April 11, 2020 Worship (Second Sunday of Easter) – Rev Sunny Kim
God, alive and among us this day, to you no door is closed, to you no heart is locked; draw us beyond our doubts and fears, till we see the risen Christ and say in our hearts, “We believe.” Amen.
Scripture Reading 1: John 20:19-29
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.” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If 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[a]), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So 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.” 27 Then 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.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”
Scripture Reading 2: Acts 4:32-35
The Believers Share Their Possessions
32 Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. 33 With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 34 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. 35 They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.
Reflection – Christ, Bringer of Peace
I mentioned last Sunday that, going through this pandemic, I feel like I can relate better to the first disciples of Jesus. The Easter story has never been so relevant to us as it is now. The fear, lockdown, and social isolation help us to understand the first disciples better; but also, the message of Easter can be more comforting and empowering to us. Today’s gospel story feels very much like our story.
After the arrest and execution of Jesus, his disciples lived in fear. They stayed behind locked doors because they were scared to go out. Sounds familiar? They were living in darkness, metaphorically; so are we. The fear of the unknown and social isolation is a heavy burden on us mentally and emotionally. They were, and we are, chained by this invisible burden. We are not free. In this invisible bondage, Jesus came to his disciples. Not even locked doors could stop him. Not even his death and burial could stop him. How persistent God’s power and love were!
We know this story well. Jesus came to the frightened disciples and gave them peace. Thomas was not there and claimed that he would not believe the others unless he could see and touch for himself. Jesus showed up again when Thomas was with the others, and Thomas believed. They met the resurrected Christ and were freed from the invisible bondage of fear. With the newly found peace and courage, through good times and bad, through persecution and martyrdom, the first disciples were able to boldly live and preach the Good News of Jesus.
There is one especially important thing that came out of the Jesus Movement and the story of Easter; it is the sense of community among disciples. What Jesus taught his disciples about the reign of God/ God’s community is that they are a family linked not by blood but by the love of God. This is what happened when after the resurrection of Jesus, and after the disciples received the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. Acts 4:32-35 tells us that the followers of Jesus formed a community, living together and sharing everything with each other. Since they shared all their possessions, everyone’s basic needs were met. Why? Because this is the vision of God’s kingdom/ reign that Jesus taught.
We do not live together and share our bank accounts. We do not have to. The lesson we should learn from the stories of Easter and post-Pentecost is that we are all linked as a family through the love of God and that we are responsible for taking care of each other. Let us learn from the first disciples. Let us experience the power of God amid our pandemic and social isolation. Death and locked doors could not stop Jesus from coming to his disciples and giving them peace. God will also come to us through our locked doors and give us peace. Let us meet God daily in our quiet place, receive peace and comfort in our trauma, and let God sustain us. How persistent God’s power and love are! With the peace and strength that we receive from God who meets us behind closed doors, let us continue to live as the disciples of Jesus, considering all God’s people as our family and taking care of them. Let us bring the Easter hope wherever there seems to be no hope. Instead of lamenting the lack of our physical gatherings to which we are accustomed, let us go out into the world (metaphorically, since we should stop the spread of the COVID virus through social distancing) and be the church for all God’s people who need the Easter hope.
Prayers of the People
O God, you are the source of all our hope. In the times when we confront despair that deadens, you come alive! In the times we refuse to bend to injustice, you come alive! In the times we choose to bear pain to keep our conscience clear, you come alive! In the times we glimpse the willingness of a faithful community to work joyfully in your name, you come alive! (silence)
As you have appeared in front of the first disciples through their locked doors and closed hearts, come to us today, through our closed doors and hearts ridden with fear of what is going on in our world. Bring us peace and the hope of your resurrected body that we might be sustained amidst this darkness. Since we cannot hold each other right now, come hold us in your loving arms and comfort us with the Easter message of hope.
We pray for our church family. Come touch us. We pray for all your people who are weary and suffering. Come touch us. Even in this global trauma, let us never stop being your agents of peace and justice. We offer these prayers in the name of Christ, bringer of peace. Amen.
God of Easter, send us forth to live the power of resurrection, that we and all creation might be one with the living Christ; to whom with you and the Spirit, one holy God, be honour and praise, now and forever. Amen.