Worship at home with Grace Lutheran: Easter 2, April 19, 2020

Dear Friends in Christ,

We continue observing social distancing and the State of Kansas stay at home order.  I continue to offer you home worship resources as well as update your prayers for others.

I am saddened because of the news in Sioux Falls, S.D., and Grand Island, Neb., where the coronavirus confirmed tests have sky-rocketed! My personal ties are that I took a month long college course at Augustana College in Sioux Falls many years ago; and I served as interim pastor at St. Pauls Lutheran Church, in Grand Island. My heart goes out to the residents and the mayors of both cities who have asked their governors for stay-at-home orders, but the governors have refused.  Sadly, this will just allow the coronavirus to continue to spread, tax medical resources, and bring about more deaths.

I am angry at the lack of leadership from the White House in its denial of danger from the virus in the early months, and its continued lack of federal planning, coordination, support, and assistance to states, communities, hospitals, and nursing homes. These vulnerable people in communities and institutions need to be in our prayers.

Changes in our prayers since last Sunday: for Paul Lundgren who is home now, back to work, and awaiting radiation treatment. Also, we offer our sympathies to the Whitmer family as Pam’s cousin, Doug Boyd, passed away at KU Hospital.

Attachments for this week’s home worship are:

Hymn of Promise (1 page)
Puzzles: Jumble 4-19-20 and Wordsearch 4-19-20

Grace and peace…

Pastor Russ Glaser

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Worship

Easter is not over! While we celebrated Easter Sunday last week, the fifty day Easter Season continues until Pentecost Sunday. During this time the Lectionary (where we get the word “lesson” from) of Sunday readings invites us to dig deep into the meaning of Jesus’ resurrection. This week the gift of the Lectionary is the gift of assurance – a confidence that our faith is not just a fantasy, or a distant dream, but is something real and transforming that we can experience and live each day.

May the power of resurrection life fill our souls as we worship this week, and throughout the Easter Season!

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Pray the Prayer of the Day

Almighty and eternal God, the strength of those who believe and the hope of those who doubt, may we, who have not seen, have faith in you and receive the fullness of Christ’s blessing, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

The Readings

Peter encourages the believers as they endure trials, reminding them of the life they have in the Risen Christ and of the joy that they will experience when their faith, having been strengthened by their suffering, leads them into fullness of life.

1 Peter 1:3-9 A Living Hope

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, 7so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, 9for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
Word of God, word of life. Thanks be to God.

The first Christians were victims of state terrorism. The sudden arrest and death of Jesus provoked a climate of fear and apprehension among the apostles. They assemble inside a locked room–probably that of the Last Supper. The terror is so great that one apostle, Thomas, is reluctant to approach them even in seclusion. The locks are not only on the doors but also on their minds and faith. Jesus breaks through with a powerful witness of love. He gives them power to unlock souls as well as portals.
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John 20:19- 31 Jesus Appears to the Disciples

19 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’22When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’
Jesus and Thomas

24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.’

26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ 27Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’ 28Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ 29Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’

The Purpose of This Book

30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.
The gospel of the Lord. Praise to you, O Christ.


Reflection

The doubts that plague me are real, and they have power. They have the power to keep me from believing in myself. Especially at critical junctures, when they always start warning, scoffing, belittling, worrying away at my hope, if I can’t muster the presence of God’s bold spirit, opportunities pass me by. In time, these lost moments become regrets. They are unforgettable. And so it was with the disciples.

The Sunday after Easter is devoted to doubt. The story of Doubting Thomas is always read, no matter what year of the three-year lectionary cycle we are in. Doubt is huge. And since the very first Easter, everyone has known doubt is important.

In fact, doubt has always been part of the entire Easter picture, from Maundy Thursday right through Easter Day. At the Last Supper the disciples drew back from Jesus’ foot washing – doubting his gesture, divining his meaning and shrinking from the changes to their own intentions, still intent on glory rather than serving others. Outside Jesus’ trial, Peter shrank into the famed betrayals of three times, unable to leave, unable to step forward, doubt and love struggling within him.

All the disciples were paralyzed by grief, the intense doubt that overwhelmed Jesus’ oft spoken assurances that he would rise, until it was outsider Joseph of Arimathea who stepped in to handle the details of burial.

On Easter morning, doubt was present as some set out for the tomb to anoint the body. Each gospel lists different women. Always, Mary Magdelene, often his mother, and then various names. John lists Magdelene alone, who, on discovering the absence of the body runs back to tell the others, and Peter and John rush out, running ahead of her, racing each other. John arrives first but does not go in – overcome, at that point, by inner conflict, doubt surely being part of that. Peter rushes by him, enters in, sees the folded grave clothes, and his doubts and grief fall away. He rushes out, rejoicing. But Mary needs more than absence, more than clothing, more even than sight. When she hears her name, she knows.

Thomas wasn’t there in the Upper Room when they returned. And all their telling, all their amazement, did not dispel his skepticism. Yet there was enough faith in him to keep him from walking out, exclaiming “You’re nuts!” to the disciples, and leaving their madness behind. He proclaims he has to touch those wounds in order to believe, but he stays with them with his doubt. Some days later he has the chance to touch those wounds.

Thomas is Aramaic (similar to Hebrew) name and Didymus (Greek), both mean twin, though his twin, if he had one, never appears, and some suggest we are, each of us, his twin. For each of us has our nagging doubts that sometimes prompt us to get up and investigate a situation that needs our attention, and that sometimes hold us back. If Thomas’ doubts are the most persistent of the disciples, then he is our twin because our doubts persist, and at times are insistent, yet they have the ability to lead us to new discoveries about ourselves and in our relationship with all that is holy.

And that is what happens for Thomas. Jesus does not push Thomas away because of his doubts. He welcomes Thomas with his doubts, and invites him to touch his wounds so that Thomas would know that he was Jesus the crucified.

And when Thomas took his doubts to Jesus, Thomas soon proclaims to Jesus “My Lord and My God!”. Most scholars feel this is the climax of the Gospel of John, and is the only place in all four gospels that Jesus is referred to as God, not just an agent of God or Son of God. And then Jesus blesses all disciples, who like us, have not had the opportunity to physically know Jesus (v.29 “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”)

As writer Nancy Rockwell points out, my doubts are not so much about whether Easter happened, but about whether it is important, whether it has anything to do with me. What difference does it make? After all, it is from my own suffering that I long to rise.

Easter is new life, rising. Not about escaping with your life, but taking up your cross, that is, walking in the power of God’s love, even into death. And that’s what it has to do with each of us.


Ponderings

If we could just believe and oh we would
if we could put our fingers in the nail marks
hands in the spear-gashed side

work our way into him up to our elbows
and then a shoulder and a foot
and climb into his woundedness completely

peer through his eyes and see what it’s like
to walk this world resurrected and free
from death’s power to box you up

live in his accomplishments safe in his flesh
inoculated from any future punctures and bleeding
nuzzle up to his soothing heartbeat lullaby

But we won’t get that, we won’t even get belief
we only have to walk the way of vulnerable love
and find him in every cut and broken bone

we will surrender as we keenly gaze
into our own open wounds and universal pain
and find his resurrection there inside us

And in our disbelief we will praise
in our mistrust we will worship
in our fear we will follow.

– Michael Coffey


Sing or Read

“Hymn of Promise” (see hymn attachment)


Intercessory Prayers

O God, we pray for our nation. With a national strategy absent, our states are suffering and scrambling to serve the people. We pray for the White House to offer the leadership needed for this nation, that more people do not die senselessly because of lack of vision or casting blame rather than taking responsibility to act. We pray for the seemingly forgotten vulnerable persons in our nation’s VA homes, hospitals, and nursing homes. Inspire us, O God. A brief silence.

Compassionate God, we pray for all in any need. Comfort the bereaved. Accompany the sick, especially the multitude who have contracted the coronavirus, and those we remember in our hearts. Visit the homes of all who are isolated, and hold the lonely and fearful in your arms. Grant your peace to the millions of unemployed; give them food for today and hope for tomorrow. Help us find a home for refugees. Support medical care workers in their endless and sometimes fruitless tasks of attending to the pandemic patients. Provide needed medical supplies for hospitals. Protect the needy, O God. A brief silence.

Caring God, we lift up those known to us in our community. We remember the Whitmer family as they mourn the death of Pam’s cousin, Doug Boyd. We pray for healing for: Carolyn Fager, Loren Bryan, Ron Sumner, and Richard Swarts; treatment: Paul Lundgren, Cindy Moulin; recovery: Danny White; chronic illness: Debbie Bean, Cory Britsche, David Fraker, Marci Haller, Elaine Jackson, and Doris Paul. Give your comfort, O God. A brief silence.

Gracious God, we pray for children and youth. Shelter them from all sickness. Keep homebound children safe from hunger and abuse. Nurture teenagers with a vision of life beyond this pandemic. Give them assurance as they are separated physically from friends and mentors. Give to all children and youth forbearance beyond their years. Protect children and youth, O God. A brief silence.

Loving God, we pray for ourselves. Renew our spirits with the living hope of Christ’s resurrection, and hear also the private petitions of our hearts. A brief silence.

Into your hands O God, we are confident in trust because of the Risen Son.

Amen.

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Lord’s Prayer

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Prayer

O Risen Christ, be with us this day. We recognize your wounded hands; they tell us that you know what it is to struggle and suffer, and to prevail in the power of love. We grasp those hands, that they may lead us together into a deeper place of love and peace.

And now may the Lord watch over each of us, bless us, and keep us. Amen.


Attachments:
Hymn of Promise (1 page)
Puzzles: Jumble 4-19-20 and Wordsearch 4-19-20

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