July 5, 2020 An Easter Celebration in July
Gospel Lesson: John 20:19-31 “MEETING THE RISEN LORD”
Many of you told me how much you missed our usual Easter Celebration because of the virus. This will be our first Sunday back to the church, therefore we are going to celebrate what we missed. However, you can still be a part of it by having the sermon and prayers that we will share as we meet. May you be blessed by the thought of our Risen Lord.
One single event can change history evident in what is going on now in the world. It may have been on a grand scale such as WWII, Viet Nam, Korea, or it may affect Only one single person: a new home, a new job, marriage, illness, or the loss of a loved one. But nothing has had more impact than meeting the risen Lord. This event changed lives in the 1C, and still does today.
We know that the first Easter was filled with troubling tales. Women reported that the tomb was empty. Some claims to the risen Lord had appeared to them. Cleopas and another disciple had returned to Jerusalem telling how the risen Lord had made himself know to them at Emmaus. The Lord appeared to Peter. What, they wondered, was going on and what was going to happen next?
In this situation, the disciples of Jesus were gathered. There was comfort in the presence of friends. But the comfort was shattered when Jesus suddenly appeared in their midst. They were so afraid of the religious and political authorities that they were meeting in a room with the doors and windows all closed. Yet, Jesus entered the room. His sudden appeared must have frightened and shocked them. Jesus then spoke these words of assurance: “Peace be with you.” That’s exactly what they needed to hear. He showed them his wounds, the nail prints in his hands, and the place in his side that had been pierced by a spear.
In these events we see how God can work in our lives. He understands our needs and fears. He comes to speak the right words and to do the things that will enable us to rise from our despair. We meet the risen Lord and we too, are given peace to ease our minds.
But is enough to have peace of mind? The feeling is fine and all, but God requires more. Jesus commissioned his followers to a task. He had been sent by the Father and in turn he was sending them forth. The world needed to be confronted with the good news of what God had done in Jesus, and these people were the ones being commissioned to take that word to the world. To do that, they needed power. So, Jesus “breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Then they were equipped for the task. When God calls men and women to serve Him, he always gives the power necessary to get the job done.
The Gospel of John contains many promises concerning the work of the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete. The promise has been fulfilled. The Spirit came in power upon these people so that they could go into all the world with the message of Jesus Christ, the promise of forgiveness of sins to those who turn to Jesus. The message is the same today. The same Spirit is present to empower all of us and all people. Believers are then commissioned and sent. We never know when God will call upon us but be certain He will.
Not one single event has had as much influence on the world as the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It was more than just mere influence. I am reminded of a story from Portland, Or.
In 1992 a store manager called his security officer with a problem. The manager explained how someone had been in earlier and confessed to once switching price tags and wanted to make it right. One hour later another person came to see the manager confessing, “I’ve stolen from your store. If you feel you must arrest me, then that’s what you must do.” Bewildered, the manager turned to the security officer and asked, “What’s going on here, what’s happening? The officer simply said, “Billy Graham is in town!” Talk about influence! We, as Christ’s disciples, should live in such a way that our presence has a radical influence on those around us.
Thomas wasn’t present with the other disciples that first night when Jesus appeared to them. He refused to believe that Jesus was alive. He demanded more than words. He needed to see the risen Lord for himself. He wanted to put his finger in the nail holes in Jesus’ hands and to put his hand in the hole in his side. Only then would he believe. Actually, Thomas had more doubts than the other disciples. His problem was that he had been present when Jesus first appeared to them. I believe Jesus went the extra mile with Thomas, Afterall, no one knew him better. Because of his doubt Jesus must have that this was breaking the Father’s heart. Doubts are always difficult to dispel, especially when they related to something that goes beyond normal experience. But God can take care of even the deepest doubt.
Thomas doubted his belief and had no idea that he was one of a kind, one of the first Christians. We are like him in many ways. We think we are the only believers who ever wrestled with doubt. Fortunately, God understands such frustration and has provided stories of similar struggles to help us. Remember Mark 9:24 when Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit from the boy with convulsions? The boy’s father had asked Jesus if he could do anything to help his son. Jesus said to him, “If you are able—all things can be done for the one who believes.” But one story that may hit closer to home comes from the founder of Methodism, John Wesley. He had been writing of his conversation at Aldersgate in London in 1738 where his heart was strangely warmed.” He had previously taken a mission trip to America, only to discover he was not a minister, but a lost soul. But less than a year later Wesley wrote in his journal, “I know that I am not a Christian. I know it because I do not feel that I love God and his Son Jesus Christ as my Savior.” He would later lead England in a great spiritual awakening that sparked revival in America as well. In 1784 he established the formal beginnings of the Methodist denomination. You see, even great men have doubts. What we do with those doubts will dictate if our faith is strengthened or weakened.
The apostle John tells us that the disciples were gathered again a week later, and this time Thomas was there. Once more Jesus suddenly appeared in their midst, speaking the same words that he had spoke on the previous occasion. Then he turned to Thomas and challenged him. Thomas was encouraged to touch the scars in Jesus’ hands and feet. There is no indication that he did so. To see Jesus was enough. And Thomas spoke the greatest confession found in the New Testament: “My Lord and my God.” Thomas had come to believe that Jesus was alive; even more, that Jesus was divine. He was God! There is no deeper understanding than to realize that this One who had become flesh and lived among other human beings was not only human but shared the same nature as the Father himself. Meeting the risen Lord enabled Thomas to make this confession—the same confession we all must make.
So, if you feel you are doubtful to heed the Lord’s call to serve, remember you are not measured by how you are served, but by how many you serve. And unless our belief in God causes us to help our fellow human beings, then our faith stands useless.
They were the first ones Jesus wanted to see after his resurrection. Scattered, fearful, and despondent though they were, he wanted them together. Failures, weaknesses, and all—they were the ones He would use to take on the world in the power of the resurrection. It could be the best day of your life when you finally learn to accept certain limitations and inabilities. Indeed, there is so much about yourself and your circumstances that you are powerless to change. That’s the reason, dear friends, for the cross and the promise of the resurrection. What you are not able to do, he always can.
Jesus commended Thomas for his confession, but he knew that people in future generations would not have the same privilege of seeing the risen Lord with physical eyes. Others would have to believe without seeing. It is God who makes it possible to meet the risen Lord in other ways than seeing him with physical eyes.
For many years I served the community of Emmaus, Presbyterian have the same ideal in The Great Banquet. Others are Cursillo, Via de Cristo, Brethren Way of Christ, Faith Quest, and Chrysalis. Why did I do it? I did have an opportunity to witness to men and women meeting the risen Lord. There is no denying, Christ is there to meet anyone who seeks him. My doubts and fears are dispelled in those moment, too. I have had the privilege of standing on holy ground with pilgrims who walked the road to Emmaus in hospitals, care facilities, and seminaries, even other churches I have served, and my heart too, was strangely warmed. Then in meeting Him, souls are quieted, we are commissioned to do his work, and we confess with Thomas, “My Lord and my God.”
Closing Prayer: We praise you O God, that you’re our Great God and King above all gods. You have been our dwelling place in all generations. You are not only a covenant-making but a covenant keeping god, for in the fullness of time—when all things were ready—you came in person to the planet in one of us—Jesus of Nazareth—that through His life, ministry, passion, and living again we should know the fullness of your love that even death could not conquer. We praise you for your “yes” spoken so decisively in Christ’s resurrection that we know assuredly now that you are faithful concerning your promises. May we affirm those things that unite us that your people may dwell together in the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace, calling the nations of the world and the people of the earth to reconciliation in Christ. Be with all those who are our fellow journeyers, that what distresses one distresses all. Be with those suffering distress of mind or body or spirit and grant them a quiet confidence in you whose grace alone heals. We give you praise for him who though crucified is not dead but alive forevermore and present among us as rise Lord, and for your eternal word teaching us to pray and live. We pray all glory be yours through whom you sent, Jesus our Lord. Alleluia Amen.
July 12, 2020
“The Sower, The Seed, The Soil”
Old Testament Lesson: Isaiah 2:2-4/Gospel Lesson: Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
July 19, 2020
Epistle Lesson: Romans 8:26-39
July 26, 2020
Old Testament Lesson: Genesis 28:10-17/Gospel Lesson: Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52
August 2, 2020
Old Testament Lesson: Job 38/Gospel Lesson: Matthew 14: 22-33
August 9, 2020
“An Easier Way”
Old Testament Lesson: Zachariah: 9:9-11/Gospel Lesson: Matthew 21: 1-11
August 16, 2020
Old Testament Lesson: Genesis 45:1-15/Gospel Lesson: Matthew 15:10-14, 21-28
August 23, 2020
Old Testament Lesson: Isaiah: 13-17/Gospel Lesson: Matthew 21:10-13
August 30, 2020 (If not at Morton)
“Hindrance or Wings”
Old Testament Lesson: Isaiah 53:67-12/Gospel Lesson: Matthew 16:21-28