2nd Sunday of Easter

April 16, 2023

Lectionary Texts

Acts 2.22-32. Peter tells a crowd the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Psalm 16 celebrates God’s grace in caring for us (“you hold my lot”) and guiding us (“you show me the path of life”).

1 Peter 1. 3-9. God has raised us up with Jesus, so that we have a new life that is rooted in the Realm of God and the resurrection of Christ. It is a gift that can’t be taken away from us, and that is eternal and perfect. It enables us to endure trials, knowing that in the end we will see, even though we don’t now.

John 20. 19-31. The risen Jesus appears to the disciples. He breathes on them, giving them his Spirit. They tell Thomas of it, but he wants to see for himself. He says he will know it is Jesus by his wounds.

Preaching Thoughts

The Gospel reading comprises two scenes. The first is John’s Pentecost. Jesus breathes the Spirit on his followers. This is what Jesus has returned for: not to prove anything, not to exalt in his victory over death, but to breathe his living spirit into the disciples. Now they are his risen body.

Thomas (the “Twin”) says he won’t believe unless he touches the wounds. Maybe that’s doubt. But doubt is neither a bad thing nor is it all that Thomas shows us. Resurrection isn’t something you just think is true because someone said so; you believe it because you’ve experienced it. We don’t want to hear beliefs about resurrection; we want to see evidence of resurrection. When Thomas does see Jesus, what convinces him is not the wounds (he never does touch them) but simply the overwhelming (and I assume loving) presence of Jesus. Thomas represents all those to whom we want to proclaim resurrection. Words alone won’t suffice. What our souls most want is not proof of the idea of resurrection; but to experience resurrection.

It’s easy to criticize Thomas for not believing—though we would likely be just as skeptical, now, wouldn’t we? But we exhibit our own kind of disbelief: we may say we believe in the resurrection, but live as if we don’t believe Jesus rose from the dead. We don’t live with radical generosity, courageous love and self-emptying humility. We don’t entrust our lives to God: we trust more in our abilities, our “worthiness,” our saving accounts. In deeds, if not in words, we are Thomas.

Jesus says of many people—Bartimaeus, for example, or the woman with the flow of blood— that their faith has saved them, even though he knows little of their religious state. What he knows is that they reached out to him. Watching Jesus, I think faith is reaching out to God—regardless of the certainty behind our reaching. It’s just the reaching. Thomas wants Jesus. Thomas reaches out.Thomas seeks. This is a good thing. Searching can often look like “doubt.” Thomas encourages us to ignore people’s doubt about our doubt, and search anyway.

By the way I think sometimes we don’t really know someone till we know at least a little of their wounds. We haven’t really accepted someone until we’ve embraced their brokenness. Jesus connects with people by touching their wounds—learning where it hurts, and touching that part of them with love.

We love happy endings. But Thomas is holding resurrection to a higher standard: resurrection is not just bouncing back; it’s radical transformation from something that is truly dead—you can see the wounds—to something that is truly alive. Thomas wants to see and touch the wounds. He wants to know not just that Jesus is OK after all, but that the one who is alive and whole is indeed the one who suffered and died—the crucified and risen Jesus. He wants to know that the one who stands before him with forgiveness is the very one he denied and abandoned. (Remember when Jesus set out to Lazarus’ tomb, despite a contract out on him, and Thomas said “Let us go die with him.” But Thomas didn’t die with him. He ran away.) Now, in the wounds, and the Living One who bears them, he needs to see his own sin forgiven. As do we. Thomas is our twin.

Call to Worship

1.
Leader: Christ is risen!
All: Christ is risen indeed.
Death no longer has dominion
Ours is life eternal!
We reach out for the risen Christ.
We touch the living Christ in love,
in one another, in worship. Alleluia!


2.
Leader: God of our heart, we long for you.
All: Beloved, we reach out for you.
Christ, we hunger for your presence.
We ache for your touch.
Holy Spirit, we yearn for your love.
We listen for your voice.
And you come to us. Risen from the dead, you come to us.
Our Chief and our God, we welcome you. We thank you. We worship you.

3.
Leader: Christ is risen!
All: Christ is risen indeed!
Jesus has appeared to his disciples.
And we have seen his glory,
beloved as a parent’s only child,
full of grace and truth.
From Christ’s fullness we have all received grace upon grace.
No one has ever seen God,
but Christ has made God known.
In his dying, Christ embodied God’s love for us.
And in his rising, God enacts God’s delight for us.
We thank you, God!
We praise you! We worship you! We love you! Alleluia!

4.
Leader: Christ is risen!
All:Christ is risen indeed!
Living Christ, victor over death, grant us your infinite life.
Risen Christ, breathe your life into us.
Living Christ, whose forgiveness conquers all, bless us.
Risen Christ, breathe your life into us.
Living Christ, whose love defeats fear, grant us your courage.
Risen Christ, breathe your life into us.
Living Christ, whose Spirit empowers us to love, give us yourself.
Risen Christ, breathe your life into us.

5.
Leader: Creator God, we praise you!
All: Risen Christ, we greet you!
Holy Spirit, we are one body by your grace.
You alone are holy, and we worship you.
Glory be to you, O God of all Creation.
Thanks be to you, O Christ, for our salvation.
O God, you have defeated sin and death. Glory to you in the highest!
Alleluia! Come, Holy Spirit, and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!

6.
Leader: Christ is Risen!
All: Christ is risen indeed!
Light of Christ, rising in glory,
chase away all darkness, illumine our way,
and lead us to the heart of God.
O Crucified and risen Christ,
reveal yourself to us now in our worship.
Fill us with your Spirit, trusting your presence.
Send us in your love, serving you faithfully
in the spirit of resurrection, by your grace. Amen.

Collect / Prayer of the Day

1.
Living God, like Thomas we long to reach out and touch you.
Come to us, speak to us, and call our name. Let us touch you.
We love and trust you. We open our hearts. Amen.

2.
God of Mystery, God of truth,
hidden before us, revealed behind our eyes—
we seek your light; we treasure your Word;
we search for your presence.
We open our hearts to your eternal life within us,
your risen Christ among us,
your Living Word upon us.
Speak, for we are listening.
Amen.

3.
Gracious God, Thomas wanted to see proof of Christ’s rising. We, too, want to touch and feel your presence. We want to hear your Living Word. Come to us, speak to us, and fill us with your Spirit, so that we ourselves may be living signs of resurrection. We pray in the name of Christ and the power of your Holy Spirit. Amen.

4.
God of truth, your risen Christ appeared to Thomas and dispelled all unbelief, and Thomas knew him as his leader and savior. As your Scripture is read today and your Good News proclaimed, may the risen Christ become present for us, that we may come to more deeply trust you and love you. Open our hearts, that we may hear with joy what you are saying to us today. Amen.

Listening Prayer

(suitable as a Collect, preparation for hearing scriptures, or invitation to prayer)

1.
God of Life,
in the beginning you breathed your spirit
into the human form and we came to life.
On the day Jesus rose he breathed his spirit
into the disciples and sent them forth in love.
Now with every breath we take
you breathe into us you love.
We breathe deeply of your Spirit
that we may come to life anew in you.
Breathe on us, Breath of God.

2.
Loving God,
with the compassion Jesus showed Thomas,
accept our doubts, bless our searching,
grant us curiosity,
and keep us always reaching out for you.

Prayer of Confession

God, we confess that we have betrayed you,
we have not trusted you;
we have lived as if we disbelieved your rising.
Forgive the failure of our love, heal our fear,
and breathe your life-giving spirit into us.

Readings

Psalm 16 (a paraphrase)

       Response
You are my only security, God.
I find my safety in you.
You are my Holy One.
There is no good in my life apart from you.
As for the noble ones, who are always accepted,
whom even I admired,
they have secretly married sorrow,
and chosen a path going nowhere.
I will not pay what they do for comfort,
or speak as they do just to be admired.
        Response

Holy One, you are my present and my future.
The estate I have inherited is you yourself!
Everything that befalls me has you in it,
therefore all that is, is gift.
I bless you, for you give me mindfulness.
you speak to my heart,
even in shadowtimes, when I see nothing.
Holy One, I hold you always before me.
Mindful of your presence, I find firm footing.

         Response

Therefore my guts rejoice; my heartbeat is delight;
my whole body rests in your grace.
I know you will not let me slip away.
You will not abandon your Beloved to oblivion.
Show me the path of life.
Your presence is a flowing fountain of joy.
Your hand is a land of abundant delight.

         Response

Poetry


     Gentle love

Christ, the Gentle One, has been crucified,
and raised from the dead.

So you have nothing to fear:
be gentle and know
that the hidden power in simple love
conquers all things.

Let the power of resurrection
raise in you the strength of love,
the steadfastness of compassion,
the wisdom of forgiveness,
the confidence of Christ,
the glory of God.

Go in peace.


Response / Creed / Affirmation

(I Peter 1 .3-9)
We bless you, God!
You raised Jesus Christ from the dead,
and in so doing you gave us a new birth, a life of hope—
a gift that is perfect, imperishable and unfading.
Our lives are now in your Realm.
We trust that you save us for your purposes,
which you will reveal in your time.
Therefore we are willing to suffer in practicing our faith,
for the sake of praise and glory and honor
when Christ is revealed.
We have not seen you, but we love you;
and we rejoice with indescribable and glorious joy. Alleluia!

Eucharistic Prayer

Click here for eight settings of the Sanctus, Memorial Acclamation and Amen to familiar tunes suitable for the Easter season.

[After the introduction, the body of the prayer may be read responsively with the presiding leader(s) and congregation, or by the leader(s) alone.]

God is with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them up to God.
Let us give thanks to the Holy One, our God.
It is good and beautiful to give God our praise.

God we come to this table with gratitude, hungry for you.
You create all things, and make us in your image.
We are hungry for life that is true;
we thirst for selves that reflect your love.
You pour yourself out for us in all Creation.
We hunger for you, to taste and see your goodness.
All Creation is your Word made flesh.
The bread and cup, our food and light, all that we have,
is your flesh, offered to us in generous love.
You call us your people, and promise to be our God.
We stray from your love, and we desire to return.
You condemn all injustice, and set us free to serve you.
We thank you for our freedom in Christ. Therefore we sing your praise.

            [Sanctus, spoken]
        Holy, holy, holy One, God of power and might,
        heaven and earth are full of your glory.
        Hosanna in the highest.
        Blessed is the one who comes in the name of God.
        Hosanna in the highest.
               ———or——
[ sung. Tune: HOLY MANNA]
Holy, holy, holy Presence, God of mercy, God of love,
you shine bright in all Creation. Shout Hosanna! Praise above!
Blessed is the one who comes, God, in your name, the name of love.
God, we gladly praise and thank you. Shout Hosanna! Praise above.


Blessed are all who come in your name, and blessed is Jesus your Christ,
who loved and taught, healed and forgave.
He embodied your love and forgiveness; he was your Word made flesh.
He was crucified, but you raised him from the dead.
In him those who were searching could reach out and touch you.
He was crucified, but you raised him from the dead.
He embodies your living covenant to be with us in love forever.

[The Blessing and Covenant…]

Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of me.”
As often as we break this bread and share this cup
we remember his death and resurrection until he comes again.
Remembering these, your mighty acts in Jesus Christ,
we offer ourselves in praise and thanksgiving
as a living and holy sacrifice, in union with Christ’s offering for us,
as we proclaim the mystery of our faith:

             [Memorial Acclamation, spoken]
        Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.
                     —or—
        Dying, Christ destroyed our death. Rising, Christ restores our life.
        Christ will come again in glory.
—or—        
                [sung]
         Christ has died and Christ is risen.
         Christ will come again in love.


Pour out your Holy Spirit on these gifts of bread and cup,
that they may be for us the body and blood of Christ.
Pour out your Holy Spirit on us,
that we may be for the world the Body of Christ,
your word made flesh for all those
who will not believe until they see your love embodied.
All glory be to you, O God, now and evermore.

              [Spoken]
      Amen.
                  —or—
            [sung]
      Praise! Amen. Hosanna in the highest. Praise! Amen. Amen.

__________________________________
* The Blessing and Covenant
[I usually don’t print the words. I want people to be looking at the bread, not their bulletins.]

On the night in which he gave himself for us
Jesus took bread, blessed it,. broke it, and gave it to his disciples,saying,
“Take and eat; this is my body.”
In the same way, after the supper he took the cup,
blessed it with thanks and gave it to them, saying,
“Drink of this, all of you. This is my blood,
poured out for you and for many, in a new Covenant,
which is the forgiveness of sin.”
As long as we break this bread and share this cup
we remember his death and resurrection, until he comes again.

Prayer of Dedication / Sending / after Communion

[Adapt as needed.]
1.
Gracious God, we thank you for (the mystery that you give yourself to us / this mystery in which you have given yourself to us.) You have filled us with your Spirit, filled us with yourself, so that as you have sent Jesus, you send us, to forgive and to serve, for the sake of the world. Amen.

2.
Gracious God, we thank you for (the mystery that you give yourself to us / this mystery in which you have given yourself to us.) In our longing you feed us with your presence. Send us into the world so that others who long to know will see your risen presence in us, and come to love and trust you. We pray in the name and the spirit of Christ. Amen.

3.
Gracious God, we thank you for (the mystery that you give yourself to us / this mystery in which you have given yourself to us.) We have seen your presence and tasted your grace. Send us into the world now, raised by your power, transformed by your Spirit and filled with your grace, to reach out our hands to the wounds of the world with the healing power of the risen Christ. We pray in the name and the Spirit of Christ. Amen.

4.
Gracious God, we thank you for (the mystery that you give yourself to us / this mystery in which you have given yourself to us.) We have seen your wounds for us. We have touched your love. And you have filled us with your Spirit. Bless us that we may continue to come to believe more and more deeply, to love you and to serve you with trusting hearts. Send us into the world to share your love, so that others who have not seen may yet believe. We pray, as we live, in the name and the spirit of the risen Christ. Amen.

Suggested Songs

(Click on titles to view, and hear an audio clip, on the Music page)

 Easter Communion Songs
[Seven songs of invitation to the table, to familiar tunes.)
        Sample:
We Have Hungered ( Tune: HOLY MANNA)

We have hungered, we have longed to reach and touch you in the flesh.
Now you show yourself in glory, risen and made new and fresh.
Here we see and touch and taste you in the wine and in the bread:
in the loving, in the sharing you are risen from the dead.

God, we bring our gifts, rejoicing in your love, your love so great!
For you call us to your table, all as one, to celebrate.
Though we turn away, you hold us. We who once were dead now live.
Blest, received, adored, forgiven, now in gratitude we give.


Let Me Feel Your Wounds (Original song)

Risen Christ, let me feel your wounds
in the heart of the One whom I have crucified.
May I feel your forgiving,
and begin brand new living.
May I know your rising there.

Risen Christ, let me feel your wounds
in the hands of the lonely and despairing ones.
May I love with your caring.
May I hope with your daring.
May I know your rising there.

Risen Christ, let me feel your wounds
in the feet of the poor and homeless wandering.
May I weep with their weeping.
May I give without keeping.
May I know your rising there.

Risen Christ, let me feel your wounds
in the marks of our violence upon the world.
May I bless and heal.
May your peace be my seal.
May I know your rising there.