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Sermon and Liturgy for The Second Sunday of Easter - Year A
I Peter 1:3-9 and John 20:19-31
"Peace Be With You"


READING:  I Peter 1:3-9; John 20:19-31
SERMON :  "Peace Be With You"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
a-ea02se 482000
                  
     The following is a more or less complete liturgy and sermon
     for the upcoming Sunday.  Hymn numbers, designated as VU are
     found in the United Church of Canada Hymnal "Voices United".
     SFPG is "Songs For A Gospel People", also available from the UCC.


GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE                  (* = please stand)


WORDS OF WELCOME & SCRIPTURE SENTENCES
L  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, 
   and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
P  And also with you.
L  Christ is Risen. 
P  He is risen indeed!


INTROIT:  "This Is The Day!"   (VU 412 - verse one)


PRAYER OF APPROACH
We have come together, O God, to be clothed with power from on
high.  Meet us here with truth we can wear with confidence and with
joy we can share with sincerity.  Awaken us, by the power of your
Holy Spirit, to life in all its fullness here and now and grant us
courage and strength and love as we praise you for all your
goodness.  Be with us as we lift up our hands, our hearts, and our
voices, and prepare us for everlasting life with Christ Jesus -- 
in whose name we worship.  Amen.


* HYMN  "For A Thousand Tongues To Sing"                 - VU 326


ANNOUNCEMENTS AND SHARING TIME


A READING FROM I PETER 1:3-9
   (NRSV)  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!
   By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living
   hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
   {4} and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled,
   and unfading, kept in heaven for you, {5} who are being
   protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation
   ready to be revealed in the last time. {6} In this you rejoice,
   even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various
   trials, {7} so that the genuineness of your faith--being more
   precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by
   fire--may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when
   Jesus Christ is revealed. {8} 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, {9} for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the
   salvation of your souls.

L  This the Word of the Lord.
P  Thanks be to God.


CHILDREN'S TIME  "Spreading The News"
Object:   Seed Bag or envelop full of seeds with picture on packet
Theme:    Use what we have to produce what God has planned.
Source:   Self and "More Sermons From The Mystery Box" Abingdon
          Press, 1992;  page 60.

Good morning.  Today I brought along some very beautiful wild
flowers....  Would you like to see them???  ...(Produce bag of
seeds)../  There are over 60 kinds of flowers here.  Aren't they
the most beautiful flowers you have ever seen???  

What do my mean there are no flowers here - of course there are --
I'm holding them right here in my hands - but to tell you the
truth, I noticed that they don't smell like flowers ...(sniff
them)...  They  smell rather like sack cloth/paper.  What ever
could be wrong???

Let me get this straight -- you are telling me that the reason my
flowers don't smell like flowers is because they are not flowers,
but only seeds???   Did I say that right?  So what I have here are
only seeds???  But they can be flowers can't they???   If these
seeds are going to become flowers, what  do we have to do with
them???

For the good news of Easter to become really exciting - for the
good news of Jesus Christ and his resurrection to really make a
difference we, as his followers have to do something with it.  Can
you guess what it is???  

We have to plant that news in our own hearts - and then in the
hearts of other people.  Easter is nothing without our telling
other people about it - without our showing that it is real by
planting the seeds of love - the seeds that God gives us to spread
all around. 

   Let us Pray: "Loving God -- help us to plant  - the seeds of
   your love - and to spread the good news of Jesus Christ - to
   our friends and our neighbours. -- Amen."


* HYMN: "Teach Me, God, To Wonder"                       - VU 299
              

RESPONSIVE READING: Psalm 16 (Voices United page 738) and Refrain


CHOIR ANTHEM

   
A READING FROM JOHN 20:19-31
   (NRSV)  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, he
   showed them his hands and 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, he breathed on them and 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 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." {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 hand and 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 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.

L  This is the Gospel of our Risen Lord
P  Praise be to you, Lord Jesus Christ.


* HYMN:  "Jesus, Stand Among Us"                         - VU 396

    
SERMON: "Peace Be With You"

       The sources for this sermon are lost in the mists of
       time and space, but it is not entirely original.  It
       is modified a great deal however from whatever
       source it came.  And I can testify that it was very
       well received when I preached it once before.

   Bless thou O Lord, the words of my lips and the meditations
   of our hearts that they be of profit to us and acceptable to
   thee, oh our Rock and our Redeemer.  Amen

For a moment imagine a scene of peace.- close your eyes and imagine
it - describe it to yourself as fully as you can - enter into it
deeply enough to feel its glow -

Some of you may have pictured yourself dozing in the bottom of a
rowboat on a calm and tranquil lake.  Others may have seen
yourselves looking at a little baby sleeping in her crib, or a cat
napping on a sun soaked window ledge.  Still others may have seen
themselves in a landscape empty of people - but full of grain
gently waving in a breeze or beside a stream in the woods with the
water making music as it runs over and around stones lying in its
course.

Whatever the picture you painted and entered into - chances are it
was not like the kind of scene drawn by today's gospel text.

That text speaks of locked doors , of secret meetings by night -
and of fear.  None of these things makes a person normally think
about peace - nor does the presence of one whose body is marked by
the signs of torture and death.

It seems clear however that the evangelist wants us to see the two
visits of Jesus to his disciples in the upper room as occasions of
peace.

And perhaps they can speak to us about some dimensions of peace
that we do normally think of - perhaps they can speak to us of
peace in the midst of turmoil - of peace in the midst of fear - of
peace in the midst of doubt.

False ideas about peace and joy abound in our society.  These false
ideas can distort our entire picture of what life is supposed to be
about, and of who Christ is and of who we are.

A woman by the name of Lucy Bregman relates the story of how she
once went to a worship service where the entire congregation was
told 

   "If you don't have a smile on your face, you've got the
   wrong religion and shouldn't be here.  Christianity is a
   religion of joy."  

She fled that service in tears - because she did not feel at that
time like she could smile - she was having difficulties and was
looking for comfort.  Instead she was told that she was not good
enough for God because she was not smiling.

God never asks us to falsify our experience. - our risen Lord never
waits until we are already happy in order to come to us - and he
never wears a pasted on smile.  

Think of this for a moment - Christ could have miraculously
obliterated his wounds after he was raised from the tomb, but chose
not to.  He bore the marks of his wounds into the presence of his
disciples.  In the same way Christ does not ask us to banish our
wounds when we come into his presence - not even at Easter when we
are supposed to be full of joy. 

The risen Christ came to his disciples in the midst of their
turmoil and fear.  He came in the midst of their doubt and their
sense of having failed both him and their own selves and said to
them: "Peace be with you."  

And when he said this he showed them his wounds - the holes in his
hands and in his side - as if to say:

   See these wounds - feel them and know that it is all right
   to hurt.  Pain comes to us all - I was hurt as all people
   are hurt - but that pain and that hurt no longer has
   dominion over me - I live - as I said I would.  I told you
   that I would suffer - and that you, if you followed me,
   would also suffer - but I told you too that after passing
   through various trials and tests -that pain and even death
   itself would lose its power - its power over me and its
   power over those who believe in me.

The three times that Jesus offers his peace to his disciples in
today's reading - it is done in close connection with the wounds of
crucifixion.  The enemies of peace had already done their worst to
him.  They had made cowards and liars of his followers and had
mocked his own words and actions.  They had humiliated him in the
city streets.  The had violated his flesh and robbed him of his
life.  But their war against him failed.  On the evening of the
first day of the week he came to his disciples and showed them that
he lived despite the worst that could happen.

The peace that Jesus offers can be described as the confidence his
followers are able to take from his resurrected appearance.  His
return on that first day of the week signalled the fact that his
life and promises will endure.  His "peace be with you" was more
than a greeting to be followed by another good-bye.  It was the
declaration of a persistent fact.   Because Jesus lives nothing can
separate his followers from him and from life in him.  

The disciples realized this fact and in realizing it received the
peace that Jesus offered - the peace that only Jesus could offer -
for without him they would have been left to continue alone in the
darkness and fear of their locked room.

The confidence that the disciples received when Jesus came and said
to them "peace be with you" is demonstrated in the response of the
disciples to his appearance.  Peace showed itself in their
rejoicing - and in Thomas' confession of faith - "My Lord, and my
God."

And peace showed itself - confidence showed itself - inner security
showed itself - later when the disciples left that room and went
into the world to proclaim the love and forgiveness of God through
Jesus Christ - the risen Lord.

But my friends - notice that none of the external circumstances of
the disciples changed when they received and accepted the peace
that Christ offered them. 

They believed in him - they had confidence in him - they knew that
nothing could separate them from God's love after he appeared to
them - but they still had to face the same situation they faced
before he broke into the room they had locked because of their
fear.  They still had to face authorities.  They still had to risk
going out on the streets, they still had deal with the crowds who
had mocked and crucified Jesus.  They still had to face trials and
tribulations - as do we.

Peace be with you - is the word of Jesus to us.
Peace be with you and blessed are you when you have not seen, as
the disciples saw, and yet have come to believe.

Blessed are you 
- not because life will be plain sailing for you,
Blessed are you 
- not because you will always want to smile and will never have to
suffer.

But blessed are you because you have linked yourself to a power
   greater than yours; 
to a power that wants to sustain you and will sustain you,
to the power that raised Jesus from the dead,
to the power that will bring you to the inheritance 
   that Jesus has won for us,
that inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, 
kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God
through faith.

Finally - I leave you with these words of Jesus -  
They are the words Jesus spoke to his disciples just before he went
out to the Garden of Gethesame and onward from there to his cross
and his death.

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you,
not as the world gives do I give to you,
Do not let your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
Believe in God, believe also in me.  Amen.


----  Check out George Hartwell's Creative Closings - Easter 2 - Year A 
for a different prayer or meditation with which to conclude the sermon 
and/or lead into the prayer time below.


* HYMN: "In Loving Partnership We Come"                  - VU 603


PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE AND THE LORD'S PRAYER: 
 God, how shall we praise you for the love you show us?  What gifts
can we offer that truly show our gratitude for how you have come to
us in Christ Jesus to set us free?  By your mercy, we live, in your
presence we are made whole.  Grant, O Lord, that we might always
remember that in you and your living word is not only our hope, but
the hope of our homes, our communities, and our world.  Open our
eyes, and quicken our hearts, that we may be about your mission of
sharing the good news of your love with both our fellow disciples
and with strangers, with both our neighbours and those who live far
off.  May our witness lead others to faith and a living belief in
your eternal power... Lord hear our prayer...

We thank you, O God, that you can break down all barriers and enter
into every heart - that you speak peace into our fear, faith into
our doubt, and hope into our despair.  We pray, O God for those 
who are living in fear this day -- for those who have friends or
relatives, or family members, who are desperately ill; for those
who are uncertain about the direction that they should take or what
they should do about a difficult situation, and for those who have
lost their hope and their confidence as they go about their daily
living.......  We pray especially today, O Lord, for those who have
been lifted up in concern this week... Lord hear our prayer......

We ask all these things - we render our praise and our
thanksgiving, our prayers and our petitions, to you - through Jesus
Christ, our Risen Saviour - he who taught us to call upon you
saying... OUR FATHER...


MINUTE FOR MISSION: OUR LIFE TOGETHER AND IN THE WORLD


* SHARING GOD'S BLESSINGS:  As the Offering is presented all stand
for the Doxology (Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow - VU 541)
and Prayer of Dedication

   O God, fill us with the exultant joy of your love, which is
   more precious than gold.  May we be bold to proclaim the
   glorious news of salvation with glad hearts and with deep
   and genuine trust.  Grant us the opportunity, through these
   gifts and in our daily living, to lead others to a life-
   affirming faith, in Christ's name we ask it.  Amen


* HYMN: "We Praise You, O God"                           - VU 218


* COMMISSIONING (Unison):  In the power of the Holy Spirit we now
   go forth into the world, to fulfil our calling as the people of
   God, the body of Christ.
                                 
                      
* BENEDICTION AND THREEFOLD AMEN
Go in peace
and may Christ breath a blessing on you, 
the Holy Spirit  fill you with hope and joy, 
and God's living truth guide you in the path of freedom 
and of righteousness 
today, tomorrow, and indeed forevermore.  Amen


* CHORAL BLESSING:  "Go Now In Peace"                    - VU 964


copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild - Spirit Networks, 1999 - 2006
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.


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