Welcome to worship for this 2nd Sunday of Easter, landing on April 16, 2023!
The bulletin for this service can be found here. We are using the Now the Feast and Celebration setting out of the Hymnal Supplement (1991) book, and those page numbers will be indicated with an “HS”. The hymns are out of the ELW with the exception of the sending hymn which will be out of the All Creation Sings hymnal, which will be indicated with an “ACS”. The music for that hymn is included in the bulletin, along with the other words and responses of the liturgy, as well as the full sermon. The words that you need to know and the music for that new sending hymn will be on your screen, and the sermon is included on this page below the video.
For a fuller online worship experience, you may have a lit candle in your space that can be extinguished with the altar candles after the sending hymn. And if you’d like to participate in communion you can have something small to eat and drink ready to consume at the indicated time during the service.
May God’s rich love and steadfast mercy be upon you this day and always!
Guiding God, send to us your Spirit that we can be led along the path of life into the fullness of joy in your everlasting presence, through Jesus Christ, our risen and tangible Saviour and Lord. Amen.
So you must have heard it said that seeing is believing. And at first that totally makes sense. I mean if you see something there in front of you, how can you not believe it’s real? If you witness something that happens, how can you not believe that it’s true? If you can observe something physical and tangible that is like literally right there, how can you not believe that it’s like literally right there? So off the bat, we’d agree that seeing really is believing.
And logically speaking, if that’s true, then I guess the inverse should also be true. So if seeing is believing, then that must mean that not being able to see something means we needn’t believe it to be real. I mean that’s why we give so much weight to eye-witness testimonies, because if no one saw whatever was said to have happened happen, then can we really believe that it’s true? Maybe this is why our culture is so obsessed with taking pictures too, because then it’s actually proof because if we can’t lay our eyes on it, then its credibility is just thrown out the window.
So that settles it then, it’s true. Seeing is believing and not seeing gives you the right to not believe.
Well, yeah it’s true… until it isn’t.
There are a lot of things that we see that we just won’t believe. Slight of hand, weird perspectives that make shadows look like lake monsters and trees look like giant gorilla people, and even clever movie making and AI photoshop are all examples as to why what we see isn’t all that reliable. I mean I’ve seen in person, a man cut his lovely assistant completely in half while her top half giggled and her bottom half still flinched when he tickled her feet. But not for a second did I believe that she was actually cut in half. And I was like 7 years old at the time. So maybe seeing isn’t really all that believing.
And then maybe not being able to see something doesn’t necessarily mean that it isn’t true either. I know personally I’ve never seen Saturn, but I believe it’s out there. I’ve never seen Germany in person either, but I believe it’s a real place. And I’ve never seen Barack Obama in the flesh, but I firmly believe that he truly is my brother-in-law’s cousin’s brother-in-law. But you might say that’s different, because we know people who have seen and there are pictures and stuff, but I don’t know anyone who has seen my brain, and I have never seen any pictures of it either. Well, you all might be “exactly, that explains it”, to which I’d retort that I’ve never seen any of your brains either. So I think not seeing doesn’t have to mean that it isn’t true either.
So then what is true? What is real? What can we believe?
In this time of history when anything can be made to look real with a half decent computer and a good plastic surgeon, it really is hard to trust anything. Since the invention of lying, which I think we can trace all the way back to Adam and Eve, we have always had a little bit of suspicion in us. And even Jesus’ own disciples who witnessed him perform miracles, heal the sick, walk on water, and even raise people from the dead, had a hard time believing that Jesus was risen from the dead, even when he was standing right in front of them, totally able to be seen.
Talk about seeing is not actually believing. I imagine the disciples reacted the same exact way that we would have reacted if our beloved teacher and mentor whom we watched get killed at the hands of the very people he wanted to save only to have him show up in our hiding place behind locked doors. And that would be “whu-bu-bu-bu-whaaa?” Seeing or not, this is would be a hard one to swallow. Impossible, really. So much so, in fact, that at first, they didn’t believe. They couldn’t. It was just too unbelievable.
I know we like to rag on Thomas for not believing, even gave him a nickname that stuck around for centuries: Doubting Thomas. But really, none of the disciples believed at first. They all doubted. They didn’t believe when Jesus told them it would happen, they didn’t believe when the women told them that it did happen, and now they still don’t believe as they are witnessing it right now first hand while it’s happening.
But can you blame them? Can you blame Thomas for not believing even after his buddies told him of their experience? Can you blame anyone for thinking that resurrection from death is a little hard to believe even when they can see it right before their eyes?
There are some things, that seeing is just not enough to lead you to believe. Sometimes you have to do more than just see it in a picture or in person but you have to actually go and examine it. Sometimes before you can believe in something, you have use whatever senses are available to you and study it and understand it more. Sometimes you have to experience it.
That is what happened with disciples, not just with Thomas. As soon as Jesus showed up the first thing he did after telling them to chill the heck out was show them the wounds on his hands and side. And as gross as it sounds, you better believe those disciples took a closer gander. Maybe it poked it a bit. Can’t be too careful, you know, gotta make sure that this is the same Jesus. But then Jesus goes and sends them out into the world, breathing in them the Spirit that unites them and us all, empowering them to be all they can be as God’s people. Experience.
And then when Thomas catches wind of this, he’s all like, “Aw I want to touch the wounds too.” Of course, who wouldn’t? And Jesus shows up again and Thomas gets the same sensory exhilaration as the other disciples. Then he believes. Then truly sees the risen Christ. Then he praises his God knowing full well that he has been included in the salvific grace and redemption of God. Thomas sees, yes, but it is the experience that renews his faith, revitalizes his soul, and reconfirms in him his belief that Jesus is Lord.
So I can believe that there is a Saturn even when I haven’t seen it because I have experienced knowledge transfer from those who have seen and studied it. I can believe there is a Germany even when I’ve never been there because I have experienced things that came from that country, like Lutheranism to say the least, but also Volkswagens and beer. I can believe that Barack Obama is a real person even though I’ve never actually met him because I’ve experienced my brother-in-law’s family who have through pictures and story. And I can of course believe that I indeed have a brain contrary to popular thought, as I myself have experienced thought, doubt, and regular neural functions that would suggest that there is actually brain matter in this noggin of mine.
It isn’t just seeing that is believing, but it is experiencing it that really seals the deal.
So what do we experience that leads us to believe in the living Christ? What in our lives can we attribute to God’s grace and mercy? What do we see that truly tells us and assures us that we are beloved children of God, saved and redeemed, forgiven and lifted up, welcomed into God’s kingdom and new life with all the saints of all times and places?
Maybe it is our community in which we belong, the relationships and connections that we make in them, the support that we give and receive, the love that is shared among such a diverse group of people. Maybe it’s out in nature, the beauty of the land, the wonders of the animals, and the calm serenity of all its grand coexistence. Or maybe it’s just within ourselves, when we felt healed from certain destruction, released from overbearing burdens, or cleansed from debilitating shame and guilt.
Whatever it is, let’s us not forget these experiences, these God moments that colour our lives, these blessings that fill our cups with life, and cherish them as they move us deeper into faith, stronger in love, and more confident in our belief.
In this season of Easter, may we experience resurrection in and around our lives and our community, that we be inspired to love and serve our God and neighbour, and boldly proclaim this good news to all that we meet. Thanks be to God. Amen.