Sunday (online Zoom) message: Is it actually okay to be like Thomas?

Second Sunday of Easter – April 19, 2020

Gathering

Music prelude: Come Thou Fount

Greeting: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you… (Gina Kottke)         

Welcome and announcements

Call to worship:

L: The joy of the resurrection
     of our Saviour Jesus Christ is with us.
P: We rejoice in the blessing
     God has poured into our lives.
L: Even though we hear words of doubt,
     we are called to believe.
P: Even though the world
     would draw us back again into darkness,
     we focus on the Light.
L: Thanks be to Christ who gives us the victory
P: Alleluia! Amen.

Opening praise song: Come now is the time

Prayers of approach and confession (Saul Carvajal – Youth Coordinator)

Dear Lord our Maker, we come before you today, giving thanks for all the wonder in your creation: for the detailed perfection revealed in a baby’s tiny fingers, in pussy willows unzipping their jackets to greet the spring, in each rock face worn by wind and water,

witnessing to your ancient wisdom like wrinkles around an ageing smile. These details lift our hearts to praise you. So, let the details of the story the Risen Christ lift our hearts today, that we too may discover him in our midst, making all things new with the springtime of your Spirit. Our concerns about the current pandemic take hold of all our thoughts. So, we approach You, acknowledging Your divine presence. Now we approach You in a prayer of confession: Dear Lord, in raising Jesus from the dead, You showed us your power to defeat all that brings fear and sorrow to our lives. In his resurrection, Jesus promised to be with us always. Yet we confess we are sometimes uncertain about how to find him. Like Thomas, we are unsure if we can trust the promise of resurrection for ourselves. Forgive us when we struggle with doubt about your presence with us. Breathe your Spirit upon us and bring us the peace Christ promised. Now we become silent in these following moments of silence…

Assurance of God’s forgiveness: (Heinrich)

Dear friends, the risen Christ is in our midst, speaking words of peace and forgiveness to us this day. Receive his gift of forgiveness. Be at peace with yourself and with one another. Amen.

Children’s time: (Lynn Vaughan – Church School Coordinator)

Music interlude: Amazing Grace                        

Scripture reading: John 20:19-31 (Good News Bible) (read by – Gina Kottke)

Message:

“Is it actually okay to be like Thomas?”

When we listen to people around us responding to the current worldwide crisis, it is easy to be startled by them. Some walk with a mask in the grocery store and glare (not stare, glare) at you if you don’t give way so that they could get by. Others, who normally are cool and kind, suddenly become aggravated and angry. More could possibly become the biggest germophobes ever. And then you get those with the blasé attitude as if nothing has happened. You just don’t know. Yet, in this midst of this, we still had Easter passing by us and we celebrate that Christ is risen!

The passage we just heard read, speaks about the almost annoying incident of Thomas who was doubting that Jesus had shown up before the other disciples. He insisted on seeing the holes in Jesus’ hands and the real wounds before he could believe.

Each of us has their own take on these bizarre times we are in. Reactions can vary from sarcastic, rattled, close to hysterical, angst-filled, cheeky, sassy, short-tempered.

Do we entertain this notion of the vast variety of reactions? Plus that these reactions are often unpredictable. First, jokes were doing the rounds, speaking of household aggression. Now, we read about domestic violence and literally cases of murder.

When we look at all the onlookers in John 20 we see something similar. Mary Magdalene embraces the idea that Jesus is alive and appearing to the disciples. The disciples navigate between fear and belief, joy and isolation, all at once, while drawing strength from each other.

So, here I get to the original question that I posed: “Is it actually okay to be like Thomas?”

How does Thomas respond according to our reading this morning? Thomas, one of the remaining eleven disciples joined in with the other disciples the next Sunday, eight days later, as scriptures describe it. And we hear that Thomas doubts. But I wonder if he doesn’t rather demand, much more than doubt? I sense much more of a demand in his attitude. “Unless I see the scars of the nails in his hands and put my finger on those scars and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

We find this story only told in John’s gospel. It is this Thomas who struggles in his own way. He wants to physically see proof of this risen Jesus with wounds of the nails and the spear in his body, the body of Jesus. Only then would he believe, would he go into a relationship with Jesus who suffered, died and rose again. Otherwise, this is plain nonsense in his eyes.

Is there anything wrong with Thomas? What do you think? Does he act strangely? I have a hunch that there’s not anything out place with Thomas’ attitude. Jesus knew Thomas well enough that He shows up and presents his wounds to him. Jesus fulfills his wish and shows up. Jesus even invites Thomas to feel the scars from the nails in his hands. “Stop your doubting, and believe!,” says Jesus. Then Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Do you believe because you see me? How happy are those who believe without seeing me!”

In this encounter, it seems like there is something very profound happening. A statement of faith comes from Thomas’ very own lips, from the lips that were just saying that he would definitely not believe unless he sees the scars and puts his hands inside. What an audacity!

Or is it so shameless? I think the word of God draws each of us into this encounter about our faith. It’s a serious encounter that acknowledges our struggles.

Jesus understood Thomas’ wrestling and his nature, so different to Mary Magdalene, and very different to the ten other disciples.

This is the nature of God. No judgment, not a single bit of rejection when our human thinking doesn’t want to accept. When we resist, fight back, protest, God is there, looking patiently and understandingly at us.

That is precisely why Jesus was the Word that became flesh. To dwell with us in our troubles and despair. To be in solidarity with us. Yes, in solidarity with our confinement, quarantines and social distancing. Nothing is too brazen, sassy or sarcastic for our Lord Jesus. He walks along with us, having full understanding amidst our ugly experiences.

The sensory aspect of this also becomes evident in the words “feel”, and “put.” Feel the scars, put my finger in those scars.

Could it get any closer than that? Yes, Jesus accepts it when Thomas has these demands.

Our Saviour is so real and so enmeshed with our experiences that I could wholeheartedly proclaim that God is with us in COVID-19. God sent God’s Son to identify with this too. Our pain, our anger, our frustration is okay to Him. There’s no rejection. There’s the exact opposite, there is acceptance.

He walks with us in our doubt and the whole nine yards of emotions. He guides and strengthens us and allows us to come to the point of saying “My Lord, and my God!”

We who believe, are constantly invited into this encounter and to go out to so many others who have difficulty with what is going on. Our faith gets a new dimension and it’s a good dimension. It’s a life-changing dimension, one where we know God is okay with us being like Thomas, and we too are allowed to be okay with those around us with the thousands of different reactions. Where are you in this journey? Know that God joins you right where you are. Amen

Song: See what a morning                                                            

Prayer of gratitude

Lord, we thank You for being God with us, for walking with us in the shadows of death, as well as in the joy of life. Your unfailing love for us, even in these tough times, is our strength and what keeps us going. Thank You for the beauty of nature unfolding in front of us, the snow that is melting brings us back to knowing how faithful You are in creation too. Thank You for your protection, thank You for the all those who work tirelessly on the front-line. Thank You for the kindness, the love and the care that, in some wonderful and mysterious way, You instill in them along the way. We thank You for life! Amen

Reflection on giving (Gina)

We give because we are the recipients of God’s overflowing love. We give because our givings support our minister and the church staff who enable us to be a community of Faith and Care.

We give in order to take care of our building – an inheritance from those who have gone before us and from the Presbyterian Church in Canada – and the means by which we offer care to our community. We give in order to be able to meet together for worship via the internet. We give to support the ministry and mission of the Presbyterian Church in Canada across our nation and throughout the world. And in these days of COVID-19 distancing, we do our giving in the various ways described in the Dayspring Weekly News.

Closing prayer

Most merciful and Triune God,
We come to you in our weakness.
We come to you in our fear.
We come to you with trust.
For you alone are our hope.

We place before you the disease present in our world.
We turn to you in our time of need.

Bring wisdom to doctors.
Give understanding to scientists.
Endow caregivers with compassion and generosity.
Bring healing to those who are ill.
Protect those who are most at risk.

Give comfort to those who have lost a loved one.
Welcome those who have died into your eternal home.

Stabilize our communities.
Unite us in our compassion.
Remove all fear from our hearts.
Fill us with confidence in your care.

Jesus, we trust in you.
Jesus, we trust in you.
Jesus, we trust in you.

Amen.

Blessing

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.

 

Posted in Recent Sermons.