April 16, 2023 - 2nd Sunday of Easter

For the week of April 16-23 – 2nd Sunday of Easter

Morning Prayer Our most glorious Creator, As we greet the signs of Spring once again regaling us in bloom, the songs of returning birds and fields soon to be planted, we give You praise for an even greater sign of new life: the resurrection of Your Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, that we especially celebrate at this time. The sadness and despair of His death has given way to the bright promise of immortality. For the Resurrection is our guarantee that justice will triumph over treason, Light will overcome darkness, and love will conquer death. As we celebrate, we also dare to ask that we may imitate the life of Jesus in reaching out to the poor, the marginalized, the least among us as we strive to be a neighbor to all those we meet. Change our hearts to be messengers of Easter joy and hope. We pray through Jesus Christ, our risen Lord forever. Amen.

Adapted from “An Easter Prayer” written by Fr. Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA, offered at the fourth annual White House Easter Prayer Breakfast on April 8, 2013. https://www.xavier.edu/jesuitresource/online-resources/prayer-index/easter-prayers#:~:text=We%20praise%20you%20in%20this,Amen. (Discipleship ministries)

Hymn #159 Lift High the Cross

Refrain:  Lift high the cross, the love of Christ proclaim
till all the world adore His sacred name.

  1. Come, Christians, follow this triumphant sign. The hosts of God in unity combine.
  2. Each newborn servant of the Crucified bears on the brow the seal of Him who died.
  3. O Lord, once lifted on the glorious tree, as Thou hast promised, draw the world to Thee.
  4. So shall our song of triumph ever be: Praise to the Crucified for victory. 

Psalm 16

Let us say to God, “You are our Lord; we have no good apart from You.”

Today, we come to worship God in truth and turn away from worshiping the idols all around us.
God delights in our sincere worship, but sorrow visits those who give their worship to idols.

We bless the Lord who gives counsel, who instructs our hearts in the secret of the night.
We keep the Lord always before us so that we shall not be moved from God’s ways.

Our hearts are glad, our souls rejoice, and our bodies rest secure,
Because God keeps us from destruction in this life and the next.

God shows us the path of life, And in God’s presence is the fullness of joy forevermore.

And so, we say to God, “You are our Lord; we have no good apart from You.” Amen.

Adapted from Psalm 16 NRSVUE by Dr. Lisa Hancock, Discipleship Ministries, October 2022.

Children’s message 1 Peter 1:8-9

Although you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Children’s Message 

Peter is talking about the physical Jesus. The friend/teacher the disciples followed, ate with, and watched die. After Jesus’ ascension, there no was no more physically seeing Him. Yet, Peter is talking to us and our lack of seeing the physical Jesus hasn’t hindered our faith or belief. Why do you think that is? How do we see Jesus every day?

We see Jesus in the people who share Jesus with us. People like our parents and grandparents. We see Jesus in our gathering together as a body of Christ in our brothers and sisters of faith. It is in all these interactions that Jesus is made real to us and in our personal relationship with Him. They help us to believe in Him and to live our lives according to His teachings.

Yet, there are others who show us who Jesus is and they are the people Jesus surrounded Himself by- those who were on the outside of care. The hungry, the naked, the sick, and the imprisoned to name just a few. In the relieving of their suffering our faith is grown and the outcome of our faith is the salvation of our souls.

Prayers of Intercession:  Thank You, Lord, for hearing our prayers for those dear to our hearts.  We now pray as You have taught us: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us, not into temptation but deliver us from evil.  For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.  Amen. 

Offering spotlight: March 24 a devasting tornado touched one of the poorest areas of Mississippi.  May 28-June 3 Carla Travelpiece, Lisa Mitchell and Donna Winn, serving as Lightstreet’s Early Response Team, will travel to Anguilla to serve as Christ calls them.  They ask for your prayers for the work they will encounter.  

Offering prayer: O Lord, tell me what could I give You for all Your great goodness to me?  Could this be enough: serve and love You, committing my whole life to You?  If so, then accept my devotion, to You only now I surrender.  I’m happy today, life’s joy came to stay through You.  Amen.  (UM Hymnal #180 v. #3, O Jesus, My King and My Sovereign)

Hymn: #420 Breathe on Me, Breath of God

  1. Breathe on me, Breath of God, fill me with life anew,
    that I may love what Thou dost love, and do what Thou wouldst do.
  2. Breathe on me, Breath of God, until my heart is pure,
    until with Thee I will one will, to do and to endure.
  3. Breathe on me, Breath of God, till I am wholly Thine,
    till all this earthly part of me glows with Thy fire divine.
  4. Breathe on me, Breath of God, so shall I never die,
    but live with Thee the perfect life of Thine eternity.

Scripture John 20:19-31 (CEB)

19 It was still the first day of the week. That evening, while the disciples were behind closed doors because they were afraid of the Jewish authorities, Jesus came and stood among them. He said, “Peace be with you.” 20 After He said this, He showed them His hands and His side. When the disciples saw the Lord, they were filled with joy. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so I am sending you.” 22 Then He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven; if you don’t forgive them, they aren’t forgiven.”

24 Thomas, the one called Didymus,[a] one of the Twelve, wasn’t with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 The other disciples told him, “We’ve seen the Lord!”

But he replied, “Unless I see the nail marks in His hands, put my finger in the wounds left by the nails, and put my hand into His side, I won’t believe.”

26 After eight days His disciples were again in a house and Thomas was with them. Even though the doors were locked, Jesus entered and stood among them. He said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here. Look at My hands. Put your hand into My side. No more disbelief. Believe!”

28 Thomas responded to Jesus, “My Lord and my God!”

29 Jesus replied, “Do you believe because you see Me? Happy are those who don’t see and yet believe.”

30 Then Jesus did many other miraculous signs in His disciples’ presence, signs that aren’t recorded in this scroll. 31 But these things are written so that you will believe that Jesus is the Christ, God’s Son, and that believing, you will have life in His name.

Message     Disillusioned           Rev. Ron French

Welcome to this first Sunday after Easter. Most pastor preaching on the Gospel lesson for today will talk about Doubting Thomas and his response to the resurrected Christ. They will talk about the nature of doubt and how doubt is a healthy emotion. All of us doubt at some time in our lives. However, doubt is a somewhat intellectual exercise. It is possible to have doubts about some aspect of the Christian faith and still continuing to serve Christ as if you have no doubt at all. We now know to a certain extent, this was true of Mother Teresa, one of the greatest saints who ever lived. But it is also true of many saints through the ages. All of us doubt from time to time. That goes with having a brain. But my purpose today is not to focus on doubt, but on an experience of an emotion that grips many saints of God much more deeply than doubt. And that emotion is disillusionment.

Today we are dealing with “Disillusioned Thomas.” I believe this is a more accurate description than “Doubting Thomas.” After the crucifixion, Thomas was thoroughly disillusioned.  In his mind, Jesus had let him down. Thomas was a very intense young man. He was willing to drop everything and follow the Master. Like the other disciples, he thought Jesus fit the common expectation of a Messiah – someone who would restore Israel to its earlier glory – someone who would throw off the yoke of the despised Romans. He believed that right up to the time the soldiers drove the nails into Jesus’ body. With horror Thomas wondered how the Messiah could possibly be put to death. The Messiah should wear a crown of gold, not a crown of thorns. Had it all been a pipe dream? Had he been sold a bill of goods?

And now the other disciples were saying that Jesus had been raised from the dead. Thomas thinks to himself, “Yeah, right! Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” And so, just for today, I am going to call him “Disillusioned Thomas.”

Have you ever been disillusioned? With someone you love, perhaps? Or your job? Maybe with a pastor or a politician. Maybe you are disillusioned with someone you look up to. It happens and it hurts. Most of us are familiar with the psychiatrist Sigmund Freud. He was one of the most influential men who ever lived. That’s why it is disturbing that Freud ruled out almost any role for God in the human life. Disillusionment may have played a role in Freud’s attitude toward faith. When he was a youngster, a nursemaid was employed in the Freud household. This nursemaid had a profound influence on young Sigmund. He loved her very much. She took him to church with her, told him stories from the Bible and introduced him to the beliefs of the church. So impressed was the young Sigmund that on his way home from church he would often pretend he was a preacher. Unfortunately this nursemaid was arrested for theft from a local store and was consequently dismissed from her position. It would be fair for us to surmise that Freud’s hostility towards religious ceremonies goes back to his being disillusioned with the very person who introduced him to religion.

That happens. Someone lets us down – someone we’ve looked up to – and we set up defenses so that it never happens again. It is a difficult situation. Thomas was disillusioned because he misunderstood why Jesus came into the world. And he was not alone. Right up until Jesus ascended into heaven, he was surrounded by people who loved him, but did not understand him. They expected him to redeem Israel and throw off the yoke of Rome. Of course, he would redeem Israel, and all of humanity, though not in the way that they expected. So, all the disciples were disillusioned, disappointed, dejected. If Thomas was slower to accept the resurrection than the others, it may have been because he had been more intense in his devotion than the others. Thomas had been willing to die for Jesus. Peter had denied him three times. Judas had betrayed him. Thomas’ expectation had been higher – so perhaps his fall from faith had been further. He simply did not realize that Jesus’ suffering and death had been a necessary part of God’s plan.

Every once and a while I run into a person who has grown disillusioned with God. Usually at the heart of that disillusionment is a misunderstanding of the way God works in the world. They expect God to work according to their plans. But God works in His own way and according to His own timetable. And some people just can’t deal with that.

Let’s face it. There is much in life none of us understands. Many persons are deeply concerned when God works in a different way from what they expected. Thomas had been faithfully following Jesus for three years. He had committed his life to the kingdom he believed Jesus would bring to fruition. Thomas did not understand why Jesus had to be crucified. And when something terrible happens to us or to someone we love, disillusionment is apt to follow.

A few years ago, a fascinating book by Mitch Albom hit the bestsellers list. You may have read it or seen the movie based on it. It was titled, Tuesdays with Morrie. Here’s the story. The author learns that his old teacher is dying from ALS. (Lou Gehrig’s disease.) After an absence of many years, the two reconnect and begin to get together every Tuesday. The book shares some of the great lessons that emerge from those weekly conversations. For example, here is a sample exchange that blends with humor. “Okay, question,” Mitch says to Morrie. Morrie’s bony fingers hold his glasses across his chest, which rises and falls with each labored breath. “What’s the question?” Morrie asks. Mitch says, “Remember the book of Job? Job is a good man, but God makes him suffer.” “To test his faith, I remember,” says Morrie. “Takes away everything he has,” Mitch continues, “his house, his money, his family…makes him sick.” “To test his faith,” Morrie says again. “Right,” Mitch says, “To test his faith. So I’m wondering…What do you think about that?” Morrie coughs violently, his hands quiver as he drops them to his side, “I think,” he says smiling, “God overdid it.”

Well, in our estimation, God does overdo it sometimes. Not really, of course. But that’s how it seems. And people with a weak faith can’t handle it. They become bitter. They blame God. And then disillusionment sets in – a disillusionment very much like that of Thomas. Some of us have been there. At least for a while. If you haven’t been there yet, give yourself some time. Fortunately this is not the end of the story. Thomas was dejected, disappointed, disillusioned. A friend he loved was dead. More than that, a teacher he revered, looked up to, would give his life for, had let him down.

But Thomas didn’t drop out of the fellowship of believers. And that is important for us to understand. He was there with the other disciples when they met together in the Upper Room after the resurrection. He could have made excuses. He could have stayed home and wrapped himself in gloom and despair. Who could have blamed him? Why should he listen to a tale about his dead friend being raised form the dead? “Unless I see the nail marks in His hands, put my finger in the wounds left by the nails, and put my hand into His side, I won’t believe.” (20:25) But still he went to be with the other disciples.

It happens all the time. A person goes through a difficult time when they feel God has let them down and the first thing they do is drop out of the fellowship. They miss one Sunday, then a second, and before very long, going to church takes far more effort than staying home. Sisters and brothers that is always a mistake.

The church is where the people are who care about you. A pastor once told Tony Campolo about his early days of ministry in a small country church. One day, a young woman came to the church to present her child for baptism. She was a single parent, there was no father in the picture. Now remember this was a small rural community. It was a time and place where a young woman in this situation was often shunned. On the day of the baptism, the young woman and her baby stood alone before the congregation. The pastor said he hadn’t recognized the awkwardness of the situation until he asked, as part of the baptismal service: “Who stands with this child to assure the commitments and promises herewith made will be carried out? Who will be there for this child in times of need and assure that this child is brought up in the Christian faith?” At that moment, he said, he realized that there were not any godparents or relatives present to answer that question. But, as if on cue, the entire congregation stood and with one voice said, “We will!”

Thank God for that congregation. A young woman and her child could have been rejected. That rejection could have led to a very real disillusionment with anything religious. The mother had the courage to bring her child to the community of faith. And fortunately, she found a group of people who would stand with her and support her. Thomas was hurt but he still gathered with the faithful. He still didn’t have the answers he was seeking. He still didn’t understand why his Master was dead, but at least he didn’t cut himself off from the fellowship of believers.

It was in that fellowship that the Risen Christ appeared to Thomas. You know the story: “After eight days His disciples were again in a house and Thomas was with them. Even though the doors were locked, Jesus entered and stood among them. He said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here. Look at My hands. Put your hand into My side. No more disbelief. Believe!’ Thomas responded to Jesus, ‘My Lord and my God!’” (20:26-28)

Thomas went on to become a great Christian missionary. My guess is that his time of disillusionment and doubt actually left him stronger than he was before.

It happens more than we can imagine. People go through a time of testing and they come out better rather than bitter. In their time of need they feel the comforting presence of Jesus and something wonderful happens in their life. In their hearts they cry out, “My Lord and my God!” And the darkness that has enveloped them becomes as bright as day.

It happens. And here’s how – maintain your connection to the fellowship of the faithful. Let the people of the church love you and pray for you. Maintain an openness to the comforting and healing power of the Holy Spirit. Give Jesus a chance to come to you and to show you His hands and His side – for He has been where you are. He wants to help you, like Thomas, to move from being disillusioned to being dynamic. It can happen. Don’t give up. Trust the risen Christ and your sisters and brothers of the faith and you will endure.

Closing Hymn: #384 Love Divine All Loves Excelling

  1. Love divine, all loves excelling, joy of heaven, to earth come down;
    fix in us Thy humble dwelling; all Thy faithful mercies crown!
    Jesus Thou art all compassion, pure, unbounded love Thou art;
    visit us with Thy salvation; enter every trembling heart.
  2. Breathe, O breathe Thy loving Spirit into every troubled breast!
    Let us all in Thee inherit; let us find that second rest.
    Take away our bent to sinning; Alpha and Omega be;
    end of faith, as its beginning, set our hearts at liberty.
  3. Come, Almighty to deliver, let us all Thy life receive;
    suddenly return and never, nevermore Thy temples leave.
    Thee we would be always blessing, serve Thee as Thy hosts above,
    pray and praise Thee without ceasing, glory in Thy perfect love.
  4. Finish, then, Thy new creation; pure and spotless let us be.
    Let us see Thy great salvation perfectly restored in Thee;
    changed from glory into glory, till in heaven we take our place,
    till we cast our crowns before Thee, lost in wonder, love, and praise.

Go into your week with the blessings of The Father, The Son, The Holy Spirit.