Take some time to be conscious of the life we receive through our breathing and center yourself in worship.
OPENING SENTENCES (Psalm 16)
Keep us safe, O God, because in you we seek refuge. You are our Lord, our portion; you are the one who has affirmed our destiny. You do not let our lives end in the grave. You show us the path of life. Your presence fills us with joy and in you we will have eternal happiness.
HYMN: Listen to "Alleluia! Christ is Arisen GtG 245
There are times in our lives,
when fear leads us to hide,
when doubt consumes us,
and although we want to see the hope of a new life in you,
our vision becomes blurred with sadness and pain.
We need your peace,
we need your Spirit,
we need your forgiveness and your love.
Help us to regain our strength,
to grow in our faith,
our Lord and our God.
In the name of your Song, Jesus Christ,
our most beautiful peace. Amen.
PARDON AND PEACE
In the name of the risen Christ, we are forgiven! Thanks be to God!
(Passing the Ha-Has: Put your hand on your own belly, or with permission, the belly of a
person living in your household and worshiping alongside you, and together, start “ha”ing, with great force and conviction. Do it once. Then twice. Then three times. Then four. Then five.)
PRAYER OF ILLUMINATION
God of life, we celebrate today that we can listen to your living word, Jesus Christ. Quiet our minds. Open our hearts. Speak to your people. We are ready to listen. In the name of the Risen Christ we pray. Amen.
SCRIPTURE: John 20: 19-31 (NRSV)
19 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.” 20 After he said this, heshowed them his handsand his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22 When he had said this, hebreathed on themand said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” 24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I seethe 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.” 26 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.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands.Reach out your handand put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him,“My Lord and my God!” 29 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.” 30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31 But these arewrittenso that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah,the Son of God, and that through believing you may havelifein his name.
REFLECTION: We Have Seen the Lord (Marissa Galván-Valle)
Last Sunday, I got the chance to preach in two Easter Sunday worship services. One was for our church… but the other one was the Joint Worship Service for San Juan Presbytery. In that sermon, I spoke about our star word, that contrary to other times, I have kept at my home office during all this year. My word for meditation through out the year is “contentment”.
I shared with the folks of the presbytery that this word has been kind of challenging during this year. The year in Puerto Rico started with earthquakes… and then the Pandemic happened. How do you find contentment when life seems to be so hard and challenging?
What I told them, and what I believe after thinking a lot about it is that I find contentment in saying the words that Mary Magdalene said in the passage before this one and the disciples repeat as their powerful witness that holds them through the uncertainty and through all the challenges that the Christian faith has been through the years: “I have seen the Lord” or “We have seen the Lord”.
This contentment comes from the assurance that we are not alone on the journey. That we have not lost the One that gives us the strength to keep on going because He is the one that gives us satisfaction and ease of mind. Been able to state that we have seen the Lord gives us peace and causes us to feel contented. Even when we are at home. Even when we are facing things that are stressful and scary. We have seen the Lord.
Granted that for us, as disciples in the twenty first century this is harder. We are all like Thomas. We missed the opportunity to see first-hand what the other disciples saw with their own eyes. And again, I’m defending Thomas here. He has every right to want to have the same experience as the disciples. He has every right to want that peace that the disciples now have because they have seen the Risen Christ. And Jesus provides… appearing one more time.
The Matthew 25 initiative invites us to look at this text through the lens of vitality. It invites us to think about vitality involving the work of the Holy Spirit, forgiveness and trust in Christ. This is the work of the Risen Christ when he makes the choice of coming and standing among the disciples. He gives them peace. He shows them his hands and his side, even to Thomas, building trust. He gives them the Holy Spirit that empowers them for mission. He forgives and gives the power to forgive. He gives them a new life and… contentment, so that they have all that they need to continue their journeys. They will not be able to see him face to face. We are not able to see him face to face. But we can live with the assurance that we follow the One that has made every effort to maintain his connection with us.
The only thing that makes me a bit annoyed with Thomas today are his words to the disciples: “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.” He could have been less stern. He could have kept his thoughts to himself. And I think that these words bother me today, because I hear them all over the place, trying to kill contentment and vitality. Every time I see people trying to spread false rumors, or acting in ways that do not benefit those that are most vulnerable, I can feel the vitality coming out of me… I can feel discontentment growing in me. Every time someone tries to take my ability to see the Lord with their questioning, it challenges my capacity to trust. It is not easy!
But… I must find my vitality and my contentment in the same truth that the disciples witnessed: I have seen the Lord. Have seen the Lord in the selfless acts of people taking care of others. I have seen the Lord in the vitality shared through song, preaching, witness, makings of masks and sharing of talents that I’ve seen on the Internet. I have seen the Lord when I receive phone calls from my doctor, asking how I’m doing. I have seen the Lord in being able to spend time with my mother, when sometimes I worry that I’m not spending time enough with her. I have seen the Lord in bible study, in conversations with friends and in our Zoom worship meetings. And if someone tries to take that vitality and contentment away from me… I might say a word that Celia Cruz, a famous Cuban singer, used in a song called “Life is a Carnival”… Fuah! (shoo)
“For those who complain too much, fuah! (shoo)
For those who only criticize, fuah! (shoo)
For those who use weapons, fuah! (shoo)
For those who contaminate us, fuah! (shoo)
For those who make war, fuah! (shoo)
For those who live sinning, fuah! (shoo)
For those who mistreat us, fuah! (shoo)
For those who infect us, fuah! ” (shoo)
HYMN: Try to sing the words of the famous hymn "Amazing Grace" with the song for "The Lion Sleeps Tonight". Have fun with it and celebrate the amazing grace of God.
PRAYER OF INTERCESSION: Take some time to present your joys and concerns and those of others to God.
SENDING SONG: Hallelujah, Praise Ye The Lord (We invite you to move to the song with your family... or by yourself)
Praise God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy God has made us be born again through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, so that we have a living hope. May the blessing of the Triune God, be with all the people of God now and forever. Amen.