Worship Service for the 2nd Sunday of Easter

Hi everyone,

Welcome to our worship service for the 2nd Sunday of Easter, April 7, 2024!

The bulletin for this service can be found here. You can follow along with the order and words in it, or use the words that will appear on your screen.

If you would like to enhance your online worship experience, you may safely have a candle in your space, lit at the beginning of the service and extinguished near the end after the sending hymn, when the altar candles are extinguished. You are also welcome to participate in communion if you so choose, with something small to eat and drink nearby ready to be eaten at the right time in the service. Further instruction will come then.

May God’s everlasting welcome and peace support you and lift you up, now and always!

God of all faith and doubt, by the power of your Spirit may our ears hear your voice, our eyes see your face, and our hearts feel you present with us, here and now, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

So the funeral for my uncle who died a couple weeks ago happened this past Wednesday.  And I’ll admit, I got a bit more emotional than I thought I would, which is weird because I’m not usually emotional at the actual funeral.  Before or after, maybe, but not during.  So I’m glad that my cousins who organised it had the foresight to not ask me to lead the service or preach the sermon.  Well, either they had the good foresight or they just don’t trust me enough to not make inappropriate jokes on such a solemn day.  Either case, it was a good decision on their part.

The thing about this uncle though, is that while he didn’t speak English very well, he knew enough to be able to communicate pure comedy.  It wasn’t so much what he said, but just how he’d say it that always made me laugh, at least on the inside.  In my opinion, this guy just brought in a bit of sunshine in all that he did for his family, for his church, and in the community in general.

So yeah, the funeral was a bit tough.  As I listened to my cousins talk about him, it brought back my own memories of growing up with the man, as my family and theirs spent quite a bit of time together when I was a kid.  We’d go to church together, family outings together, and since my dad and this uncle worked at the same place, we even went to their work Christmas party together.  These cousins and my siblings and me are the closest in age when compared to our other cousins, so it was just natural that we’d do more things together. 

But what struck me about the day was just how many people showed up in honour of my uncle.  I didn’t get the exact count, but I would say over 200 at least.  Aside from my extensive extended family, I also saw a bunch of other people that I probably haven’t seen for 20 some odd years at least.  He was still a very active member of the church that I grew up at, so it was like a reunion for me of sorts.  Like my old Sunday School teacher was there, which was wild that she was still alive, let alone remember who I am. 

But after all was said and done, after the prayers were prayed and the songs sung, after the tears were wiped away and the ground covered back up, I noticed that it wasn’t in the service itself where I found the most comfort.  But it was in being able to see how my uncle had affected and contributed to the lives around him, how he was so loved by so many, how his legacy of hospitality and welcome will carry on, that was truly healing for me.  And that realisation didn’t come from anything the celebrant did or said, but it came from the wider community.  It was the community in which I found peace.

Peace that was there in the fellowship and conversation after the service.  Peace that was given to this group of familiar and unfamiliar faces gathered together in remembrance of the same person.  Peace that was divinely breathed upon us all.

Because as introverted that we might feel like we are or need to be, there is just something to be said about being surrounded by people when in mourning, isn’t there.  There is something to be said about knowing that we are not alone in our pain.  There is something to be said about being able to share with others who would be able to understand to a certain extent, because they are feeling what we are feeling.

I mean, that’s why the disciples were locked up in that upper room, isn’t it?  Sure, things were still pretty heavy for them. They might have felt a bit aimless with the loss of their teacher and mentor.  Or maybe they were a scared that the people would soon figure out that Peter was lying and actually did know Jesus and they’d come after them.  But beyond all of that, I think they needed to be together, they needed the support from each other, they needed the peace that comes from community.  And as they were there gathered together in fear and perhaps hiding, they received that peace in a way that they probably never would have guessed or imagined.

Jesus.  In the flesh.  Among them.  With them.  Giving them peace.

Who would have thunk it?  Nevermind that Jesus said this would happen, or that he promised that he’d be there where they are gathered in his name, or that some of their crew had already seen him earlier that day, they were shocked.  I guess I don’t blame them as Jesus pretty much spoke to them in riddles and parables like all the time, so how could they have known to take him literally this one time?

Either case, it was in that upper room behind locked doors that Jesus appeared to all of them.  All but one.  Of course, as we know, Thomas wasn’t there for whatever reason.  I don’t know, maybe he was getting groceries or making a deposit at the bank or something.  But he wasn’t there, he wasn’t present, he missed out.

But not for long.

After he returned and the others filled him in on what had just happened, he wanted that same experience.  He heard the hope in their voices and he wanted in on that action.  Maybe he was even a bit jealous as his first reaction was one of skepticism, like “What?  No way. For Simon Peter’s sake.”  And he had to wait a whole week before he had his chance.

And while many many preachers and sermons might focus on Thomas’ reaction of doubt here, I think there is more to be said about the events that led to and followed the doubt.  I mean Jesus was able to appear the other non-Thomas disciples pretty easily, he found where they were, passed through their locked doors, and entered their space.  Clearly this was a supernatural miraculous event that should be able to be duplicated however, wherever, and whenever Jesus wanted.  So why did he wait a whole week?  Why not appear to Thomas when he was at the store?  Or at the line up at the bank?  Or just wherever he was when he was by himself, away from the other disciples?

Well, I think it’s because how Jesus promised he’d show up.  See while God is revealed in a great many ways, in meditation, through creation, and apparently in dreams, I think Jesus is found in community.  It’s when we aren’t alone that we are reminded of the teachings and promises of Christ.  It’s when we are plugged in, surrounded by our people, connected through the bonds of relationship and family that Jesus appears.  It is in the love that we share with others in our gathering, in our congregating, or maybe even in our worship where Jesus is revealed and we are granted peace.

So I think that is why Jesus waited a whole 7 days before being seen by Thomas, because Jesus is most clearly seen in our relating to others, in our interactions, and in our support for one another.  This band of folk just went through a lot with the whole crucifixion of their leader thing, and their healing came from being together and knowing that they aren’t alone.

And it’s in this community and family that they are transformed to be more compassionate, more generous, and more like Jesus.  This is what we are all invited to in our congregations and churches.  This is what we are welcomed to through the Spirit that runs through us all.  This is where we can find true healing and wholeness knowing that we have not been abandoned in our pain and sorrow, but lifted up by the grace and love of Jesus, showing us how we are not alone but are given the peace that surpasses all understanding. 

This is the gift that we are given as God’s people.  This invitation and welcome to be part of this community that spans the generations.  This belonging that we have in this church regardless of who we are, where we’re from, or what our pasts look like.  This identity as a member of this body and family of Christ.

Friends, we are not alone in this journey of life.  We can find companionship and support through our community in which we, in turn, provide companionship and support for.  We can see Jesus present with us, among us, and even in spite of us in who we are, who we are with, and who we become as a people by the grace of God, granting us passage into this eternal story of faith and giving us healing, joy, and peace.

So in this season of Easter, may we see the resurrected Christ with us and among us in our relationships, community, and support, knowing that we intimately known, eternally seen, and divinely loved by the God that created the universe, now and always.  Thanks be to God.  Amen.

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