friends were telling him might possibly be true? He reveals himself a bit in his answer to their claim that they have seen the Lord. He says, “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.”

He doesn’t say, “You people are crazy, I’m leaving.” He sets up a hypothetical condition under which he will believe in the Resurrection. He’s laying out the challenge to Jesus. He’s saying, “Come and show me, Jesus, come and prove it to me. Just come to me, Jesus, on any terms.”

Thomas wants to be tough and uncaring and sceptical, but he loved Jesus. He is grieving as deeply as the others, and although they are now joyful since seeing him alive again, Thomas has had no such comfort. He’s throwing out this challenge to provoke Jesus into coming to them again, because Thomas just wants to see his friend. Ghost or vision or real person, it doesn’t matter.

And Jesus does not disappoint him. Thomas has had a grim week, the lone sceptic among the believers. But as soon as Jesus arrives, as soon as he bids them peace, he calls Thomas to him and says, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.”

How fascinating and revealing that even in his resurrected body, Jesus’ wounds remain. And how very appropriate to Thomas’ story, and our own story. Resurrection is possible for us in so many areas of our own lives. But our wounds remain, the scars that, painful as they were in the making, have made us indelibly who we are.

Jesus is resurrected to new life, but he’s still himself. And he helps Thomas recognize him through his wounds. That is a potent lesson for us. When we look at ourselves and at each other, part of the proof of our true resurrection is that the past is brought forward to coexist with the present. Our wounds are not erased as though they had never existed. They are still present but no longer cause us pain. They are proof to one another that we are new and whole, but it was our woundedness that got us to this day of resurrection in the first place.

There was one other thing that happened on Low Sunday in the early Church. Those who were baptised on Easter received a new white robe and wore it all week. On Low Sunday, they took it off and went back to their regular clothes. There’s something very poignant about that and our story of Thomas. Today is the day when the loud and public festivities are over, and we return to our normal, everyday lives. But today is also the Day of the Resurrection for Thomas. It is the day when the new white robe falls away and Thomas sees the wounds on Jesus’ body, the same physical person that he knew and loved and now recognizes as both wounded and whole, alive and breathing.

Can we recognize that same type of resurrection in ourselves? In each other? When the fancy Easter dresses and suits are put away for another year, what is left? Our same wounded selves that we fear to show to one another. But we need proof of the Resurrection, and we will only find it in each other. If we are brave enough to show each other our wounded places, we will find that they don’t hurt quite so much. We will find that we are indeed both wounded and healed.

Thomas was a week late to the Resurrection, but he made it all the same. Where do you find yourself today? There is still time for you to come back to life. Reach out to touch the wounded, living Jesus and feel him touch your wounded, living soul. 

Hymn AOV 63: We walk by faith.

                       (tune – Shanti (Marty Haugen))       

Intercessory Prayers  

      After the words: In your mercy, - please respond with hear our prayer. 

Easter 2 Sunday – Year B

Jesus Christ crucified and risen, we pray for your beautiful creation, scarred by plunder, pollution and destruction. In the wounds of the world, Jesus, let us see your wounds.

Risen God, bring new life to your creation, and,

in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Jesus Christ crucified and risen, we pray for the peoples of the world, scarred by cruelty, hatred and war.

In the wounds of your people, Jesus, let us see your wounds.

Risen God, bring new life to your people, and,

in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Jesus Christ crucified and risen, we pray for our nation, Australia, scarred by intolerance, prejudice and greed.

In the wounds of our nation, Jesus, let us see your wounds.

Risen God, bring new life to our country, and,

in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Jesus Christ crucified and risen, we pray for your church, scarred by division, discord and disobedience.

In the wounds of your church, Jesus, let us see your wounds. Risen God, bring new life to your church, and,

in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Jesus Christ crucified and risen, we pray for the forgotten of our community, scarred by loneliness, rejection and shame.

In the wounds of your little ones, Jesus, let us see your wounds. Risen God, bring new life to our community, and,

in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Jesus Christ crucified and risen, we pray for the sick, the sad and the needy, scarred by sorrow, pain and despair.

In the wounds of your suffering ones, Jesus, let us see your wounds. Risen God, bring new life to those in need, and,

in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Jesus Christ crucified and risen, we pray for all who have died believing in you, and for those who have never seen or known you.

Help us to recognise the marks of your presence among us, that we may see and believe and, at our life's end, stretch out your hands to draw us to your eternal presence.

Risen God, in death and in life, bring new life to your people, and, in your mercy, hear our prayer. 

The Lord's Prayer

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 for ever. Amen 

        Hymn TIS 376: I know that my Redeemer lives.

                               (tune – Church Triumphant)

       
Benediction

        Walk in the light of God.

        We will live in the light of God and we will bask in the light of God.

        May the Light of all lights transform your doubts into faith, and your sorrows into joy.

        We go with the peace of God.

Go with the blessings of almighty God. 

        Hymn TIS 779: May the feet of God walk with you.

                        (tune – Aubrey)



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