Worship for April 11, 2021

Worship for April 11, 2021

You can join this week’s worship service by visiting here.

Below, you’ll find Steve’s reflection and Andy’s prayers for this week.

You can find this week’s Children’s Time video here.

Second Sunday of Easter
John 20:19-31, Acts 4:32-35
Music: Did You Feel the Mountain Tremble, A Song Must Rise
Musician: Kyle Johnsen

The disciples must have felt as if they had been swept up in a windstorm. Imagine the devotion it would take to walk away from all of your security, from the life you knew, to walk away from your family and friends and follow this rabbi who was filled with the wisdom and love of God.

Thomas made his decision, the die was cast and the ride just kept getting more exciting. The crowds kept building and the enthusiasm kept growing. But underneath, Thomas and the others could sense a discordant note; something wasn’t quite right. Jesus occasionally sounded like the world was going to fall apart. Still they kept moving forward and it reached a crescendo on Palm Sunday. But, off in the distance there were storm clouds gathering that would lead to Good Friday when the world would grow very dark.

I can’t begin to imagine what it was like for Thomas and the others. I suspect they were filled with anger, fear and distrust. Jesus was dead. It must have been like being hit by a tsunami.  

There are times in our lives when we go through a dizzying sea change, the death of a loved one, the birth of a child, a terminal diagnosis, a near death experience. Times when we are close to the extremes of life and we are drawn into deep questioning; who am I, who are we, how have I been changed, how have we been changed? That is what Thomas and the others were experiencing with the death of Jesus. That is what many across the globe have felt as a result of the pandemic.

We are lucky in this region; we have not experienced its harsh reality. Most of us are okay and we have managed to make it through the last year but we are weary. The mental fatigue is wearing on us. I know I am worn down because some things are taking a heavier toll on me than normal. I have less patience than usual. Also, my ability to focus is greatly diminished.

I was given a fresh perspective on the story of Thomas when I considered his context and what we have been through over the last year. He was full of doubts about what the future held. I suspect many of us are in the same boat.

Then on that night, gathered with his friends in the Upper Room the Risen Christ appeared and everything changed again. He believed – there was new life and renewed hope.

As Andy talked about in the opening, the other reality that occurred that night was that Jesus came back to ensure that all – even Thomas were included. As we say here, “When God says all, God means all. All are welcome – no matter what.”

The reality that God’s love is so strong that not even death can overwhelm it lead Thomas and the others to try to figure out how they should live. They started to ask, who are we, how have I been changed, how have we been changed by the resurrection?

This questioning lead to the passage from Acts, “everything they owned was held in common. . . . There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.”

(Just a quick sidebar at this point, I guess it doesn’t really surprise me that many of those who are scripture literalists don’t really buy into literalism around this passage. By the way, I’m not a literalist.)

The reality of Jesus coming back was even more of a sea change than Good Friday. It made his followers question everything once again except this time through the lens of hope. What became apparent was they needed to support one another so no one would be in need. They didn’t label what they were doing as utopian socialism or communism or kibbutzim, it was just what they did in response to the amazing power of love and the renewed hope for the world because of the resurrection of the Christ.

In this time, some of you may be aware that the United Church has advocated for a Guaranteed Livable Income for decades and the call for this has been renewed in part because of the pandemic. It laid bare just how many holes exist in our social safety net. It showed us how vulnerable people are in this new gig economy, how fragile our healthcare system actually is and all of the problems that are faced by those who do not have economic security: do I pay the rent, buy groceries, get the prescription I need or turn on the heat?   Awful choices made worse by the underlying fear of becoming one of the victims of Covid-19’s wrath.

In April of 2020 Pope Francis said, “This may be the time to consider a universal basic wage”. The following week the Anglican and Lutheran Bishops wrote in response: “This IS the time.” The United Church actually voiced this opinion long before.

We live in a land of abundance and wealth. We are a people who profess that we care for one another. A Guaranteed Liveable Income would ensure dignity for all people; no longer would people have to worry about how to feed their children or house their family.

Pandemics give us the opportunity to change course and look to the future in a new way, just as we did when we implemented universal health care and equality rights for all people.

We need to ask ourselves because of the resurrection, who are we and what do we believe, what do we want our lives, our church and indeed our world to be changed as we step toward the light of God, as we dare to be the light of God for ourselves and for all of our brothers and sisters. For he is risen. He is risen indeed! 

Prayers of the People
As the Risen Christ lifts all things of earth to renewal, may your Spirit lift our hearts this day, as we pray for ourselves and your world.

God of All, we are created not only for ourselves and for you, but for each other. You gather us in a web of relationships, which sustains us and shapes us to grow in love, to care for one another, and to seek fulfillment of life for each other. You would see not a single person left behind in the great work of resurrection and renewal. Help us to be people who gather and uphold your people.

We pray today for strength, for all who struggle, or feel they cannot cope…
For those who are thirsty, hungry, naked…    
For those who are without a home, imprisoned, or afraid…
For those who struggle to make ends meet, especially those who have the responsibility to care for others…
Grant us and all your people courage, O God, to help each other find life, and that abundantly.

We pray today for all those who work to keep us safe and help us emerge from COVID-19, here and around the world…
For those who work to secure dignity and respect for those who have been pushed to the margins, left behind, and diminished…
For relief agencies, those who provide aid, and who help to rebuild war-torn regions…
Grant us and all your people your Spirit of peace and compassion, Living God. Inspire us now to seek your vision of justice and love.

O God, shape us according to your vision of redemption for all people, and restoration for all creation. Guide us in the ways of life, joy, and truth we ask in the name of the Risen Christ, who revealed your love and triumph over death, and who taught us to pray saying, Our Father…. Amen.