Worship Service for the 3rd Sunday of Easter

Hi everyone,

Welcome to worship for this 3rd Sunday of Easter, landing on April 17, 2024!

The bulletin for this service can be found here. You can follow along with it or just with the words that appear on your screen. However, the bulletin will have all the words of the liturgy as well as the full sermon. The sermon is also included on this page below the video.

For an enhanced online worship experience, you may have a candle in your space, lit at the beginning of the service and extinguished near the end after the sending hymn. You are also welcome to participate in communion by having something small to eat and drink ready for consumption at the appropriate time in the service. Further instruction will be given then.

May God’s everlasting presence in your life fill you with confidence and peace, now and always!

Holy God, by your Spirit may your radical and surprising love be revealed, in your Word, in your presence, and in our lives, through Jesus Christ the risen Saviour of the world.  Amen.

So anyone catch the eclipse on Monday?  In case you don’t know what I’m talking about, this past Monday marked some special eclipse that is supposed to happen just once every few hundred years or something.  I don’t really follow these things because lately it seems like we have these elusive “once in a lifetime” eclipses like every few years.  Either that or time is going by much faster than I thought. 

Whatever the case, we couldn’t see this special eclipse anyway here in the Lower Mainland even if we wanted to, because unlike the day before and the day after and most of the week for that matter, the sky was covered with rain clouds that were actively dropping rain.  Any attempt to look up would only be met by water in your eye.

Either case, I know none of us here were able to see the eclipse, but were any of us here raptured?  This was something else that was going around with the eclipse, a prediction that it was a sign of the end times.  And I guess that is no surprise as people have been making end time predictions since time was even conceived to eventually end.  And by chance you don’t know what the rapture is, it’s a theory that before the world ends for good, Jesus will come down to take all the faithful back with him to heaven, leaving behind all the unfaithful to fend for themselves.  So it’s kind of similar to Thanos snapping half of life away, except with no infinity gauntlet.

Well, it looks like most of us are here, so I guess the rapture didn’t happen after all.  Or maybe it did but we are all the unfaithful?  I don’t know.  But it doesn’t seem like it happened anyway.  I mean, no planes crashed, no buildings fell, no inexplicable disappearances from what I’ve heard.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure people died on that day around the world, but it wasn’t anywhere near a rapture level event where I’d completely renounce my preexisting beliefs around such rapture type events.  We didn’t see it.  We didn’t experience it.  It didn’t happen.  And I can’t say that I’m shocked by any means, as we often scoff at these predictions because so far, they haven’t exactly had the greatest track record for accuracy.

But then, how can we be so sure the eclipse happened?  We didn’t see that either.  We didn’t experience it, not in the Lower Mainland at least.  Yet most of us don’t really question that, do we.  So then there were two events that people were talking about and perhaps looking forward to, both of which weren’t at all tangible in these here parts, yet we view their plausibility and possibility of occurrence very differently.  Where and how do we draw the line?

How can we say that we believe in one thing and not the other?  Trust in this person but not that one?  Put our faith in one doctrine but completely refute the next?

These are questions that might plague our minds whenever, if ever, we are tested, put on the stand, or questioned about who we are and what we’re about.  I mean, are we sure we know what we know and are right about what we’re right about?  Can we be certain that our opinions, thoughts, and ideas are correct?  Is it possible that we might actually, in any subject or matter, be incorrect, misguided, or just wrong?  And if so, how can we ever know?

Well, there is thing I learned in school called the scientific method, which is basically a process that we could follow to learn something.  It starts with a theory or hypothesis, a question that should be as open as possible.  Then we start to test that question with experiments and such.  And then from those tests we observe the results and draw our conclusion.  So did the eclipse happen?  Aside from getting that aforementioned eyeful of rainwater, we can check for proof on the internet easily enough.  We can read up on how scientists were able to predict with razor sharp accuracy the when, where, and why of the event.  Or we can just ask people that we know who did experience it what they thought.  And with all those sources we can probably come up with a conclusion whether it did or not.

Did the rapture happen?  We can go through the same steps, except it might be hard to interview someone who did experience the rapture first hand, because you know, I don’t think there’s internet in heaven. 

But out of all those sources, the ones we trust most about almost anything are those that have actually experienced whatever we’re asking about.  Those that have seen it or felt it themselves.  Those that we would consider witnesses.

I know, that doesn’t always totally change our beliefs about things, as it is proven that eye-witness accounts can be inaccurate as well, but it sure helps.  It helps more when it’s a friend of ours that we already trust.  It helps when what they are telling us makes sense and is plausible.  It really helps when we already believe whatever they’re telling us before they even tell it to us.

And so I think about the first witnesses of the Resurrection and how hard it must have been to believe them as they spoke of things so unbelievable.  Life after death?  Impossibru!

Even for us, sitting here in our Christian church with our Christian faith holding our Christian bibles (or at least bulletins), and already believing that the scriptures that we read are true, it’s still hard for us to grasp the resurrection.  Of course it is, we don’t experience it in the way that it is described, we haven’t seen it happen in our lives, the news, or on our social media feeds, and our loved ones who have died don’t appear in front of us when we’re behind locked doors saying “peace be with you”.  At least I hope not because that would be really scary.  Like deathly frightening, pun very much intended. 

So how can Jesus ever trust us to spread this message?  How can he ever call us witnesses?  How can we even believe something that is so unbelievable?

Well, the thing is, it’s hard for us to believe because we don’t experience a bodily resurrection like it is described in the text.  We don’t experience these miraculous miracles like instant healings, feeding a multitude with 5 loaves and 2 fish, or turning water into wine.  We don’t experience Jesus in a way that is so tangible like being able to touch the scars in his hands and feet that it would blow any doubt out of our minds. 


If we really think about it, we actually do.  Maybe not exactly as we read, but we experience Jesus through the healing of our pain, hurts, and suffering that come from just living.  We experience miracles in community through the welcome of a stranger, the forgiveness of wrongs, and the reconciling of relationships.  We experience resurrection in our second chances, our seeing the value and worth in the unexpected, in the fact that even we can still love and be loved.

So while we don’t see Jesus in the flesh like the disciples did, Jesus continues to be all around us in the Spirit.  We know Jesus is with us in our relating to each other, in our interactions, in the grace that we show and are shown.  We witness Jesus in our lives and in the lives of others through the gifts and talents that we’ve been given, the contribution that we can make to society, and the role we all play for the greater good of the world.

I know, it doesn’t always seem like we can be much, but really it doesn’t always take much.  We all can’t be influential leaders, generous philanthropists, or charismatic preachers.  But we can in our own way be a listening ear, a helping hand, or an encouraging presence in the lives of others.  We can be there for others because others have been there for us.  We can forgive and reconcile because we have been forgiven and reconciled.  We can show love because it has been promised to us that we are loved.  

To these, we are indeed witnesses, for we have seen it, heard it, and experienced it throughout our lives in our community, in our relationships, and in who we are as people of God.  Even though we might not always realise it, but we are surrounded by the company of saints.  I mean go ahead, look around you.  Everyone here in this place, all of you watching online, we together are gathered in the Spirit to learn, to worship, to be.  Be God’s people.  Be in community.  Be witnesses to the love and peace that is graciously given.

In this season of Easter, may we continue to experience resurrection joy, that we may serve at witnesses of all that God is in and around our lives, through our actions, our words, and our very selves as saved and redeemed people loved by God.  Thanks be to God.  Amen.

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