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Sermon and Liturgy for The Second Sunday of Easter - Year C
Acts 5:17-32, Psalm 150; John 20:19-31
"That You May Believe"


READING:  Acts 5:17-32, Psalm 150; John 20:19-31
SERMON :  "That You May Believe"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
c-ea02sesu 424930

   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.
   
   Note to our readers -the main illustration may be dated, but it 
   should be possible to say something about some other situation
   in which you have been struck by how one person's belief has 
   helped change how many others see and believe (another example
   might be what Bishop Tutu helped to bring about by his faith).

   
GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE


* CALL TO WORSHIP:  (based on Revelation 1:3-6)
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    Blessed are those who gather to listen to the word of God.  
P    Happy are they who listen to the prophetic message 
     and obey what is written in the Holy Scriptures.
L    We gather to worship God and listen to his word in the name of Jesus
     Christ, the faithful witness, the first born from the dead. 
P    He loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood.
L    Give to him glory and power, honour and respect.  
     Rejoice in him and obey the word that he gives to you.
P    He is risen from the dead and he is Lord.  
     We rejoice in him and we will obey him now and forever.


* INTROIT:  "This Is The Day" (verse 1)                            - VU 412


* PRAYER OF INVOCATION:
O Lord God - our hearts and our minds sing out to you with praise this
day.  We rejoice in the power that you have unleashed upon the world with
the resurrection of Jesus  -- we thank you for the abiding love that you
have bestowed upon us in the promises you have made to him and through
him.  We come before you, O Lord, as his servants - we come before you as
a resurrection community - as an Easter people - and we ask your holy and
transforming presence.  Bless us at this hour, that we may become what you
would have us be and that we might bring honour and glory unto your name,
and unto the name of Christ Jesus our Lord and Saviour.  Amen


* HYMN: Come Children, Join To Sing                                - VU 345


CHILDREN'S TIME: "Seeing and Believing"
Object    - Mobius Strip
Theme     - Seeing Helps Us Believe
Source    - Self

Good morning --  The gospel reading for today is about a man called
Thomas.  Thomas was a disciple - someone who followed Jesus all around the
country and learned how to love and serve God better.  Thomas found it
really hard to believe things - he especially really found it hard to
believe it when the other disciples told him after he saw Jesus killed on
the cross and then buried that Jesus had come to life again - and that
they had seen him and touched him.  He thought that was crazy.

Tell me - do you find it easy to believe things???   (Wait for a response) 
 Some people find it easy to believe things, but most people find it hard
to believe things - especially things that seem impossible.  For example -
someone once told me that they could take a piece of paper LIKE THIS - and
do something to it so it would only have one side.   Does that make sense
to you???   
     
I didn't believe that person - and I acted like Thomas - I said to him -
show me - prove it to me -- and do you know something -- he did.   WATCH.
-- (show both sides of paper, then twist and tape it - draw the line
around one side -- take it apart) 

You see the paper had only side when I did the twist.  I believe now - and
when that person tells me other things I believe what they say.  Thomas
finally believed too - because Jesus came to him one day when he was with
the other disciples and showed him that he was really alive.

Jesus is alive my little friends -- he showed himself to many people after
he rose from the dead - and sometimes - even today - when you are with
other believers - and even once in a while when you are by yourself -
Jesus shows himself still.   Believe what I say - believe in Jesus - and
he will help you. 


PRAYER AND THE LORD'S PRAYER
     Dear Lord God -- we thank you for Jesus -- and for how he rose
     from the dead -- we thank you for eternal life -- the life you
     give to all who believe in you -- and we ask you to help us
     believe -- and to do what you want us to do -- Amen

     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 trespasses, as we
     forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into
     temptation, but deliver us from evil.  For thine is the kingdom,
     the power and the glory, for ever and ever.  Amen


SONG OF PRAISE:  "The Shepherd"
     The shepherd is the man we know
     who guards his sheep each day.
     And that is how Jesus watches us
     when we're at work or play.
                      
     The shepherd leads his sheep to food
     and shows them where to rest,
     And so does Jesus lead us too,
     and help us know what's best.


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


ST ANDREW'S THIS WEEK


ANTHEM


A READING FROM ACTS 5:17-32:
     (NIV)  Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members
     of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. {18} They
     arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. {19} But
     during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail
     and brought them out. {20} "Go, stand in the temple courts," he said,
     "and tell the people the full message of this new life." {21} At
     daybreak they entered the temple courts, as they had been told, and
     began to teach the people. When the high priest and his associates
     arrived, they called together the Sanhedrin--the full assembly of the
     elders of Israel--and sent to the jail for the apostles. {22} But on
     arriving at the jail, the officers did not find them there. So they
     went back and reported, {23} "We found the jail securely locked, with
     the guards standing at the doors; but when we opened them, we found
     no one inside." {24} On hearing this report, the captain of the
     temple guard and the chief priests were puzzled, wondering what would
     come of this. {25} Then someone came and said, "Look! The men you put
     in jail are standing in the temple courts teaching the people." {26}
     At that, the captain went with his officers and brought the apostles.
     They did not use force, because they feared that the people would
     stone them. {27} Having brought the apostles, they made them appear
     before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. {28} "We
     gave you strict orders not to teach in this name," he said. "Yet you
     have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make
     us guilty of this man's blood." {29} Peter and the other apostles
     replied: "We must obey God rather than men! {30} The God of our
     fathers raised Jesus from the dead--whom you had killed by hanging
     him on a tree. {31} God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince
     and Saviour that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to
     Israel. {32} We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy
     Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him."

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


RESPONSIVE READING:  Psalm 150 - Voices United 874 and Refrain
 

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: "Good Christians All, Rejoice and Sing"                    - VU 169


SERMON: "That You May Believe"

     O Lord, we pray, speak in this place, in the calming of our
     minds and the longing of our hearts, by the words of my lips and
     in the thoughts we form.  Speak, O Lord, for your servants
     listen.  Amen.

Last Sunday we celebrated Easter - and at that time I talked
about how belief in the resurrection is the key to our faith,
     that upon the resurrection of Jesus is based our hope not
     only for a new life in heaven when our days our done,
          but also our hope for a new life here, on this earth.

Today's gospel lesson from John tells us about the first
appearances of Jesus to his disciples after his death and
resurrection, about how Jesus appeared in their midst on the
first evening of that first Sunday  when they were huddled
together in fear and greeted them with words of peace - and then
showed to them the wounds in his hands and his side so that they
might believe what their eyes and their ears were telling them.

At that time, that first resurrection night, Jesus gave his
disciples his Spirit and the authority to go and forgive the sins
of people around them,
     the authority to remove from them the weights that prevent
     them from living a whole and fruitful life.

The disciple Thomas was not there that first night, but the
scripture records that the other 10 told him about how Jesus had
come to them and how they had seen him and heard him.

The scriptures too record his reaction to this news:

     "Unless I see the scars of the nails in his hands and
     put my finger on those scars and my hand in his side, I
     will not believe."

A normal reaction for a normal kind of guy.  Give me proof - give
me something I can touch and see - and I will believe.

And the scripture goes on to record that Thomas' demand for proof
was satisfied -- that Jesus appeared again, a week later, to the
disciples in the upper room - and Thomas was there, and Jesus
after greeting them all with words of peace called to Thomas and
told him to look at him and touch him and to believe -- and
Thomas did so - he believed what he saw and said to Jesus when he
believed -  "My Lord and my God"

Sometimes I think that the disciples had it easier than we did.
How easy it is to believe when you can see and touch 
- as did they all in one way or the other.

What an advantage that is!

But then I think - about Jesus's words to those disciples and to
Thomas in particular:

     "Do you believe because you see me?  Blessed are those
     who believe without seeing me."

Blessed are those who believe without seeing me....
Why is that?

Why is it blessed to believe without seeing?  Without touching?  Without
hearing first, from the Messiah's mouth as it were, for ourselves?

I think that the answer lies in the nature of seeing 
and in the nature of faith.

Many people say that seeing is believing,
but that is far from true,
in fact the opposite is more often the case -
believing is seeing,
  - believing something opens up to us the possibility of experiencing it,
  - of seeing it come to pass in our lives,
  - and of having that which we believe produce in us many kinds of blessings.

If you wait to see something before you will believe in it -
then you may never see what you want to see come to pass.

I remember a few years ago watching a most interesting person on TV - the
PBS network carried an interview with H. Ross Perot.

Mr. Perot, for those who may not remember, was a wealthy Texan
who has emerged out of nowhere to become a candidate for the
Presidency of the United States of America.

He was a candidate without a party and without any party support,
and if he was to be elected, people in every state of the Union
would literally have to write his name in on the ballot.

That hasn't happened in over 100 years in the States - but what was so
fascinating about Mr. Perot was that he believed that it could be done,
     that he, with the support of the American people could not
     only get elected without any support whatsoever from any
     party machine, but that he could successfully pull the
     United States back from the brink of ruin, by stressing
     personal responsibility, ethical behaviour, kindness to
     one's fellow man, and love for those whom you work with and
     whom you serve.

His belief in these things turned the American election into something
worth watching that year - every day, as Mr. Perot talked, he gained more
and more support for what - if it was not for his belief - would be a
totally impossible dream.

His belief brought into being something that no one alive had ever seen
before -- and, for quite the longest time, it seemed that it might lead to
a new kind of presidency and a new kind of America.

Mr Perot's belief, his conviction about things neither he or anyone else
had seen, produced a new political situation in the United States, 
     it made it possible for him, and for many others, to see as possible,
     what was before thought to be impossible, namely a truly independent
     Presidential candidate whose only debt would be to the American
     people rather than to special interest groups, lobbies, and back room
     boys. 

I do envy the disciples their experience of being able to see Jesus after
the resurrection,
     of being able to touch his wounds and put their hands in his side,
     and hear him say  "Peace be with you",

What an  incredible experience to have.

But while I envy them that particular experience
     I do not require that experience 
          and neither do any of you require that experience,
     to have faith in Christ and his resurrection
and to receive from him the blessings of the power that God has given him.

All we require is a decision to believe the reports that we have heard,
and to commit our lives to Jesus as our Lord and our God,
and all the rest will come out of that..

Paul  writes:       "If you confess with your lips that Jesus is
                    Lord, and believe in your hearts that God
                    raised him from the dead, you will be saved.".

He also writes:     "Whoever believe in Him will not be disappointed"

Think of all the people who have believed in Jesus, without ever having
seen him as the disciples saw him, and who, after a number of years of
believing have claimed that many have been the times since they first
believed that they have 
     - felt Christ's presence in their lives, 
     - seen their prayers and the prayers of others  answered,
     - and been helped through hard times because of their faith
     in God's promises.

It was once said - and not so long ago- that no one could build a ship out
of iron and have it float, because iron is heavier than water -  but
someone believed that it could work, without ever having seen it work, and
now iron and steel ships abound.

What is true for ships is doubly true for aeroplanes, 
and even more true for those, who without having seen, 
have had faith in the risen Lord.

Happy are those who believe without seeing.
Happy  are those who have  made a decision to assert 
     that life is stronger than death,
     that goodness is stronger than evil,
     and that love is stronger than hate,
despite all that they have seen that might suggest the opposite.

They are happy  because when they have come to believe in the Lord of
life, the Lord of goodness, and the Lord of love,
   - they see and experience all that they believe in and they are saved 
   - they experience goodness from God, a goodness that always conquers
   the evils that they may face in their daily lives.

Paul says that      "Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the
                    conviction of things not seen."

And faith my friends has moved many a mountain,
healed many a sick person
and overcome many an obstacle.

As the book of the Acts of The Apostles shows, when the disciples finally
believed in Jesus, 
     when they were convinced that he truly rose from the dead, 
they went from being people who hid in fear, 
     fear of the authorities who had crucified their teacher, 
to being people who like that teacher not only healed the sick and did
many mighty works, but who actually, despite being imprisoned by the
authorities, were able to stand up before them and proclaim the name of
Jesus.

Their faith gave them courage and peace - the peace that Jesus kept
praying upon them.  It gave them power to help people who were lost in
their own sin and despair.  And it gave them invulnerability to the
criticism and negativity of the world around them.

As Peter says to the authorities in today's reading from Acts, it gave
them the Spirit of God - the Spirit which is given to all who believe in
and do God's word.

I have sat down with many a sceptic and have then got up and gone away
feeling that I have been drained of life of hope, and of joy.  But I have
never sat down with a person who truly believes in God and then got up
with any other feeling than one of hope, and renewed courage and faith.

The gospel message is very simple 
- Belief comes first and sight then follows
- that when you believe - you become, and you live.

This is how it works in the world of science and invention, 
and this is how it works in the realm of the Spirit and the law, 
the realm of Christ and of God our Father and our Creator. AMEN


PROFESSING OUR FAITH: The Apostles Creed                           - VU 918
L    With the whole church - with the company of all the redeemed
     let us confess and proclaim our Easter faith.
P    I believe in God, the Father Almighty...


THE PASTORAL PRAYER AND PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
Let us pray ---  Lord, you are in this place - among these people nothing
can keep you out: fill us with your power, cover us with your peace, show
us your presence...  Lord, hear our prayer....

Lord, you told your disciples that where-ever two or more of those who
believe in you gather there you are: continue, we pray, to draw us
together, and help us to know that we are in your hands, under your
protection, covered by your love....  Lord, hear our prayer...

Lord, we ask you today to deliver us from evil, to guide us in our
travels, to defend us from all harm.  Give each one of us eyes to see the
invisible, ears to hear your call, hands to do your work, and hearts to
respond to your love.  Remove from us the burdens that weigh us down and
place upon us your yoke and your burden....  Lord, hear our prayer...

Lord - listen to our prayers not only for ourselves, but for our families,
our community, and for our world.  Listen we pray -- as we raise them up
in our hearts and with the words of our lips....  (BIDDING PRAYER)...

We approach you O God, and we ask all these things of you,  in the name of
the risen one - your son and our Lord, both now and forevermore.  Amen


MINUTE FOR MISSION


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

     O God - you have powered out upon your people in this place the
     riches of your grace.  Help us to share these riches.  Bless
     these gifts and all that we offer here and now to you today.  We
     ask it in the name of Jesus Christ our risen Lord - Amen


* HYMN: Now The Green Blade Rises                                  - VU 186


* COMMISSIONING     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, love and care for one another in the name of Christ Jesus
- and may the Lord of the empty tomb, the conquer of gloom come unto you,
- may he Lord in the garden walking, the Lord to Mary talking, come to
you,
- may the Lord in the upper room, dispelling fear and doom, come to you,
- may the Lord on the road to Emmaus, the Lord giving hope to Thomas, come
to you,
- and many the Lord appearing on the shore, giving us life forevermore,
come to you.  
Amen  


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


copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild - Spirit Networks, 2001 - 2006
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.



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