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Sermon (2) and Liturgy for The Second Sunday of Easter - Year A
Acts 2:14a,22-32; Psalm 16; 1 Peter 1:3-9; John 20:19-31
"Unlocking The Doors"


READING:  Acts 2:14a,22-32; Psalm 16; 1 Peter 1:3-9; John 20:19-31
SERMON :  "Unlocking The Doors"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
a-ea02sm.y-a 664
                  
     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: The children's time is based upon "More Sermons From 
     The Mystery Box" Abingdon Press, 1992;  page 60.  Sermon material 
     is indebted to Thomas Long, "The Church With Nothing" in "Whispering 
     the Lyrics: Sermons For Lent and Easter - Cycle A, Gospel", CSS 
     Publishing Company, 1995; and to Robert Wallace, "Christ Gives 
     Peace and Power To the Incapacitated - John 20:19-31" in "Augsburg 
     Sermons 3: Gospels, Series A", Augsburg-Fortress, 1992.


GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE                            (* = please stand)


* GREETING AND CALL TO WORSHIP  (based on I Peter 1:3-9)
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    Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ 
     who rolled back the stone 
     and brought our Saviour out from the grave. 
P    We rejoice for in God's great mercy 
     he has given us new birth into a living hope.
L    By faith you are shielded by God's power until the day of salvation.
P    We praise God for the inheritance which is stored up for us in heaven,
     where it can never perish, spoil, or fade.
L    Bless God's name now and always 
     for this very day we are receiving the goal of our faith 
     - the salvation of our souls.
   

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


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


TIME OF PREPARATION: (Music and Silent Prayer and Meditation)


PRAYER OF APPROACH
We have come together, O God, to be clothed with power and to render to you
the praise and the worship that is so richly due to you.  We pray you, meet
us here with truth we can wear with confidence and with joy we can share
with sincerity.  Awaken us, by the power of your Holy Spirit, to life in
all its fullness. Be with us as we lift up our hands, our hearts, and our
voices, to you and prepare us for everlasting life with Christ Jesus, in
whose name we worship.  Amen.


* HYMN: "The Strife is O'er"                                       - VU 159


CHILDREN'S TIME: "Spreading The News"
Object    Seed Bag or envelop full of seeds (with picture on packet)
Theme     Use what we have to produce what God has planned.
Source    Self and "More Sermons From The Mystery Box" Abingdon Press,
          1992;  page 60.

Good morning.  Today I brought along some very beautiful wild flowers.... 
Would you like to see them???  ...(Produce bag of seeds)../  There are over
60 kinds of flowers here.  Aren't they the most beautiful flowers you have
ever seen???  

What do my mean there are no flowers here - of course there are, I'm
holding them right here in my hands!  but to tell you the truth, I noticed
that they don't smell like flowers ...(sniff them)...  They  smell rather
like sack cloth and paper.  What ever could be wrong???

Let me get this straight, you are telling me that the reason my flowers
don't smell like flowers is because they are not flowers, but only seeds??? 
Did I say that right?  So what I have here are only seeds???  But they can
be flowers can't they???   If these seeds are going to become flowers, what 
do we have to do with them???

For the good news of Easter to become really exciting - for the good news
of Jesus Christ and his resurrection to really make a difference we, as his
followers have to do something with it.  Can you guess what it is???  

We have to plant that news in our own hearts - and then in the hearts of
other people.  Easter is nothing without our telling other people about it
- without our showing that it is real by planting the seeds of love - the
seeds that God gives us to spread all around. 


PRAYER AND THE LORD'S PRAYER
    Loving God -- help us to plant  - the seeds of your love - and to
     spread the good news of Jesus Christ - to our friends and our
     neighbours. -- 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


* HYMN:  "This Little Light of Mine"


A READING FROM ACTS 2:14a,22-32
     (NIV)  Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and
     addressed the crowd:

     "Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited
     by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you
     through him, as you yourselves know.  This man was handed over to you
     by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of
     wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.  But God
     raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because
     it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.  

     David said about him: "'I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is
     at my right hand, I will not be shaken.  Therefore my heart is glad
     and my tongue rejoices; my body also will live in hope, because you
     will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see
     decay.  You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me
     with joy in your presence.' 

     "Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died
     and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day.  But he was a
     prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place
     one of his descendants on his throne.  Seeing what was ahead, he spoke
     of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the
     grave, nor did his body see decay.  God has raised this Jesus to life,
     and we are all witnesses of the fact.

L    This is the Word of the Lord
P    Thanks Be To God


RESPONSIVE READING: Psalm 16 (VU 738) and The Gloria Patri Sung

     Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. 
     As it was in the beginning, is now, and evermore 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: "Thine Is The Glory"                                         - VU 173


SERMON: "Unlocking The Doors"

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

How different this day seems to be from Last Sunday.  One week ago we
sparkled and smiled - we sang and we soared as we took part in the Great
Festival of our Faith - Easter Sunday and our Celebration of the
Resurrection. 

But today - today seems to be just another Sunday.

Gone too are the secular aspects of Easter 
- the chocolate bunnies have been consumed 
- the gaily coloured eggs which were hidden have been found and eaten
- the jelly beans have been mashed into the carpet and removed, 
and our children were just as much trouble to rouse from bed today as they
ever have been on those days which are not special.

Gone too is the contrast between the sombre sanctuary on Good Friday
with the black drapes and low lighting and the beautifully arrayed
communion table of Easter Day.  Gone is the aroma of lilies - and our
choir, which swells so much for Easter - well it seems to be entirely on
holiday.

Indeed, I suspect that most of feel as though we are right back where we
were before Easter - fighting familiar frustrations and bearing well known
burdens, as if Easter had never occurred.

That is precisely why we need to grasp the message of this the Second
Sunday of Easter, the message concerning how the Risen Christ gave new life
to the disciples, how he gave them the Holy Spirit and energized them and
gave them confidence, how he made them into people who were filled with
both peace and power.

I think it is important for us to understand just what the disciples were
like after the first Easter Sunday.

The vast majority of Churches around the world today, 
     and every Sunday following Easter every year, 
read the same text, the same scripture, the same story, that we heard this
morning: the story of how Jesus appeared to his disciples in the Upper
Room.

We all know that the first generation Christians did not hesitate to preach
the good news of Christ's resurrection.  They knew what they had seen, and
they knew God had sent them to tell others what he had done in Christ - and
they did so - with verve, and conviction, and courage - so much so that 
they converted thousands of people to the new faith.

But it was not always that way.

At first the disciples were scared,
they were afraid,
and insofar as they met together, they met behind closed doors 
          - behind doors that were locked, so the scriptures tell us, because
     they feared the authorities; because they were afraid that what had
     happened to Jesus might happen to them.

They knew already that Jesus was risen -
     the women had told them about the empty tomb,
     and about encountering Jesus in the garden,
     and they had, over the previous years, witnessed many great miracles
performed by Jesus.

Peter had himself managed to walk on water with the help of Jesus,
     - and everyone of the 12 faithful followers had brought healing to the
     sick in his name,
     - each one had commanded demons to come forth from the possessed,
     - and many more had eaten of the bread that seemed to never end, the
bread and the fish brought to Jesus by a small boy to help feed a crowd of
thousands.

The disciples had witnessed much
and taken part in much
and been commanded by Jesus to do much.

But after Good Friday 
- and indeed even after Easter Sunday
they were powerless people.

They could not make themselves do what the Lord had commanded.

Their frail faith could not be made formidable simply by declaring, "We
have seen the Lord".  They could not be made strong by another requirement
from the Redeemer.  They could not be made dedicated through demands.

Certainly Jesus knew that.  So he did something else.
     
When he appeared to them he not only blessed them, 
     saying "Peace be with you"
He not only told them "As the Father has sent me, so I send you"
He breathed on them - he said "Receive the Holy Spirit"
     And by his presence - by his command - by the breath of live in him,
he gave the breath of life to them.

As one commentator puts it - he gave power to the powerless

You and I often share the feeling of hopelessness of those persons who
huddled in the upper room till the Spirit came to them.  

We, too, are often shattered by the strain of battle, the strain of living,
the strain of trying to make sense of out things, the strain of trying to
do what is right -but of not being sure of just how to do it, where to do
it, and when to do it.

Like the first disciples before the Spirit came we are often fearful,
     and in our fear we cling together, 
          spiritually hiding ourselves away behind closed doors,
               behind locked doors as it were, 
so that what little energy,
what few resources,
what slender hope we have left 
might be kept safe.

We regard the church as important - and its mission as important -
but we have no energy - no life - we feel worn down.

We are fearful because the whole matter of God, and of heaven, and of
     resurrection and re-birth just seems a little too much to believe in
     in a world of multi-culturalism, mass communication, and myth
     debunking science.

We are fearful because of our declining numbers
     our empty Sunday School class rooms
     and our drained bank accounts.

We are fearful because we know that the world scorns us -
     and because we realize that as we are get older each day
     the world itself is getting ever more hostile, ever more unfriendly.

And in fear - we come to believe that no program, no promise, no plan, no
powerful preaching, no perky youth ministry, no parking lot, no
persistence, can possibly save us..

And we are right in this belief.

When all is sad and done we are no different than the first disciples.
We have absolutely nothing going for us that the world does not have going
for it - perhaps in fact less - except, that is, for one thing -- The Risen
Christ and the Spirit he gives us.

And that is the point of today's story from the gospel of John.  

In the final analysis, it is a story of how the risen Christ pushed open
     the bolted door of a church with absolutely nothing, 
of how the risen Christ enters the fearful chambers of every church, 
     of every believer, 
and fills the place with his own life.

What we are asked to recognize 
- what I want you to realize, 
is that every church is this way!

No matter what a church says about itself in the Saturday newspaper, if it
is left to its own devices, if it draws only upon its own resources, it is
nothing.

Apart from the Risen Christ the church is an empty place.
Apart from the Spirit that Jesus breaths upon us we are hollow vessels 
- with nothing to offer - nothing of significance to share,
no different in the end than any social agency or service club.

Indeed the ceaseless and frenetic activity of many congregations
with programs ranging from "Mother's Morning Out" to "Fitness for Faith"
is often the lonely attempt of a group of scared and hopeless people,
to fill in the void where God, "the most missed of all missing persons"
should be.  

A doomed attempt - because in the end - the Shopping Mall, the Day Care,
and the YMCA, even, dare I say it, the government, offers better facilities
than can St. Barnabas of the Upwardly Mobile, St. Jude's of the Inner City,
or St. Paul's of the Cozy Country Community.

The answer my friends is not in better programs, plans, promises, or
projects (though all of these have their purpose and their place in the
church) it is in the person of Christ Jesus - and in the gift he brings us
even when we are hiding behind locked doors out of fear.

The fundamental reality of our faith lies not in what we believe,
- it rests not in our acceptance of dogma and creed
- or even in thinking that resurrection happened and that miracles can
still occur.

The reality of faith - the significance of our faith lies 
not in these things, nor in our belief, 
but in who we believe in.

The power that transformed the first disciples from fearful people into men
and women who were unafraid to speak to crowds of thousands,
      - unafraid to testify before the very authorities who crucified their
     Lord, 
     - willing to travel vast distances and endure stoning, imprisonment,
     and poverty
      - and able to convince men, women and children that something
     important hinged on their acceptance of their message concerning the
     person of Jesus Christ,
was not the power that is unleashed by their being reflective
     - by their writing down their dreams in a journal
     - or even by their praying a lot,
it was the power granted by the one in whom we believe -
the power that he gave to them in their locked room when he breathed the
Holy Spirit upon them - and then again poured out that Spirit upon all
believers on the day of Pentecost.

For thousands of years, my friends, there have been many men and women and
children who have huddled together out of fear.
- They have seen their hopes and their dreams in this world turn to ashes
- They have believed in God and in bitterness and in grief gazed upon what
seems to be his death.
- They have locked the doors to their hearts, afraid of experiencing one
more pain, one more disappointment.
- They have all but given up hope.

And for two thousand years their have been men and women and children in
this situation who have experienced what the first disciples experienced.

As they have assembled to worship, 
     as they have sought the face of God,
          as they have striven to understand what it is that God is about, 
they have experienced Christ suddenly standing among them,
     they have heard his word - peace be with you
          and felt his breath touch them and fill them
and they have gone out and 
- with nothing else but this experience, this encounter in the deep and
silent place within their hearts, 
transformed their homes, their communities, and indeed their world.

All of us - if we have an ounce of conscience long for something more than
what we see now around us - within the church and within the world.

The renewals that have happened and which most surely will happen again,
     happen not because of us and our inner strength and purpose,
          they happen because of God - and his love; 
          they happen because Jesus is alive, because he has been able to
burst out of the sealed tomb and to enter into locked rooms and fill hearts
that need him.

The good feelings of Easter Sunday may be seven days in the past,
the afflictions of daily life may have returned full force,
but the reality of Easter - the Risen Christ - is still with us.

He has not forsaken us.

Trust him.  Give thanks to him - knowing that as he has risen to new life
so he is here to bring new life to us all.

He is here -
and he will bring that life -
even though there be locked doors in his way.

Blessed be God, day by day.  Amen.


* HYMN: "Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Give Thanks"                      - Vu 179


PRAYERS OF THANKSGIVING AND INTERCESSION
O God, we believe that Jesus is Risen - and we give you thanks for his
resurrection.   But Lord, we need more than our faith in him and in the
eternal life that he promises to all who believe.   We need his power, his
Spirit - to come and enliven us in the midst of a world that is hostile to
you and hostile to the peace you would give to us and through us.  Lord,
walk through the doors that we hide behind out of fear.  Open our eyes and
let us see, open our ears and let us hear, and open our hearts that we may
receive your Spirit....  Lord, hear our prayer...

We thank you, O God, that you can break down all barriers and enter into
every heart - that you speak peace into our fear, faith into our doubt, and
hope into our despair.  We pray now for those around us - for our friends
and relatives, for our family members, for the countless thousands - and
indeed millions - who do not believe or who do not have the hope that we
have...  Lord, hear our prayer...

We pray today, O Lord,  for those who have been specially lifted up in our
sharing time this morning - BIDDING PRAYER...  Lord, hear our prayer...

We pray today, O Lord, for those who have no one to pray for them this day. 
You know them - and we offer them up to you so that their lives may be
touched by you.   We specially pray for the homeless, the hungry, the
oppressed and the ignored....  Lord, hear our prayer...

Gracious God, touch your church everywhere in the world today and grant
that we may who you want us to be - and that signs and wonders that point
to you may be known through us.  We ask in through Jesus Christ, our Risen
Saviour.  Amen


MINUTE FOR MISSION


* SHARING GOD'S BLESSINGS: The Offering; the Doxology: "We Give Thee But
Thine Own" (Red 296); and the Prayer of Dedication

     O God, all that we have is but thine own - a gift O Lord, from
     thee.   Receive this our offering today for the work of your
     church and the glory of your kingdom.  And make us ever more
     fruitful servants and ever more faithful children of your
     gracious will.  Amen

  
* HYMN: "Great is Thy Faithfulness"                                - VU 288
  

* COMMISSIONING (Unison): 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 Christ's name,
-and may Christ breath a blessing on you, 
- the Holy Spirit  fill you with hope and joy, 
- and God's living truth guide you in the path of eternal life,
this both today, and tomorrow, and indeed forevermore.  Amen


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


copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild - Spirit Networks, 2002 - 2006
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.


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