Revised Common Lectionary Reflection, Second Sunday of Easter, Year C
April 28, 2019
Lessons: Acts 5:27-32; Psalm 118:14-29; Revelation 1:4-8; John 20:19-31
Theme: God’s faithful and generous people embrace doubt, fear, and uncertainty as part of the faith journey. Stewarding the good news doesn’t mean that we have to have it all figured out; in fact, it’s pretty dangerous to sit smugly on a closed mind that hinders a fully-formed faith.
Key Scripture: Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” – John 20:21
Yep, here we are again at that Sunday known as both Low Sunday (for sparse worship attendance) and the Sunday when we hear from “Doubting Thomas,” who needs proof of the resurrection. What fresh approach might one take this year?
There’s certainly plenty about which to be uncertain in our world: climate change, war and conflict, terrorism, nationalism, racism, hatred. You can probably add any number of other items to the list from your particular context. We need resurrection hope every bit as much as Jesus’ first group of disciples did, perhaps even more so since the dust of ages has settled on the story and its recounting is often dry and brittle as old lace.
In some ways, we’re no different when we lock ourselves away in the safe sanctuaries of aging edifices, clinging to adiaphora masked as tradition. True, not every worshiping community is holed up behind closed doors and minds, thanks be to God, but too many are held captive by fear and blinded to the very real presence of the Christ in our midst.
We need folks like Thomas among us to express exactly where they stand and what they need when it comes to resurrection. It’s the Thomases of the world who require a bigger and more complicated vision of Jesus. Thomas doesn’t want just a glorious glow-in-the-dark vision of the conquering hero; he wants a Jesus with scars and wounds that resonate with his own broken heart and woundedness after the crucifixion. Thomas—and all of us, if we admit it—longs for a deep, four-dimensional kind of faith that isn’t bound by space and time, that is tactile and responsive, and that breathes the Spirit-breath of peace on us.
This is the kind of resurrection that sends people out the doors and into the world to proclaim the risen Christ. This is the kind of resurrection that eschews certainty and embraces mystery and possibility. And, this is the kind of resurrection that breathes new life into the stale air of closed minds, systems, and hearts.
The faith that Thomas seeks is that which leads to real life. I can imagine that once Thomas encounters the risen Christ in this most tangible, immediate, and grace-filled way, he then sees and experiences Christ in every atom and molecule of creation. We do know that he and the other disciples leave that room and began to share the good news through their eye-witness testimony as they trust Jesus’ words, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe” (John 20:29b).
Jesus is still breathing peace on us through the gift of the Holy Spirit, still showing up in unexpected places through unexpected people, and still calling us to belief beyond doubt and beyond certainty. Yes, in anxious times like these when we may feel locked away for fear of all manner of things, the peace of Christ is ours through bread, wine, water, word, and in the beloved community.
Ask for what you need, my friends. The living Christ will meet you at the place of your greatest longing and deepest fear. Reach out your hands and touch the wounds of this world. Place your hands in the broken places of life and embrace the broken and wounded people. Christ is with you–no matter what, no matter where, encircling all of creation beyond time and space yet always present. So go, practice resurrection, share the good news as you can and in all the ways you can. Amen.
This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. – Psalm 118:24
Let this verse from the appointed psalm set the tone for your worship. Every day is gift, and every gathering of God’s people is an opportunity to worship with our whole hearts.
You might also include poetry that celebrates creation in today’s worship. Consider poets Mary Oliver and Wendell Berry. Other options may be found at poets.org.
If you’re celebrating Earth Day Sunday today, invite worshipers to share their prayers, concerns, and hopes for creation. Perhaps create a prayer ribbon tree using a new flowering tree that is suited for your context. Allow people to tie their prayers written on colorful ribbons to the young tree’s branches. Include the tree in the sending and go straight to the planting site and give it a new home. Not only will you be helping creation by planting a tree, you’ll also be offering public witness to prayer and the need for Christians to pay attention to creation care.
If you have time today, engage in a creation care activity. Perhaps pick up trash around your church’s neighborhood or plant flowers in the church yard. Never underestimate the power of youth to make a difference. Consider the witness of sixteen-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg. If your youth are not familiar with her, show them this short TEDx video or even shorter composite video from The Guardian. Invite their feedback and observations. What concerns them about the environment and climate change? What questions do they have? How might they make a difference?
This week’s focus verse is Revelation 1:8 – “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.
Print copies of the standard English alphabet and the Greek alphabet. Show the children the English alphabet first. Ask them to guess how many words can be made from our alphabet or how many words there are in the English language. The answer is more than a quarter million. Now show them the Greek alphabet. You can even teach them a Greek alphabet song found here. Ask if the children have any idea what the alphabet has to do with today’s focus verse found in Revelation 1:8. Of course, it relates to the beginning and ending letters of the Greek alphabet or A and Z in our English alphabet. What it means is that God covers everything from A to Z from Alpha to Omega. Our God is a whole lot bigger than the quarter million words in the English language. God is everywhere from to beginning to end and around again and again. Give each child a copy of the Greek alphabet sheet as a reminder of this verse. Finish with a simple prayer of blessing for each child and gratitude for our amazing God.
Weekly Stewardship Bulletin Insert
It’s easy to feel ill-equipped to be a steward of the good news. After all, none of us were present in that upper room, right? But wait … in Acts 5:28, Paul reminds his listeners (and us) that they are witnesses thanks to the gift of the Holy Spirit. Having received the gift of the Spirit in baptism, we can have confidence in the validity of our own witness to faith in Christ.
Stewardship at Home
This week begin every day with the words from Psalm 118:24: “This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Then spend some time writing down what makes you glad, grateful, and joyous throughout the day. You may be amazed at how much more you notice when you begin to pay attention to God’s good creation.
Photos: Caravaggio, ItzaFineDay, and Anders Hellberg, Creative Commons usage license. Thanks!
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