April 18, 2020 Worship (Third Sunday of Easter)
O God, you came to the disciples and offered them Easter assurance. You gave them resurrection hope. Come to us in this time of worship, and fill us with faith, hope, and love. Amen.
Scripture Reading 1: John 3:1-7
3 1 See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he[a] is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. 3 And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.
4 Everyone who commits sin is guilty of lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. 5 You know that he was revealed to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. 6 No one who abides in him sins; no one who sins has either seen him or known him. 7 Little children, let no one deceive you. Everyone who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous.
Scripture Reading 2: Luke 24:36-48
36 While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”[a] 37 They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. 38 He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.[b] 41 While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate in their presence.
44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46 and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah[c] is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses[d] of these things.
We Are the Witnesses, We Are the Proofs.
What do we need to believe in something? In my teacher’s training, I learned that using different senses such as hearing, seeing, smelling, and touching boost memory and learning. That is the reason for hands-on projects, science experiments, and my favorite discovery during my teacher’s training, math toys. Students get to learn and believe in scientific principles because they have seen them happen. We all know the saying, “Seeing is believing.”
Last Sunday and this Sunday, we read the gospel texts about the resurrected Jesus appearing before his disciples in person to teach them about God’s power and to give them hope. The first disciples believed in the resurrection of Jesus because they saw, heard, and touched him. Seeing is believing. But what about the disciples that came after the first generation of disciples who knew Jesus in person? What about us? How can we believe in something we did not personally experience with our physical senses such as seeing and touching? How do we believe in the invisible God or the fact that God is love? Short answer is this; it is because of the many disciples in history whose lives became testimonies to the God of love. As Jesus commanded his first disciples after resurrection, we are to be witnesses. The first disciples preached about Jesus and formed a community where they could live out the principles of God’s reign that they learned from Jesus; the principles of compassion and justice. Disciples throughout history learned and believed from the living testimonies of disciples who came before them. We also heard stories of great people of God whose lives became testimonies for the God of love and for Jesus who taught about God’s kingdom. We heard the story of Father Maximilian Colby, who volunteered to die instead of a family man in a Nazi concentration camp. We heard the story of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who chose to speak out the truth in the face of physical danger and ended up being assassinated. Then there were Oskar Schindler and other heroes of World War II who risked their lives saving the persecuted Jews. There are also biblical characters who teach us what living according to God’s principle of love and justice looks like.
How can we believe in the invisible God? God may be invisible, but we have seen God’s unconditional love at work through the lives of many selfless disciples throughout history. And if that is the case, we have the responsibility to be the witnesses of God’s kingdom to other people in our world and to our descendants. As we read in First John chapter 3, we are God’s children and should be righteous like our God. Therefore, we should become the witnesses, the proof for people to believe in the invisible God of love. Let us look around in our world and ask God to send us where God’s love and care are needed. People of God, disciples of resurrection, let us be the witnesses of the Easter message of hope.
Prayers of the People
Merciful and loving God, we come into your presence today hoping in some way to touch you, to see for ourselves the truth of your resurrection. Gather up our lingering fears and confusion, meet our doubts with compassion and understanding. Open our eyes to your love and grace surrounding us. Open our ears to hear you calling us to new challenges. Open our imaginations to new possibilities. Come anew to all who have been unable to believe; come anew to all who have known you but turned away from you. Help us to experience you standing in our midst, saying “Peace, peace.” May our broken world and our broken lives be transformed in your image. As we have known your love through the many saints and disciples in history, let us, in turn, become your witnesses to others who may have doubts. Let our lives be the reason others believe in your love.
We pray for all your people who suffer the effects of this pandemic, those whose suffering became worse due to the pandemic. We pray for our church family. There are those of us who are grieving. There are those who are tending to the illness of loved ones. There are those who need your extra care for the troubles we have, whatever they may be. Bind us together as your people and let us be the embodiment of your love to each other. 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.