April 7, 2024

Second Sunday of EASTER






Breathe in this place, O Lord,
by the power of your Holy Spirit,
to open our minds,
unlock our hearts,
and enliven our faith
so that we may welcome
the risen one among us. Amen.


PRELUDE                   “Thine is the Glory”                          G.F. Handel



Into our fears and through our locked doors.

Come, Almighty God.

When we think ‘peace be with you,’ means no change or disruption,

Come, Lord Jesus.

Amidst our lives that confuse religious entertainment with Easter fulfill- ment,

Come, Holy Spirit.

For the sake of a community meant to be its best during crisis,

Come Father, Son and Holy Spirit.


*HYMN No. 239                    “Good Christians All, Rejoice and Sing”

1 Good Christians all, rejoice and sing!
Now is the triumph of our King!
To all the world glad news we bring:
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

2 The Lord of life is risen today!
Death’s mighty stone is rolled away.
Let all the earth rejoice and say:
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

3 Praise we in songs of victory
that love, that life which cannot die,
and sing with hearts uplifted high:
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

4 Your name we bless, O risen Lord, 
and sing today with one accord
the life laid down, the life restored:
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!


How often have we heard the good news of forgiveness and restoration? Yet, we are still reluctant to believe. God offers us new life, yet we are afraid to let go of the old. Let us confess our doubts and fears to the One who waits to make us whole.



We use a lot of words, Gracious God, but do little to turn them into deeds. Instead of being of one heart and soul, we choose sides and form groups of folks just like us. Blessed with great grace, we have trouble sharing it with those who need it the most.


Forgive us, God of love. Forgive us, as we step out of our shadows into your light. Restore us, as we reveal our brokenness.  Hear us, as we proclaim Jesus Christ as our Lord and our God.





This is the good news we have to declare: God leads us out of the shadows to walk in the light of Christ.

This is the word we have heard: our faithful God forgives our sins and raises us to new life. Thanks be to God. Amen.


*RESPONSE No. 581             “Glory Be to the Father”

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, amen.


Although we believe and trust in God, we have forgotten the covenant which God made with our ancestors and sinned. However, God shows the mercy promised to our ancestors, and remembers this holy covenant; giving us the knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of our sins. By the tender mercy of our God, the Dawn will break upon us, shining into the darkness and the shadow of death, guiding our feet into the way of peace.


Peace be with you.

And also with you.


ANTHEM                   “Once Upon a Tree”                         Pepper Choplin





Please join me in the unison prayer…

Almighty God,

who through your Son
overcame death
and opened to us the gate of everlasting life,
grant that we who celebrate our Lord’s resurrection
may arise from the death of our sin
through the renewal of your Holy Spirit
and may hear and obey your living Word of truth;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who now lives and reigns with you and theHoly Spirit,
one God forever. Alleluia, amen!


SCRIPTURE               John 20:19-31

19When 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.” 24But 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.”


26A 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.”30Now 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.




This is the Word of the Lord.

Thanks be to God!!


SERMON                   “Brought To You By the Letter W”

If we were following in the footsteps of one of my favorite television shows, the long- running children’s program Sesame Street, you might say that today’s sermon is brought to you by the letter W. John seems to focus our attention on two words that begin with W. The week after the very first Easter morning, John tells a tale that is all about walls and wounds.

The writer and humorist Garrison Keillor says that Easter is the time of year when Christians ask themselves two questions: Do we really believe all this stuff? And if we do believe all this stuff, why do we keep living this way?

I wonder if those questions might have been swimming around in the minds of those first disciples all those years ago. Did they really believe all that stuff that Mary had told them about seeing the Lord? Did they really believe that Jesus had been raised from the dead? And if they did believe that he had been raised from the dead, why were they still living this way?

They had heard the good news that Jesus was alive. And were they rejoicing? Were they celebrating? Were they out spreading the message to anyone and everyone?

No, they were not. The disciples were hiding behind locked doors. They were hiding behind walls. Actual physical walls. But also, walls of fear.

Even after the risen Christ came to them and offered them peace, even after the resurrected Jesus had appeared and breathed the Holy Spirit onto them, even after they had told Thomas that they themselves had seen the Lord, where are they one week later?

They are back behind those locked doors. They have put up their walls again. They are still afraid.

The fact of the matter is that it is not easy to break through those walls of fear. There is plenty to be afraid of. I would not believe anyone who claims to never be afraid.

Being afraid is part of being human. Even Jesus himself may have shared in our human fear on the cross as he cried out to God wondering if God had forsaken him. He may have shared in our human fear in the Garden of Gethsemane when he was deeply distressed and troubled by what was going to happen to him.

To fear is human. None of us can overcome fear completely on our own. But the good news is that Jesus can and does.

The disciples are locked away in their fears. They are hidden away behind locked doors. But nothing locks out Jesus.

Jesus breaks through the walls and stands among them. Jesus breaks through the walls and stands with them in all their fear. Jesus breaks through the walls and gives them his peace.

There are no walls that can keep Jesus from coming and standing with us. Not hospital walls. Not prison walls. Not the walls of a nursing home. Not the walls of the coffin in which we are buried.

Not walls of isolation. Not walls of loneliness. Not walls of depression. Not walls of pain. Not walls of suffering. Not walls of grief. Jesus breaks through all of those walls and comes to stand with us.

And the good news gets even better. Jesus enters any and every locked door. And Jesus not only comes through whatever walls us in. He also brings us out of those locked up places.

The risen Christ sends us out beyond those walls. And he sends us with the Holy Spirit. Jesus not only comes and stands with us. Jesus breathes into us his own Spirit. And the Spirit gives us strength to pass through those walls.

The Spirit opens all those locked doors and pushes us back into the world. The Spirit brings us back from the dead and brings us back to life. Jesus breaks through the walls and gives us his peace. And this peace empowers us to leave the walls we have been locked behind.

The other W that John focuses on is the wounds of Jesus. The risen Christ has a resurrected body, but this body still bears the marks of his crucifixion. He continues to bear the scars of his earthly life.

After appearing in that locked room, as he stands there with his disciples, Jesus does not dazzle them with glory. He does not shine or glow as he did when he was transfigured on the mountain with James, Peter, and John.

There were angels in white at the tomb who spoke to Mary. But apparently, what was important to John, and probably what was important to Jesus, was not what he was wearing. It was that he showed them his hands and his side.

Jesus intentionally showed them where the nails had been hammered into his hands. Jesus intentionally showed them where the spear had pierced his side.

And then, one week later, he appears again and invites Thomas to touch his wounds, to put his fingers in the nail prints and to put his hand into the gash in his side.

The disciples were overjoyed to see Jesus’ wounds. These are the marks that confirmed that this was the same Jesus who had died on the cross. This is the same Jesus who was their friend and their teacher. This was the same Jesus who had washed their feet at the Last Supper. This was the same Jesus with whom they had eaten so many meals and walked so many miles.

His wounds identified him as Jesus. The deaf community probably knows this better than the rest of us. In American Sign Language, the sign for Jesus is done with both palms open. And then, with the middle finger of one hand, you point to the middle of the open palm and then, with the other hand, you point to the middle of the other palm. Like so.

Deaf folks never forget that Jesus is the one with wounds on his hands. And it seems as if Jesus doesn’t want any of his disciples to forget his wounds. The risen Christ wants all of us to take notice of his scars.

The thing about scars, scars big enough to notice, is that they always come with a story. It’s almost impossible to look at a scar and not remember how it came to be. Scars will not let us forget how we got that wound and why we were wounded in the first place.

Once upon a time, on a muggy summer day in south Florida, a little boy decided to go for a swim in an old swimming hole behind his house. He ran out the back door and jumped into the cool water. He dove in without realizing that there was an alligator swimming toward the shore.

The boy’s mother was looking out the window of their house and she saw the alligator swimming closer and closer to her son. Terrified, she ran toward the water and began to yell at her son as loudly as she could. The boy heard his mother’s warnings and made a U- turn in the water to swim to her on the side of the lake.


But it was too late. Just as he reached her, the alligator reached him. The boy frantically reached for his mother, his fingernails digging deep into her arms, just as the alligator chomped at his legs.

The alligator was much stronger than his mother, but she was determined not to give up her son. After a few moments of a tug-of-war, a farmer happened to drive by. He heard the woman’s screams, raced from his truck, took aim, and shot the alligator.

Remarkably, the boy survived. His legs were extremely scarred by the attack and his mother had deep scratches on her arms where her son’s nails had gouged her skin.

Newspaper reporters who interviewed the boy asked if he would show them his wounds. He lifted his pant leg and then, with obvious pride and love, he told them, “But you should look at my mother’s arms. She has the best scars. She has better scars on her arms. She has them because she wouldn’t let go of me.”

The scars that she bore on her arms told the story of how much her child was loved. He had only to look upon those scars to know that he was precious to her. He had only to look upon his mother’s scarred arms to know that she would not let go of him even if holding onto him cost her a great deal of pain and suffering.

Even though it left her with scars, her son could feel joy. Those scars showed that his mother was willing to suffer and struggle in order to save him.


I haven’t been able to verify that story. I don’t know if it actually happened. But here’s what I do know and believe to be true.

The disciples of Jesus Christ, all God’s children, can rejoice in his scars for much the same reason. The scars that the risen Christ bears on his hands and his side tell us how much we are loved. His wounds are the evidence of how precious we are to him. He has those wounds because he would not let us go.

Jesus presents his wounds to us without any shame. The risen Christ never apologizes for his scars. He doesn’t seem to mind if we see them. He doesn’t mind if we touch them.


Jesus is open about his wounds, much more open than we tend to be. Christi Brown is a Presbyterian minister in South Carolina. And she recalls the time a few years ago when her step-grandmother was 90 years old and suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease.

She was living in a retirement center in Raleigh when she fell and hit her head on the bathroom floor. The aides hurried to help her. And the first thing she said as she reached up to touch the bloody wound on her head was “Oh dear! I simply cannot go to church looking like this!”

I suspect that she is hardly alone in that thought. We usually don’t want anyone to see our scars. We would rather keep our wounds hidden. We don’t want to open up about how and where we have been hurt. We would rather keep all of that to ourselves hidden away behind locked doors. We would rather build up walls that prevent anyone from getting a good look at our wounds.

But Jesus sends us out beyond those walls. Jesus calls us to come out from behind those locked doors and show our scars to one another. Jesus calls us to let one another see where we have been wounded.

And, very often, when we follow Jesus’ call, what we find is that healing takes place when we share our wounds with one another.

The Catholic priest and writer Henri Nouwen writes about the death of his mother. He spent the last two weeks of her life with her in the Netherlands. She had been stricken with cancer and those two weeks had been painful for both him and her. He was emotionally and physically drained.

When a friend visited him at his home, he found him hunched over a sheet of white paper with a pen in his hand. He was beginning the story of his mother’s final struggle–a story that would later be published under the title In Memoriam.

Knowing that his mother’s passing had been quite hard on him, the visitor asked him why he was writing this story down so soon after her death. And Nouwen replied very simply, “Because I always try to turn my personal struggles into something helpful for others.”

By the grace of God, our struggles can be helpful for others. The cracks and holes of our lives can be spaces where God’s light can shine through. Just as God worked through the scars and suffering of Jesus to give life and hope to this world, so God can still work today through our wounds, through our brokenness, to give others life and hope.

Our hurts can and do contribute healing to others.

Our call is to minister out of our weaknesses. All of us letting the light of God shine through the cracks and broken places. All of us wounded. And all of us are opening our wounds to the world rather than hiding them.

And as we do, the walls come down. The locked doors open. Jesus is there among us. The risen Christ stands with us. Fear fades away as we are filled with the peace of God.

May it be so for all God’s children.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.


Commentary and Liturgy from the Book of Common Worship (PCUSA), “Call to Worship” Website, David Lose, Henri Nouwen, John S. Mogabgab and The New Interpreter’s Commentary


*DECLARATION OF FAITH                       “Jesus is our living Lord”

Jesus was dead and buried,
but God raised him from the dead.
The risen Lord appeared to his followers.
They recognized him as their Master
who had been crucified.
Before Jesus left them,
he commissioned them to proclaim to all people

the good news of his victory over death,

and promised to be with them always.

We are certain that Jesus lives.
He lives as God with us,
touching all of human life with the presence of God.
He lives as one of us with God.
Because he shares our humanity
and has bound us to himself in love,
we have an advocate in the innermost life of God.
We declare that Jesus is Lord.
His resurrection is a decisive victory
over the powers that deform and destroy human life.
His lordship is hidden.
The world appears to be dominated

by people and systems that do not acknowledge his rule.
But his lordship is real.
It demands our loyalty and sets us free
from the fear of all lesser lords who threaten us.
We maintain that ultimate sovereignty
now belongs to Jesus Christ
in every sphere of life.
Jesus is Lord’
He has been Lord from the beginning.
He will be Lord at the end.
Even now he is Lord.


*HYMN No. 240                    “Alleluia, Alleluia! Give Thanks”

Alleluia, alleluia!
Give thanks to the risen Lord.
Alleluia, alleluia!
Give praise to his name

1 Jesus is Lord of all the earth.
He is the King of creation. (Refrain)

2 Spread the good news o’er all the earth:
Jesus has died and has risen. (Refrain)

3 We have been crucified with Christ.
Now we shall live forever. (Refrain)

4 Come let us praise the living God,
joyfully sing to our Savior. (Refrain)



On this day, we celebrate the risen Christ

On this day, we celebrate resurrection in our lives.

On this day, we embrace the grace which reaches from the tomb.

On this day, we embrace faith by committing to love in action.

On this day, we shout Hallelujah!

On this day we shout, Christ is risen!  Alleluia!


Prayer of Communion
It is through our neighbors and creation that we see the rising of Christ, O God.


Creator of Our Earth: We celebrate the shifting of seasons from one to the next.  As the earth sheds its snow, it begins to drink in the warm rains and creation comes alive once again.


And so, in this spirit of brightness and life, we celebrate.  We celebrate the risen Christ in our midst.  We celebrate the table in which we can join together with friends and strangers, loved ones and enemies.


Through this meal which has stood the test of time, we covenant to love you, God.   We covenant to love as Jesus the Christ loved us- loving our neighbors as ourselves.  Through a simple meal of grain and grape, we, your children, unite.


As we enter this season of Easter, we ask that the warm winds of the Spirit encircle this table and accompany us on our journey.  May this Spirit help us to recognize the Christ-presence in our midst.  May the Spirit open our souls in order for us to see humanity, God and creation through the eyes of Jesus.


It was Jesus who introduced this meal to his followers.  Even though Jesus knew he would be betrayed and deserted by those at this supper, he still continued to join them at the table, sharing time and space with whom he grew closest.


As the night lengthened, Jesus took a simple portion of bread.  He blessed it and broke it, and shared it with the disciples.  He urged them: Remember me.


Afterwards, Jesus took the cup.  During his blessing, Jesus reminded them how he would go to the ends of the earth in his love for them.


Today, we celebrate this earth-shaking love of Jesus – a love that sent him to the cross and a love that lives eternally with us, encouraging us to live a resurrected life.

The Bread of Life and the Cup of the Covenant: Gifts to unite the Body of Christ.

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 debts, as we forgive our debtors; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. Amen.


Distribution of Elements


Prayer of Thanksgiving

Through this space and time together today, we celebrate the covenant that ties us with God, Jesus the Christ, our neighbors, and creation.  Thank you, Divine Crafter of the Table, for fashioning us a holy meal unites us with the Body of Christ.  Send us into the world resurrected, refreshed and ready to share Christ’s unconditional love.  Amen.





We become who we are called to be not through getting, acquiring and possessing but in our giving. To that end, let us worship God by giving our good gifts.




*RESPONSE N0. 248            “Christ Is Risen! Shout Hosanna!”              v.3

Christ is risen! Earth and heaven
nevermore shall be the same.
Break the bread of new creation
where the world is still in pain.
Tell its grim, demonic chorus:
“Christ is risen! Get you gone!”‘
God the First and Last is with us.
Sing Hosanna everyone!



Good and gracious God, help us to say thank you, to live with gratitude, to look for the best in each other, and to live charitably with all. May your resurrection never stop surprising us, disrupting us and transforming us, until Christ’s kingdom comes. Amen.


*HYMN No. 244                    “This Joyful Eastertide”

This joyful Eastertide,
away with sin and sadness!
Our Lord, the crucified,
has filled our hearts with gladness.

Had Christ, who once was slain,
not burst his three-day prison,
our faith would be in vain.
But now has Christ arisen,
arisen, arisen,
but now Christ has arisen.


My being shall rejoice
secure within God’s keeping,
until the trumpet voice
shall wake us from our sleeping.



3 Death’s waters lost their chill
when Jesus crossed the river.
His love shall reach me still;
his mercy is forever.




As you go out into God’s world this week, be Easter people! Be those who say, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? Jesus is not here. He is risen.” Be ready to be surprised with what God will do next. Look for the risen Christ in those you meet. Let the Holy Spirit nudge and guide you. The tomb is empty because Jesus is out in the world, and now we must go out into the world too! May the joy and wonder of that first Easter morning live in your hearts today and everyday. Amen.