First Reading: Acts 5:27-32
27 When they had brought them, they had them stand before the council. The high priest questioned them, 28 saying, “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you are determined to bring this man’s blood on us.” 29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than any human authority. 30 The God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. 31 God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior that he might give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.”
Psalm 118:14-29 (8)
14 The Lord is my strength and my might;
he has become my salvation.
15 There are glad songs of victory in the tents of the righteous:
“The right hand of the Lord does valiantly;
16 the right hand of the Lord is exalted;
the right hand of the Lord does valiantly.”
17 I shall not die, but I shall live,
and recount the deeds of the Lord.
18 The Lord has punished me severely,
but he did not give me over to death.
19 Open to me the gates of righteousness,
that I may enter through them
and give thanks to the Lord.
20 This is the gate of the Lord; the righteous shall enter through it.
21 I thank you that you have answered me
and have become my salvation.
22 The stone that the builders rejected
has become the chief cornerstone.
23 This is the Lord’s doing;
it is marvelous in our eyes.
24 This is the day that the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.
25 Save us, we beseech you, O Lord!
O Lord, we beseech you, give us success!
26 Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.
We bless you from the house of the Lord.
27 The Lord is God,
and he has given us light.
Bind the festal procession with branches,
up to the horns of the altar.
28 You are my God, and I will give thanks to you;
you are my God, I will extol you.
29 O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
Second Reading: Revelation 1:4-8
4 John to the seven churches that are in Asia:
Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.
To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, 6 and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving\\ his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
7 Look! He is coming with the clouds;
every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him;
and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail.
So it is to be. Amen.
8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.
GOSPEL: John 20:19-31
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.”
24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin), 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.”
30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31 But 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.
CHILDREN’S SERMON Most of us remember Julie Andrews singing “Do Re Me: in Sound of Music. We learn to read by learning the alphabet, A-B-C. Maria says singing starts with Do-Re-Me. Turn to your neighbor and share where faith started for you.
Let us pray: Lord, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, my Rock, my Redeemer.
The Lord is Risen! The Lord is Risen indeed! We are now in the Easter Season. For six weeks we marinate our souls in the core tenant of the Christian faith: Jesus Christ is true God and true man. He is stronger than all forms of death that seek to undermine our lives and divert us from the joy God would have for us. He is NOT far off in the heavens running the universe but he IS right here with us today, involved and active, working for our good and the world’s good. Whew, that is a mouth full for sure. Don’t turn on the TV to fact check me because if we look at the world to evaluate spiritual truth, we will despair. Jesus incarnated, lived, died, rose, and lives. He is present and is working for good! Lord, help us to know these truths in a new way today deep in our souls.
Maria in “Sound of Music,” sings,
“Let’s start from the very beginning
A very good place to start
When you read, you begin with A-B-C
When you sing, you begin with Do-Re-Mi”
Christianity while having deep roots in the Old Testament differentiates and identifies itself with faith in Jesus Christ’s resurrection. He is not just another prophet. Today we can ground our faith on over 2000 years of Christian theologians and writers sorting out what really happened that first Easter morning. The Gospel text takes us to the evening of that first Easter. The disciples and the Jesus’ followers were not shouting, “The Lord is risen.” Their world had been torn apart as they had just watched the brutal death of their leader, heard that the body was gone but he may have been seen by some. They were huddled behind locked doors in fear, trying to put together the bits and pieces of the stories and experiences. No CNN or texting. They gathered… in fear. We will ponder that first Easter evening today.
We do not need to look far to see that this scene of disciples behind locked doors is still true even in our world. People are huddled in cellars and underground in Ukraine. Families huddle in hospitals waiting for the surgeon to come with the report on their beloved. Last Sunday elders sat at the Easter meal and remembered years gone by with family surrounding them, big meals, and the ability to participate. Age has shattered their abilities and spread families around the world. It is possible to close the door of our hearts, lock it and hide in fear. Sometimes we need to put our lives and our faith back together after a “detour” that overwhelms us. Maybe we keep up a good face but in our hearts, we know this story.
Jesus comes into that secret space of our hearts and his first word to us and to his followers was, “Peace,” “Peace be with you.” Take a moment now and hear Jesus whisper to you, “Peace.”
That peace is not a feeling that is manufactured from within ourselves but is a result of turning our eyes away from our tumultuous emotions or anxious thoughts and turning towards Jesus. He is the source of peace. We come to church today to focus on the truth of the Easter story and to turn away from hiding behind locked doors in fear. A-B-C, Do-Re-Mi, facts-faith-future. Here are a few of his words for us – the facts, nothing but the facts folks! Christ is risen and he wants peace for us!
John 16:33 33 I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!”
John 14:27 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.
Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
The peace we have as Christians is not the absence of conflict and pain. In the midst of the circumstances of life, we turn our eyes to Jesus and he breathes peace into us. We focus faith on the true facts of the resurrection. Jesus is alive and with us. Peace is grounded on Jesus’ defeat of evil and our secure relationship with the God who knows all about the challenges we face. Faith starts with accepting the fact, the truth, that Jesus Christ rose on Easter.
The text goes on to tell us that Thomas was not there that first evening and he was not going to believe until he himself experienced Jesus. We call him “Doubting Thomas” but doubt demands facts to wipe out fear. Thomas wanted truth. He wanted to experience Jesus alive and Jesus honored him. Jesus appeared again and invited Thomas to touch and feel. Jesus was not afraid of Thomas’ doubt nor ours. He is willing to reach out to us when we genuinely seek him.
I also note that Jesus breathes on the disciples the Holy Spirit. Perhaps this personal moment was a taste of what was to come on Pentecost. The Bible does tell us also that peace is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. As Lutherans we baptize babies and we believe at baptism at any age the gift of the Holy Spirit is given to live within us and guide us in our faith and lives. The peace from the Holy Spirit helps us see past the confusion of events and the fears that confront us, the doubts that undermine us, to the facts of Easter. Jesus is alive.
A-B-C, Do-Re-Mi, facts are the “A,” the “Do,” the foundation of our faith but they only carry us so far. A song of one note is not a song really. Once we hear the facts, hear the story, and listen then we must respond. Whatever way Jesus comes to us whether it is music or nature or testimonies, we must still internalize the facts into personal truth. We call it faith. We see it in how Thomas responds. He was not at that first Sunday evening and even though he heard the others talking about what happened, he wanted to know for himself. We can come to church, we can listen to music, we can do all sorts of religious activity but until the facts transform into faith, we struggle.
Jesus honors Thomas and the Gospel writer reports as significant that Jesus appeared another Sunday evening and invited Thomas into relationship. Jesus invited Thomas to touch and feel. Thomas was invited to put his finger in the nail wound in Jesus’ hand and in Jesus’ side. That is a very personal and intimate action. Touching another’s point of pain is to be invited into deep relationship. No turning back, folks. Judas knew the facts and hung himself. Thomas knew the facts and reached out and touched Jesus. His response, “My Lord, and my God.”
When we hear the words in communion, “This is my body” and “This is my blood” “given for you for the forgiveness of sin,” we are invited into personal relationship and forgiveness with a risen savior. We are invited to touch and to feel and not doubt God’s forgiveness and presence with us. We have been invited like Thomas to bring our doubts, our fears, our joys and praise to a God who is present with us. If facts are the “Do” to our song of life, faith is the “Re”. It is “going to the next level.” It is making the decision to be all in.
Thomas reaching out to Jesus and us taking communion are spiritual moments of interaction between God and a person that Christians explain differently. Lutherans focus on a God who invites us into relationship. We memorized in the Small Catechism Luther’s explanation, “I believe I cannot believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to him but the Holy Spirit calls me through the Gospel.” God invites. God initiates and invites through baptism and communion. We are saved by grace and not by the size of our faith. God came to Thomas in his doubt. Other denominations focus more on the profession of faith by Thomas as the beginning of the faith journey. Whether we focus on grace or testimony, facts demand a response. Embraced relationship changes our lives as we grow into our understanding of Jesus as our risen Lord and our God.
While A-B-C are the building blocks of language, Do-Re-Mi are the building blocks of music, facts are the building blocks of our spiritual life and propel us towards faith or rejection, and faith changes our future. Facts, Faith, Future are the building blocks of Christianity. John closes our text by saying that he has written because the goal is that we will have “life,” not death. As we study the life of Jesus during Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent and Easter, we learn more and more about a God who changes our outlook on life and the quality of life we live. We learn a whole new way of living into a future God has for us.
Jesus breathed peace into his followers. He invited Thomas to touch him and stop doubting but believe. As we grow in out ability to see and understand how our relationship with God affects our lives, we have new eyes, new understanding of reality. We have new explanations and new responses. We try to forgive, to share, to love with God’s love. Evil impacts our lives but it is not random or all-powerful. There is a God who mediates the events of our lives and who has our backs. We are not purposeless and pointless, wandering through life trying to create a happy ever after story. Our lives have meaning beyond reproduction or partying and happiness. Our relationships take on new meaning. We were created for a God who cares, who sees, and is invested in our experiences. AND we have a future. God wants to give us life, life abundant. As discouraging as some days are and as hard as some phases of our life might be, we are on a journey with each other and with the God of the universe. We can bow with Thomas and say “My Lord and my God.”
Maria, near the end of the Do-Re-Mi song sings,
Now, children, Do-Re-Mi-Fa-So and so on
Are only the tools we use to build a song
Once you have these notes in your heads
You can sing a million different tunes by mixing them up
I think we can say that facts, faith and future are the tools we use to build a song, the song of our life. Once we have these building blocks in our heads, we can face a million different scenarios. We know Jesus rose and was not terminated by death. We know we are invited into relationship with Jesus who’s Spirit goes with us through life and intercedes for us. We can face any challenge because we know God has our back and has answers we could never anticipate. “We can sing a million different tunes” with a risen, living, empowering Savior!
Let’s start from the very beginning
A very good place to start
When you read, you begin with A-B-C
When you sing, you begin with Do-Re-Mi
When you believe you begin with facts, faith, future?
The people of God said, “AMEN.”