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Sermon and Liturgy (2) for The Second Sunday of Easter - Year C
Acts 5:17-32, Psalm 150; John 20:19-31
"Where Are You"


READING:  Acts 5:17-32, Psalm 150; John 20:19-31
SERMON :  "Where Are You"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
c-ea02sm 609930

   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: For portions of the Pastoral Prayer thanks to David
   Adam, "Tides and Seasons", page 12; and for the Benediction,
   thanks to David Adam, "The Edge of Glory", page 56.

   
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 who 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)                              - SFGP 40


* 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 God, 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                               - SFGP 38


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

Good morning --  The gospel reading you are going to hear about down in
Sunday School 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 friend.  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 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

     And in the word's of Jesus - let us pray

     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


* HYMN:  "We Are The Church"                                    PD - chart


SHARING JOYS AND CONCERNS: ANNOUNCEMENTS & SPECIAL MATTERS
- Welcome and Announcements     
- Birthdays and Anniversaries   
- Special Matters     
- Sharing Joys and Concerns


TIME OF SILENCE & AN INTROIT FOR THE WORD  (verse 2 - VU 371)
  Open my ears that I may hear voices of truth thou sendest clear
  and while the wave notes fall on my ear, everything false will disappear.
  Silently now I wait for thee, ready, my God thy will to see.
  Open my ears, illumine me, Spirit divine!


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.
     They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail.  But
     during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the
     jail and brought them out.  "Go, stand in the temple courts," he
     said, "and tell the people the full message of this new life." 

     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.  But on arriving at the jail, the officers did not find
     them there.  So they went back and reported, "We found the jail
     securely locked, with the guards standing at the doors; but when
     we opened them, we found no one inside." 

     On hearing this report, the captain of the temple guard and the
     chief priests were puzzled, wondering what would come of this. 
     Then someone came and said, "Look! The men you put in jail are
     standing in the temple courts teaching the people." 

     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.  Having brought the apostles, they made
     them appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high
     priest.  "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." 

     Peter and the other apostles replied: "We must obey God rather
     than men!  The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead -
     whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree.  God exalted him to
     his own right hand as Prince and Saviour that he might give
     repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel.  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 (VU xxx)and the Gloria Patri Sung 

     Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. 
     As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be.  
     World without end.  Amen 

                    
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!"  After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The
     disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.  Again Jesus
     said, "Peace be with you!  As the Father has sent me, I am
     sending you." And with that he breathed on them and said,
     "Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive anyone his sins, they
     are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven." 

     Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the
     disciples when Jesus came.  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." 

     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!"  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." 

     Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!" 

     Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have
     believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have
     believed."  

     Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his
     disciples, which are not recorded in this book.  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:  "I Danced In The Morning"                                 - VU 352


SERMON:   "Where Are You"

     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
     meditations of our hearts.  Speak, O Lord, for your servants
     listen.  Amen.

I want to talk to you about Thomas today - about Thomas the doubter -
Thomas the sceptic - Thomas the one who wanted to be convinced - the one
who would not believe unless he saw and he touched.

And I want to suggest to you today that Thomas has received a bad rap -
that in fact he is no different from the other  disciples - no different
from Mary who would not believe even though Jesus stood right in front of
her - and no different from Peter and John who would not believe even
though they saw the empty tomb and had heard the words of Jesus about what
would happen on the third day.

I want to talk to you about Thomas today - and I want to talk to you about
faith and about where we meet Jesus so that our faith may be built and
increased.

But before I do, I want to talk to you about myself and some stuff I went
through a few years back.

I had been having a rough time.

I had gotten pneumonia - and for the first time in 22 years I had been
grounded for over week.  It was that or go to hospital.  I probably should
have been grounded longer because I didn't feel that I was fully recovered
when I went back to work.

At the same time - actually just before the pneumonia, I quit doing
something I have been doing for over 26 years - something that I was
seriously addicted to - I quit smoking.

Charlene was going through this as well.  She had had bronchitis and she
had quit smoking after 29 years of puffing away.  She regarded this as a
miracle - and for those who knew her in those days it was indeed a miracle,
but it wasn't an easy one....  

To add to the stress she was experiencing she had a flare up of her disease
- a tremendous increase in her pain and her exhaustion.  So she required
more understanding and more patience than usual, something you can imagine
I was not in a good spot to provide....   

Further she was going through a very difficult time dealing with the fact
of her mother's increasingly serious dementia and her father's inability to
cope with it.  This was complicated by the fact that she was over 1500
hundred kilometres from her parental home.

To top it all off - as if our struggles individually and as a couple were
not enough, Charlene and I had troubles with the foster child we had at the
time - troubles with a child we really liked - a child we had known and
cared for two years earlier and really had high hopes for when the agency
returned him to our care.  Those troubles were serious enough that we had
to ask the Agency to put him somewhere else after he locked himself into
his bedroom and methodically began to destroy everything in it - including
the walls and the door. The police in fact had to be called to take him out
of his room and to place him in emergency custody.

It was all quite a load
and while some good things had been happening,
over all it was extremely difficult - extremely stressful.

It was difficult to see what was good in the world around me.  It was
difficult to celebrate, for more than a minute at a time anyway, the
victory that God was giving me over tobacco, a victory that I never thought
I would see.

It was difficult to hold onto the bright spots.  Difficult not give in to
the waves of strange feelings that were sweeping over me; difficult not to
give in to the countless number of cells in my body that are screaming at
me to do something I don't want to do; difficult not to just lie down and
sleep the day away; difficult not to just give up and get in the car and
drive to California and leave everything behind; difficult not to pace up
and down - and difficult to not just sit in a chair and watch the world go
by.

It was difficult.  And was more than a bit of a bear for a number of weeks
or so.  A sad bear - a tired bear - an angry bear - even - and these few
years later I realize it - a depressed bear.

Certainly I was, so I was told, an unbearable bear 
unbearable to others in my family
and unbearable at times to myself.

It was a rough time.  And I wondered at times - and I know Charlene
wondered at times - whether we would ever get through it.  We felt totally
out of control of things, totally out of control of what we were feeling as
well as what we were experiencing.  

I think, my friends, some of you - if not all of you - know these kinds of
feelings.

They are the kind of feelings that come with grief -
     the kind of feelings that come with loss - or  abandonment. 
They are the feelings of stress 
     the feelings of being overwhelmed.
          the feelings of being out of control, 
               of being tossed about by the winds of ill fortune -
          the feelings that come when one is betrayed by one's one body or
mind or loved ones.

It is hard when you have these kinds of feelings 
- hard to know which way is up 
- hard to know what to do 
- hard to hope 
- hard, in fact, to believe.

I said to you that I want to talk to you about Thomas -
but first - that  I needed to talk to you about me.
And that remains true.

Those weeks were very difficult.

Somehow - in some way - I was like one grieving 
- or like one whose body has betrayed him -
and I had a hard time believing 
- a hard time hoping 
- a hard time acting like everything is safely in the hands of God.

Except that is - at special times.

When I was in the presence of others who believe something happened -
something marvellous.

One day I came home from a quick trip out of the house to discover a person
in my doorway - a policeman in fact.  He was in full uniform and he was on
duty, and he was doing something I never ever expected to see a policeman
doing in my doorway.  He was praying with Charlene - asking for a blessing
to be upon our household.  He had come initially to ask us a few questions
about the foster child and to complete a report that was required.

We talked for close to an hour.

When he left - I was strengthened - and I had a new hope - a glimmering of
a prayer and of an idea - the idea that God would use this tribulation to
make me stronger and more loving.

We had another person, a friend, drop something by the house a couple of
days after this and when I mentioned in passing that I was having a hard
time and Charlene too - he spoke of how he had felt a burden in his heart
for us a few nights earlier - how he had felt that he had to pray for us -
and that he had.   

That night he referred to was one of the hardest nights that Charlene and I
have had ever had together - a night when the demon of tobacco addiction
and all the other forces were working on us really were attacking us.  It
was the night that the policeman had come to see us.

When he left - I had new hope - the belief that God really was watching
over us - the Spirit really was supporting us - despite what my mind and my
body and everything else around me seemed to be trying to tell me.

And the following Sunday when Charlene and I went to Church together and I
sang the songs and heard the word come forth that God gave to me and felt
the Spirit move among my brothers and sisters in the sanctuary, and in me,
my faith was renewed and I believed that God would bring to pass something
good for the church and for me.

Following that, while the attacks continued in my life, while the grief -
the loss - the addiction - still stuck out at us and still did damage there
were believers who came to me and believers that I went to - who encouraged
me - challenged me - prayed for me - and showed me that there is more than
what I feel.  They helped me "to feel" another reality.  There were people
who showed me Christ and his love and helped me to believe when it was hard
to believe.

And I thank God for them.

I thank the God that I could hardly believe in before they came to be with
me, the God I was doubting before they brought his love and his care and
his power into my presence.

My friends - I am now done talking about me.

Now I want to talk about Thomas and about his faith and about where we meet
Jesus so that our faith may be built and increased.

Thomas was a man who had tremendous sorrow and pain in his life.  

His friend had been hung from a cross and left to die.  

The one whom he believed in - the one whom he hoped in - the one whom he
trusted - the one who healed people and brought wholeness to those in
despair - was crucified like a common criminal; he was mocked and beaten -
brutalized - and finally he was buried.

And that my friends, for Thomas, was the end.

What hope is there when your friend dies and you are left alone?

What is there to believe in when you sit by yourself in your home and think
of all that could of been and all that will never be?

There is very little - if not none.  

There is little - if not nothing - to believe in when you are alone -
and when you are in pain - or sorrowing - or feeling betrayed.
     
It's all words - the words of hope that Jesus uttered before he died
- the words that said he would always be with you -
- the words that some are uttering about how he really is with them
- about how he appeared to them.

It's all words when you are alone - and it can very easily seem to be all
words when you are with those who grieve as you grieve, who hurt as you
hurt, who feel betrayed as you feel betrayed.

But my friends 
- when you gather together with those who do believe;
- when you meet with those have felt as you feel and who have touched the
hands and the side of the risen Lord,
- when you break bread together and fellowship together in his name
then it becomes more than words.  
- when you meet someone at your door who is an answer to a prayer that you
never uttered,
the words becomes real and they change things for you.

They give you hope and faith 
They it gives you the strength you need to get through the day.

Blessed are you, says Jesus, when you have not seen and yet have come to
believe; and indeed you are!

But blessed are you as well - when you have seen and have touched!
Blessed are you as well when you are approached and you are touched!

Blessed was Thomas when he gathered with the other disciples in the upper
room and the risen Lord came to him and addressed him in particular.  

And blessed was I when a man prayed at my door for me and my wife and
another told me of how the Lord had reached out to him and told him to pray
for us in the night of our struggle. 

Blessed were Peter and John and the other disciples who met together in the
upper room on the night of the resurrection to comfort one another - and
had Jesus appear to them.

And blessed are we when we when we do the same - when we gather as a
community in his name and show his love to one another.

If you know someone who is having a hard time, go to them and visit them
     and be sure to pray for them.
If you know someone who is in difficulty, invite them to come to church
     with you - tell them what it means to you.
If you know someone who is really struggling to hold on - someone who is
     despairing, reach out and touch them and tell them how much you care,
     and bring them - urge them - to come where at least two or three
     others who believe have gathered - for the words are true that say
     that where two or three are gathered there Jesus is.

Praise be to Jesus for calling us together to be his church - to be a
people who meet in his name and minister to one another by the power of his
Holy Spirit.   Praise him now - and praise him forevermore.  Amen



* HYMN: Alleluia, Alleluia, Give Thanks                           - SFGP 34


PROFESSING OUR FAITH AT EASTER TIME: The Apostles Creed
With the whole church - with the company of all the redeemed - let us
confess and proclaim our faith.

I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth;
And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord, 
     who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary,
     suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried: 
     he descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead;
     he ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the
     Father Almighty; 
     from thence he shall come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit; the holy Catholic Church; the communion of
saints; the forgiveness of sins; 
     the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting.


THE 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 for ourselves, for our families, and for our
world -- listen we pray -- and help us to listen to you in return.  Lord we
pray for.... 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.  AMEN
     

MINUTE FOR MISSION


* SHARING GOD'S GIFTS:  As your Tithes and Offerings are presented stand
     for the Doxology ("Praise God from Whom all Blessings Flow" - VU 541)
     and Prayer of Dedication

     O God - you have powered out upon your people in this place the
     riches of both the world and of your grace.  Help us to share
     these riches - bless what we offer here today - may it be worthy
     of us and of what you have done for us.  We ask it in the name of
     Jesus Christ our risen Lord - Amen


* HYMN: Now The Green Blade Rises                                - SFGP 100


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 & THREEFOLD AMEN                                     - VU 971
Go in peace,  
- and may the Lord of the empty tomb, the conquer of gloom come unto you,
- the Lord in the garden walking, the Lord to Mary talking, come to you,
- the Lord in the upper room, dispelling fear and doom, come to you,
- the Lord on the road to Emmaus, the Lord giving hope to Thomas, come to
you,
- the Lord appearing on the shore, giving us life forevermore, come to you. 
 Amen  


CHORAL BLESSING: "Go Now In Peace"                                - SFGP 67


copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild 2004
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.



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