April 24, 2022 - Home Worship Service

04/24/2022

Morning Prayer:

O living Christ, as the good news of Easter energized Your first disciples to establish dynamic Christian communities, so energize us to dynamic life within our congregation. As Your Spirit gave them courage to stand tall before the powers of this world, so empower us to proclaim Your gospel and struggle for justice and peace. By Your presence with us now, make us one in love and mission. Amen.  Ruth Duck, Bread for the Journey, Ruth Duck, ed., (Pilgrim Press, 1981), 47.

Psalm 150 (UM Hymnal #862)

     Leader:  Praise the Lord!  Praise God in His sanctuary!

          People:  Praise God in His mighty firmament!

     Leader:  Praise God for His mighty deeds;

          People:  Praise God for His exceeding greatness!

     Leader:  Praise God with trumpet sound:

          People:  Praise God with lute and harp!

     Leader:  Praise God with tambourine and dance;

          People:  Praise God with strings and pipe!

     Leader:  Praise God with sounding cymbals;

          People:  Praise God with loud clashing cymbals!

     Leader:  Let everything that breathes praise the Lord!

          People:  Praise the Lord!

Hymn #322 Up from the Grave He Arose

  1. Low in the grave He lay, Jesus my Savior, waiting the coming day, Jesus my Lord!

Refrain:
Up from the grave He arose; with a mighty triumph o'er His foes;
He arose a victor from the dark domain, and He lives forever, with His saints to reign.
He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!

  1. Vainly they watch His bed, Jesus my Savior,
    vainly they seal the dead, Jesus my Lord!
    (Refrain)
  2. Death cannot keep its prey, Jesus my Savior; He tore the bars away, Jesus my Lord!
    (Refrain)

Prayers of Intercession:  Lord we cry to you for help.  You answer in words, in the deeds and acts of kindness, in the people around us.  Hear the cries of our hearts for those we hold dear.  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:  Your offerings of money and your volunteer time will bring a summer VBS program to this neighborhood.  Refer to the Church at Work for the many ways you are needed to make VBS a success or contact Andrea Megargell.     

Offertory prayer: O God of our Salvation, we are witnesses to Your amazing deeds! By the resurrection of Your Son Jesus, You have opened the gate to eternal life. We are grateful for Your gifts of forgiveness and a new start. Let the obedience of Christ, the righteous one, become the chief cornerstone of our lives. Help us to use our spiritual gifts and monetary blessings be a testimony to Your glory. We dedicate ourselves and our offerings through Christ our risen Lord. Amen. (Discipleship Ministries)

Hymn of Preparation #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.

John 20:19-31

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After He said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent Me, so I send you.” When He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in His hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in His side, I will not believe.”

A week later His disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see My hands. Reach out your hand and put it in My side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen Me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in His name.

Message – Blessed Are Those Who Believe                 Rev. Ron French

          Harold F. Bermel tells of driving through Lancaster County Pennsylvania with his daughter and seven-year-old grandson. They passed an Amish horse and buggy, and the grandson asked, “Why do they use horses instead of cars?” Bermel’s daughter explained that the Amish don’t believe in automobiles. After a few moments of thought, the grandson asked: “But can’t they see them?” Sisters and brothers I would say that’s a reasonable question, wouldn’t you? Once you’ve seen something with your own eyes, it’s hard not to believe in it. That is why followers of Jesus Christ are so often considered foolish. We believe in a God we cannot see, in a Savior who performed miracles and came back from the dead, and a Holy Spirit who lives in us and guides us in the way of truth and of love. No wonder many people reject the Christian faith.

          The Gospel lesson for today is based on a man who has been nicknamed “Doubting Thomas.” Thomas was a faithful follower of Jesus, one of the twelve disciples. He had proven his loyalty as a disciple when Jesus was alive. But Thomas was also a rational man. And when the other disciples and the women claimed that Jesus had risen from the dead, Thomas was not going to get excited until he saw Jesus with his own eyes. He said to the others, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in His hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in His side, I will not believe.” (20:25)

          That, of course, would happen on the following Sunday evening. John’s Gospel tells us, “A week later His disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then He said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see My hands. Reach out your hand and put it in My side. Do not doubt but believe.’” (20:26-27) What happens next is one of the most dramatic scenes in the Bible. Thomas said to Him, “‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen Me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’” (20:28-29)

          So often we look at this important passage in John’s Gospel and we focus on Thomas’ doubts and we say, “Yes, I can identify with that.” And we miss the important part. We miss the words of the Master. Jesus said to Thomas, “Have you believed because you have seen Me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” (29) That is such an important statement we can’t miss it.

          “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” I’m not talking about the smugly self-righteous or about the pious pontificators who spout off answers to questions no one is even asking. I’m talking about people who have come to grips with their doubts in an honest forthright way and have made a commitment of their will to trust in the care and providence of God. They are indeed the blessed of this earth. They are healthier, happier, and generally more effective in relating to others who are the doubters and cynics. It is they who move the world forward, for there is power in believing – more power than the unbeliever can ever know. Part of that power is the power of vision. Truly if seeing is believing, the converse is equally true. Believing is seeing – seeing possibilities and promises that bode good fortune for all who perceive their presence. So, I say it again, blessed are the believers.

          Of course we all have our doubts. All thinking people do. Why couldn’t God do something like send a giant comet streaking through a dark winter night with its tail sky-writing in our behalf, “I love you, God.” Of course, if that did happen, immediately a group of cynics would get together and explain to us that it was just a freak product of certain atmospheric conditions. So why doesn’t God do something spectacular like that to let us know He’s here? There is a part of us that says with Thomas, “Unless I see the nail marks in His hands and put my fingers where the nails were, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” Brothers and sisters we all long for certainty. But that is one gift that God has not granted us.

          Undoubtedly, God has His reasons. If His aim is to produce mature spirits fit to spend eternity in His presence, it makes sense that He would not reveal Himself in all His fullness to us. Such certainty would keep us perpetually immature.  If a child knows that his father will always be there to solve every problem, to resolve every crisis, to comfort every sorrow, the child will never develop self-reliance. It may be that our insecurity may be essential to spiritual growth.

          Brennan Manning, in his book Ruthless Trust, tells the story of John Kavanaugh, a man who went to work with Mother Teresa for three months at “the House of the Dying” in Calcutta. He went not only to be of help to others, but he was also seeking a clear answer as how best to spend the rest of his life. His first morning there, John asked Mother Teresa to pray for him. She asked what he needed prayer for. He replied, “Pray that I have clarity.” Mother Teresa must have discerned what his true need was because she said no. She went on to say, “Clarity is the last thing you are clinging to and must let go of.” When Kavanaugh commented that she always seemed to have the clarity he longed for, she laughed. “I have never had clarity, what I have always had is trust. So I will pray that you trust God.” Sisters and brothers, God has his reasons for not revealing Himself more clearly to us. Probably it is because it is essential to our spiritual growth to question and to ponder and to seek for God as a thirsty person seeks for water.

          Besides, most of us have certainty enough. Jesus tells us in Matthew 17 that all we need is faith the size of a mustard seed and we will be able to move mountains. It’s not how much faith we have that makes a crucial difference in life, it’s how we use that faith. Poet Robert Frost once said, “The most creative thing in us is to believe a thing in.” We believe in God, and we see God’s presence and power everywhere we look. We believe in the kingdom of God, but the real meaning of our lives as Christians is to believe God’s kingdom in.

          Pope John Paul II once told about an encounter he had with a Russian soldier in 1945. It was just after WWII, many years before John Paul was elected Pope. A young Russian soldier came to him one night and announced that he wanted to enter the seminary. The soldier had grown up under atheism. He had rarely ever entered a church. He wasn’t even sure of the purpose of the seminary. He only knew that he had a yearning for God and for knowledge and for truth, and so he had come by night to ask for John Paul’s help. (Sounds like the biblical story of Nicodemus coming to see Jesus at night.) In a long conversation, the young soldier kept repeating the thought: “I always knew that God exists…and now I would like to learn something about Him.” He had always believed in God. Now he was seeking to believe God into his life.

          Unless you have been taught to doubt, the evidence for belief in God is overwhelming. Look at how amazing and complex this world is. Could something this wonderful have occurred without Divine Guidance? Are you kidding me? You would have to suspend all common sense to believe that. But sisters and brothers this is not to say that that faith is to be accepted without careful thought.  God gave us minds to protect us from gullibility to every silly idea that comes down the pike. We need to closely examine every new idea to which we are exposed, whether it comes from a preacher, a politician, a professor, a news publication or a TV pundit. God does not honor gullibility. Nevertheless, we will never make much progress in life until that moment when we take our stand, when we resolve in our own mind what we do believe and to whom we are committed. Blessed are the believers is the first thing we need to see. Here’s the second.

          Believers are a blessing to the world. As someone once said, “He who pulls on the oars has no time to rock the boat.” Believers are those who know that the world can yet be a better place. Consider our own society. Who have been the builders? Who have constructed the hospitals, the great universities, the social service agencies? Behind everyone you will find persons who hold in their hearts not cynicism but hope, not doubt but faith, not hostility but love.

          It has been said that when evil persons plot, good persons plan. When evil persons bomb and burn, good persons must build and bind. When evil persons shout words of hatred, good persons must commit themselves to the glory of love…” A prominent newscaster once put it like this: “A successful (person) is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him.”

          So, where are you this morning – on the side of the doubters or on the side of the believers? Anybody can be a doubting Thomas. It takes no particular strength of character to say, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in His hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in His side, I will not believe.” But it does take strength of character to say “I don’t have all the answers. But I know who is making the world a better place to live. It is those who are followers of the Man of Galilee. And I want to make my stand with them! I don’t have all the answers, but unless someone proves otherwise, I will take my stand with those who believe this beautiful world is the creation of a good and loving God. I don’t have all the answers, but I believe that the death of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary has somehow changed the world forever. I don’t have all the answers, but put me down as a believer.”

          Listen again to the words of our Lord to the disciple Thomas, “Have you believed because you have seen Me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

Closing Hymn #308 Thine Be the Glory

  1. Thine be the glory, risen, conquering Son;

Endless is the victory Thou o’er death hast won.

Angels in bright raiment rolled the stone away,

Kept the folded graveclothes where Thy body lay.

Refrain:

Thine be the glory, risen, conquering Son;

Endless is the victory Thou o’er death hast won.

  1. Lo! Jesus meets thee, risen from the tomb;

Lovingly He greets thee, scatters fear and gloom.

Let the church with gladness hymns of triumph sing;

For our Lord now liveth; death hath lost its sting.

Refrain:

  1. No more we doubt Thee, glorious Prince of life!

Life is naught without Thee; aid us in our strife.

Make us more than conquerors, through Thy deathless love;

Bring us safe through Jordan to Thy home above.

Refrain:

Dismissal with Blessing

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