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Sermon and Liturgy For The Second Sunday of Easter - Year B
I John 1:1-2:2; John 20:19-31
"Showing The Marks"


READING:  I John 1:1-2:2; John 20:19-31
SERMON :  "Showing The Marks"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
b-ea02sesu 365882

   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.
   Sources, if any, are as indicated in the text.
   
   The Prayer of Approach is taken and modified from prayers of John
   Maynard (maynard@sympac.com.au "Prayers and Litanies For The
   Second Sunday of  Easter" as sent to the PRCL List, April 24, 2000


GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE                            (* = please stand)


* WORDS OF WELCOME AND CALL TO WORSHIP (from Psalm 148)
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  Praise the Lord.  Praise the Lord from the heavens.
   Praise him in the heights above.
P  Praise him, all his angels.  Praise him all his heavenly hosts.  
   Praise him, sun and moon.  Praise him, all you shining stars.  
L  Praise him, you highest heavens and you waters above the skies.
P  Praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted. 
   His splendour is above the earth and the heavens.


* INTROIT:  "Holy, Holy, Holy" (verse 1)                           - VU 315


* PRAYER OF APPROACH
Heavenly Father and God of mercy, we no longer look for Jesus among the
dead, for He is alive and has become the Lord of life.  From the waters of
death You raise us with Him and renew Your gift of life within us.  You
redeem us in the blood of Christ and give us new birth in the Spirit.  We
thank you, and we pray that as we celebrate our Lord's resurrection, that
you would increase our awareness of these blessings and increase in our
minds and hearts the risen life we share with Him.  Help us to grow as Your
people towards the fullness of eternal life with You; through Christ our
Lord. AMEN.


* HYMN:  "Come In, Come In and Sit Down"                           - VU 395


ANNOUNCEMENTS AND SHARING JOYS AND CONCERNS
- Announcements
- Birthdays
- Sharing Joys and Concerns


ST. ANDREW'S THIS WEEK


CHILDREN'S TIME:
Object:   Easter Lily
Theme:    Acts of Beauty From Our God
Source    Self

Good morning - last Sunday was Easter - and we remembered the very first
Easter Sunday so long ago - we remembered how Jesus was raised from the
dead a- and given a new life - a life in which - as we heard today - he
walked and he talked - and he visited with his disciples and ate with them.

Last Sunday there was in church some very special plants - I brought one
with me today - does anyone know what they are called... they are known as
Easter Lilies - and they have become a part of our Easter celebrations.

Does anyone know the old legend about Easter Lilies???  Well there is an
old old story that on the day that Jesus rose from the dead and came out of
the tomb - that where ever he walked in the garden where he was buried -
that in his footprints beautiful white lilies grew - just like these ones.

I think that story must be true - because I know that wherever Jesus went
before he died and was buried beautiful things happened -  can anyone think
of some the beautiful things that happened before he died???? 
   - he cleansed lepers - made their skin healthy and whole
   - he forgave people their sins 
   - he raised Lazarus from the dead
   - he got a man who was paralysed to walk
   - he made people who were rejected by others part of his family
   - he blessed children and played with them
   - he treated tax-collectors well.

Jesus caused beautiful things to happen before he died - and this Easter
Lily reminds me - and it can remind all of us here today - that he caused
beautiful things to happen after he was raised - beautiful things in the
garden where he lay - and beautiful things still today where people believe
in him.


THE LORD'S PRAYER


* HYMN: "Morning Has Broken"                                       - VU 409


A READING FROM I JOHN 1:1-2:2
   (NIV)  That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we
   have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have
   touched--this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. {2} The life
   appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the
   eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. {3} We
   proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have
   fellowship with us.  And our fellowship is with the Father and with his
   Son, Jesus Christ. {4} We write this to make our joy complete. {5} This
   is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light;
   in him there is no darkness at all. {6} If we claim to have fellowship
   with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.
   {7} But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have
   fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies
   us from all sin. {8} If we claim to be without sin, we deceive
   ourselves and the truth is not in us. {9} If we confess our sins, he is
   faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all
   unrighteousness. {10} If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out
   to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.

L  This is the word of the Lord
P  Thanks be to God.


ANTHEM


A READING FROM JOHN 20:19-31
   (NIV)  On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples
   were together, with the doors 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 side. The disciples were overjoyed
   when they saw the Lord. {21} Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As
   the Father has sent me, I am sending you." {22} And with that he
   breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. {23} If you
   forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them,
   they are not forgiven." {24} Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the
   Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. {25} So the other
   disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord!" But he said to them,
   "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the
   nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it." {26}
   A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with
   them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and
   said, "Peace be with you!" {27} Then he said to Thomas, "Put your
   finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side.
   Stop doubting and believe." {28} Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my
   God!" {29} Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have
   believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."
   {30} Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his
   disciples, which are not recorded in this book. {31} But these are
   written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God,
   and that by 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:  "We Are Pilgrims (The Servant Song)"                      - VU 595


SERMON: Showing The Marks

   Bless Thou the words of my lips and the meditations of our heart
   that they be of profit to us and acceptable to thee, our Rock and
   our Redeemer.

If you examine a piece of fine silver you will find on it somewhere some
marks placed there by the jeweller or manufacturer.

You will find initials or some other sign engraved
   on the bottom of the item (as with this cup)
       or on the backside of a display object,
          or, as is the case with rings, on the inside of a band.

These markings are called hallmarks and they have that name because
originally, many years ago, all items made of silver 
   - whether pots, dishes, trays, utensils or jewellery
were produced by a member of a guild or union, and at one time those guild
members both met and worked in large rooms called Halls.

Hallmarks are etched or engraved into every item for two reasons,
they tell you two things.

The first reason is to show that the item is actually what it appears to be
- that it is in fact an item made of pure silver, an item that is not mixed
with other, cheaper, materials.

A hallmark is a guarantee of quality and purity.

The second thing a Hallmark does is tell you where the product comes from.
In other words what Hall it comes from, and in some cases, what individual
made it.

In England, hallmarks are not only composed of letters or initials,
   often, and especially in the case of larger items,
       there is normally a crest incorporated into the markings.

If there is a leopard's head - that piece comes from London.
If there is a castle - the silver came from Edinburgh.
The hallmark of the guild in Sheffield is a crown,
and that of Birmingham is an anchor.

All this business about hallmarks started in the year 1300 when King Edward
of England passed a law saying that no precious metal could be sold without
a guarantee of its purity being marked on it.  From 1300 to this very day
the practice of hallmarking has continued in one form or another.

The reason I have gone into all this detail about hallmarks is because
hallmarks can help us to understand today's scripture readings and the
issues that they speak to.

In the gospel reading today we heard about the Apostle Thomas
DOUBTING THOMAS as he has come to be known.

Thomas had not been with the other disciples when Jesus first appeared to
them after the resurrection, and when they told him about it his first
reaction was a normal one - he did not believe it.

Thomas had a healthy scepticism,
and like most people who have a healthy scepticism,
he would not believe until he first had some proof,
and he did not hesitate to tell the others that.

   "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands", he said, "and put my
   finger where the nails were, and put my hand in his side, I will not
   believe it".

If Thomas had been an American, he would have been from Missouri, the Show
Me state; a state, I should add, which most people in this world live in:
not in the physical sense, but in the spiritual sense.

Most of us, no matter what is said about how blessed it is for us to
believe without seeing, really want to see first.

Like Thomas, we want some evidence before we accept as truth what other
people tell us, particularly when they are telling us things that seem
impossible.

Thomas would not believe until he himself saw the marks on Jesus.

I believe that no one can fault him for that,
      particularly since he was being confronted with a story that simply
      defies human imagination.

We know, of course, how the story of Thomas came out.

Jesus appeared again to the disciples a week later, and the first person he
speaks to, after he says to his disciples "Peace be with you", is Thomas.

   "Put your finger here", he says to Thomas.  See my hands.  Reach out
   your hand and put it into my side.  Stop doubting and believe."
   
And Thomas - seeing him, believes and says to him, and I can imagine the
awe and conviction in his voice,"My Lord, and my God!"

Tradition has it that later in life Thomas became the apostle to the
nations east of Israel, and that he died a martyrs death in India.

Because he saw the risen Lord with his own eyes - he believed,
he believed and he went forth to do what all the other disciples did,
he went forth and spread the good news about Jesus,
   that Jesus died so that we would know the love of God,
   and that he rose from the dead so that we might know that God's love is
forever and that all who follow him receive eternal life.

But what about today - what happens today to those who want proof-positive
before they believe and say to Jesus: my Lord and my God?

How can we expect all the people from Missouri to believe that Jesus is
risen from the dead  and persuade them to become his disciples without
providing them with some evidence - some proof that it has really happened.

I know that Jesus said to Thomas after showing him the marks of his death,
the marks of his love:

       "Because you have seen me, you have believed.  Blessed are
       those who have not seen and yet have believed."

but I do not think quoting that verse to a sceptic will help very much.

And I don't think either that Jesus was suggesting that we should not
present proof to others of his resurrection as we attempt to fulfil the
commission he gave us to baptize and make disciples of all the nations.

Far from it.

Indeed, when you look at the gospel reading today one thing stands out very
clearly.  The very first time Jesus appeared to his disciples in the upper
room he showed them showed them the marks of his love - this a full week
before he showed Thomas the wounds that pierced his hands and his side.

For this reason I think what Jesus meant when he said - "Blessed are those
who have NOT seen and yet have believed" - is simply and precisely that.

Blessed indeed are people who accept Jesus as their Saviour, their risen
Lord, without having had any proof presented to them.

Blessed are they who start walking in faith before they have all the
answers to their questions, because they will start experiencing the
benefits of faith straight away.

In other words, Jesus was not suggesting that there are no blessings for
those who believe only after seeing, he was only suggesting that doubt can
get in the way of our experiencing those blessings.

Jesus presented the marks of his love to his disciples so that they might
believe and go forth as his apostles and baptize and make disciples of all
the nations.  He showed the marks of his love so that the blessings that
faith in him brings might become available to more people.

Today it is still the same.

But rather than the marks of his love being shown in his physical body,
they are shown, or are meant to be shown in us, in the people of his
church, which is everywhere called the Body of Christ.

There is an old tradition in the Church that says that some of the Saints
have shown the stigmata,
   - that their hands and sides sometimes have bled and looked as if they
   were pierced by a sharp object, even though no such object has come
   near them;
   - that marks would occasionally appear on their heads as if thorns had
been pushed down upon them.

It is a mystical tradition - this one of the stigmata,
   - something beyond what we normally experience or witness,
but it is a tradition that points us in the right direction for it states
that there is something we can show to convince the world of our
genuineness, that there is a hallmark that they can look for that proves
that someone has fellowship with God and with Christ Jesus his Son.

Quite simply that hallmark is a life that resembles his,
a life of light, and of truth, and of faith.

But the most notable part of the hallmark of Christ that we bear when we
are truly in him and he in us  - is our love for each other and our desire
in that love to be fellowship with one another and work together in harmony
despite all worldly differences that may exist between us.

Someone recently related his experience as a small boy when he went to his
first symphony orchestra concert.

   He marvelled at the different musicians as they came onto the stage
   and sat down.  They all seemed so different.  Some were young,
   others were old.  Some were thin, others were fat.  Some had lots of
   hair,  others were bald.  There were women, and there were men.  One
   by one they picked up their instruments and each began to play a few
   notes.  It sounded like a dozen cats fighting on a hot night in the
   middle of the city.  None of them were playing the same notes, let
   alone the same music.

   Then the boy saw a man in a long black coat walk to the centre of
   the stage.  He raised a long thin black stick and the noise stopped. 
   With a sweep of this man's hand the musicians began to play again
   and the sound this time was incredibly beautiful.

This experience is an analogy not only of the early church and its
believers, who are described in The Book of Acts as being one in heart and
mind, but also of today's church and today's believers.

Let me tell you a bit of my story.

When I was a very young 18 I was living alone in a large city attending
university.  I had an unhappy childhood and I was argumentative, defensive
and abrasive as a consequence.

There was at the university a group of Christians called Campus Crusade for
Christ - and they used to set up a table in the Student Union Building and
do what they called witnessing for Christ.

I loved to go to that table and make life hard for them.
I sort of believed in God - the way so many people do nowadays.
But I also sort of believed in astrology,
and I played around with telling fortunes using the Tarot Cards as well.

One thing is certain, I did not believe in Christ as my Lord.
I did not know what he stood for, 
nor what had happened to him, 
and I certainly had never gone to church.

These crazy Christians sat at their table and tried to tell me about the
resurrection and about salvation through Jesus,
   and I told them they were foolish to believe in it, and I asked them
   why innocent people suffered and why God allowed war and all those
   other things that are so difficult to answer.

I gave them a hard time.

A strange thing happened though - even though I tormented them with my
questions and made fun of their answers, 
   they invited me to their homes and apartments,
   they bought me the life blood of all students - coffee,
   and they fed me meals,
   and they even, as I found out later, they even prayed for me.
          
They treated me as a friend even while I treated them as people out of
touch with reality.

Since those days I have thought about that a lot.

I was a stranger.  They didn't need me, they didn't know me. 
And yet they wanted something good for me.
And they were patient with me, 
they were kind to me,
they helped me,
they forgave me, 
they answered my questions,
and they made me feel welcome when no-one else did.

In short they showed me something that I had never seen before - they
showed me Christian love. 

Within six months, because of their witness and how God used it in my life,
I became a Christian.

I never had a problem believing in the resurrection because I saw the marks
of Christ in his body - in the people who claimed his name and who walked
in his light and who lived as well as they could by his law.

I keep on bumping into people who have the hallmark of Christ upon them.

Yes - blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe!
   but blessed too are those who have seen -
   blessed are those who have seen the marks of Christ in us
       and have believed!
   and blessed too are we who have those marks,
blessed are we who have fellowship with the Father and with his Son, Jesus
Christ, and who show it by how we love each other.

We are a people who make can music instead of making noise,
because we have a conductor whom we can follow,
we have Jesus to direct us.

Look at those who have the hallmark of Christ upon them,
   those who walk in light and live by the love of their master,
   and learn from them.

Look for the hallmarks and pray that they may be seen in you,
that God might purify you and place his seal of salvation upon you.  AMEN

       
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
Let us pray - Today O God we are reminded by your Holy Word of what people
of faith are like - we are reminded of their joy and trust in you - we are
reminded of how they care for one another and reach out to help their
brothers and sisters - we are reminded of how your presence in their lives
conquers their doubts and fears.  Lord - work strongly in us and conform
our lives to the example of Jesus and of all those with a living faith --
help us walk in your glorious light and rejoice in your saving truth... 
Lord hear our prayer...

Gracious God - we recall how the sadness of the disciples was turned to joy
and of how their fear was turned to courage by your risen presence.  Help
us show your present reality to all those around us who dwell in fear and
sadness.  Help us, and the people of Christ everywhere, to bring comfort to
those who grieve, strength to those who are ill, and blessings to all those
in need...  Lord hear our prayer...

Lord, hear our prayer too for those in special need of your presence this
day - we ask that your Spirit may touch those we name before you in the
silence of our hearts that your Son might visit them and speak a word of
healing, that your nameless servants in this world might bring unto them
your comfort and your grace...  we especially remember before you: 

-- as shared in the sharing time

We pray too O God for those who are being joined to your people in this
place today - for Wendy and Katelyn and John, and for Ian and Sunni.  Bless
them in their walk and work in them and in all your people here at St.
Andrew's that we may prove the truth of your resurrection in our every act
- and grace us as we work to determine what your good and holy will is for
us as a congregation in this place.  We ask it thru Christ Jesus our Lord. 
Amen


* HYMN:  "Out of Deep, Unordered Water"                            - VU 453

   As the hymn is sung sponsors and candidates are invited to approach
   the font for the celebration of baptism and reception into the Body
   of Christ at St. Andrew's United.  The Sunday School will return to
   the Sanctuary for this time. 


BAPTISMS AND TRANSFER OF MEMBERSHIP
- Presentation of Candidates For Baptism and Transfer
- Profession of Faith and Promises
- The New Creed (inside cover of Voices United or #918)
- Blessing of Water 
- Sacrament of Holy Baptism (Adult and Child)
- Reception of Members
- Concluding Prayer


* 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

   Gracious and giving God - we want to thank you and to bring praise
   and glory to your name; we want to help you in your work in this
   world and to show to all the wonders of your love.  Bless we pray
   these offerings and our very selves that these wants may be
   fulfilled and that the marks of your Risen Son may be evident in us.
   We ask it in his name. Amen.


* DEPARTING HYMN:  Take My Life and Let It Be                      - VU 506


* 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
Go in peace - love and care for one another in the name of Christ;
- and may the blessing of God, 
- the anointing of Christ, 
- and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit 
be yours and through you be poured out upon others 
both now and forevermore.  Amen


* THREE FOLD AMEN & CHORAL BLESSING:  "Go Now In Peace"            - VU 964


copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild - Spirit Networks, 2000 - 2006
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.



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