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The Second Sunday of Easter

See and Believe

A Meditation

 

“The Incredulity of Saint Thomas,” is the name of this bulletin painting that most of us would call about “doubting” Thomas, a thoroughly unfair judgment about a biblical story that has persisted through the centuries. This facile understanding of the relationship between Jesus and Thomas subverts a more accurate, transformational spiritual point. Thomas ends up having a conversion experience—My Lord and My God!—right in front of us, gently prodded along by Jesus’ determination. Jesus uses his own wounded body as a kind of teaching text to Thomas. Jesus’ wounds become the irrefutable testimony to what has happened to Jesus. He is risen from the dead, and that fact immediately changes the course of history. And that course change for humanity starts with Thomas’ conversion confession.

Jesus came to change us. Through his life, teachings, miracles, death, and resurrection. Jesus’ compatriots witnessed a transformation from what is mundane into what is possible. Of course, Thomas didn’t believe Jesus had risen from the dead. Death was frequent in ancient Palestine. Even death by crucifixion wasn’t rare. Thomas was no doubt a first-hand witness of gruesome death. There was no life after death, no resurrection—nothing to lift the torture, pain, and inevitable darkness. Thomas was no fool. He had every reason to doubt not Jesus, but rather the tall tales of the other disciples because he knew them to be for whatever good lurked in their hearts, bumptious and thick-headed. They didn’t report only on Jesus’ new life, but that he could walk through a locked door. The phantasmagoria of impossibilities was piling up, as far as Thomas was concerned. To demonstrate his skepticism, Thomas pulls forth the observation that he would have to put his fingers and hand into Jesus’ wounds to believe these ridiculous stories Thomas was hearing about Jesus’ death-defying restoration to life.

Jesus doesn’t appear to Thomas out of judgmentalism, but rather out of mercy and truth. Jesus wants to lift Thomas out of the constraints of his tendency to understand the spiritual world through the pinched understanding of concrete reality. Jesus is teaching that to believe requires the courage to be free. Jesus invites us to be bold; to be bolder than the plain reality we experience around us. When we soar as our spirits soar—hopefully often—we can participate in a truth that passes all understanding.

 

Pastor Neil

OPENING ACCLAMATION

 Celebrant    Alleluia! Christ is risen.

People        The Lord has risen indeed. Alleluia!

 

Beloved God, as we approach your Presence, guide and stir us

with your Holy Spirit, that we may become one body, one spirit

in Jesus Christ our Savior. Chiefly are we bound to praise you for the glorious resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; for he is the
true Paschal Lamb, who was sacrificed for us, and has taken away the sin of the world. By his death he has destroyed death, and by his rising to life again he has won for us everlasting life. Amen.

 

SONG OF PRAISE (The Gloria)

Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth.

Lord God, heavenly King, almighty God and Father, we worship you, we give you thanks,  we praise you for your glory.

Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father, Lord God, Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world: have mercy on us; you are seated at the right hand of the Father: receive our prayer.

For you alone are the Holy One, you alone are the Lord, you alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, in the glory of God the Father. Amen.

 

THE COLLECT OF THE DAY

 Celebrant             The Lord be with you.

People                 And also with you.

 Celebrant             Almighty and everlasting God, who in the Paschal mystery established the new covenant of reconciliation: Grant that all
who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ’s Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

 

 THE LITURGY OF THE WORD

A Reading from Acts at the 4th Chapter

Testimony with Great Power

Reader        A Reading from Acts

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. With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 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. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.

Reader        The Word of the Lord.

People         Thanks be to God.

  

Reader        Pslam 133, said together

How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity! It is like the precious oil on the head, running down upon the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down over the collar of his robes. It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion. For there the Lord ordained his blessing, life forevermore.

 

The Epistle from First John, at the 1st Chapter

Consider yourself alive to God in Christ Jesus

Reader        A Reading from First John

We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us—we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

Now by this we may be sure that we know him, if we obey his commandments. Whoever says, “I have come to know him,” but does not obey his commandments, is a liar, and in such a person the truth does not exist; but whoever obeys his word, truly in this person the love of God has reached perfection. By this we may be sure that we are in him:

Reader        The Word of the Lord.

People         Thanks be to God.

  

The Gospel of John, at the 20th Chapter

Consider yourself alive to God in Christ Jesus

Celebrant    The holy gospel according to John

People         Glory to you, O Lord.

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, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 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.”

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.” 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.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 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.” Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 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.

Celebrant    The Gospel of the Lord.

People        Thanks be to God.

 

Sermon                                                            Pastor Neil

 

Response to the sermon:

Celebrant: Let us bless the Lord.

People: Thanks be to God.

 

THE NICENE CREED

 We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.

 We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten not made, of one Being with the Father. Through him all things were made. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary and was made man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son, he is worshiped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets. We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.  We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.  Amen.

 

Prayers of the People    

 Reader        In peace, we pray to you, Lord God—

Grant, Almighty God, that all who confess your name may be united in your truth, live together in your love, and reveal your glory in the world. Lord, in your mercy, Hear our prayer.

Guide the people of this land, and of all the nations, in the ways of justice and peace; that we may honor one another and serve the common good. Heal the rifts that bind, vex, and scare us. Lord, in your mercy, Hear our prayer.

Give us all a reverence for the earth as your own creation, that we may use its resources rightly in the service of others and to your honor and glory. Heal the wounds of those who have been victimized by climate change and destruction. Lord, in your mercy, Hear our prayer.

Bless all whose lives are closely linked with ours, and grant that we may serve Christ in them, and love one another as he loves us. Lord, in your mercy, Hear our prayer.

Comfort and heal all those who suffer in body, mind, or spirit; give us purpose and hope in troubles, and bring us the joy of your salvation. Bestow courage upon those who look out at the world, and who wonder if there is a safe and gracious place for them. Lord, in your mercy, Hear our prayer.

We commend to your mercy all who have died, that your will for them may be fulfilled; and, we pray that we may share with all your saints in your eternal kingdom. Lord, in your mercy, Hear our prayer.

Silence to lift up our own prayers to God

 

Celebrant             Almighty God, by your Holy Spirit you have made us one with your saints in heaven and on earth: Grant that in our earthly pilgrimage, we may always be supported by this community of fellowship of love and prayer. We ask this for the sake of Jesus Christ, in whom all our intercessions are acceptable through the Spirit, and who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.

 

A Confession of Our Sins to God

People         God of all mercy, we confess that we have sinned against you, opposing your will in our lives. We have denied your goodness in each other, in ourselves, and in the world you have created. We repent of the evil that enslaves us, the evil we have done, and the evil done on our behalf. Forgive, restore, and strengthen us through our Savior Jesus Christ, that we may abide in your love and serve only your will. Amen.

Celebrant    Almighty God have mercy on us ☩, forgive us all our sins, and through the grace of Jesus Christ, strengthen us in all goodness, and by the power of the Holy Spirit keep us in eternal life. Amen.

 

THE GREAT THANKSGIVING

Celebrant            The Lord be with you.

People                  And also with you.

Celebrant             Lift up your hearts.

People                   We lift them to the Lord.

Celebrant             Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.

People                   It is right to give our thanks and praise.

God of all power, Ruler of the Universe, you are worthy of glory and praise. Glory to you for ever and ever.

At your command all things came to be: the vast expanse of interstellar space, galaxies, suns, the planets in their courses, and this fragile earth, our island home. By your will they were created and have their being.

From the primal elements you brought forth the human race, and blessed us with memory, reason, and skill. You made us the rulers of creation. But we turned against you, and betrayed your trust; and we turned against one another. Have mercy, Lord, for we are sinners in your sight.

Again and again, you called us to return to your fold. Through prophets and sages you revealed your righteous Law. And in the fullness of time you sent your only Son, born of a woman, to fulfill your Law, to open for us the way of freedom and peace. By his blood, he reconciled us. By his wounds, we are healed.

And therefore we praise you, joining with the heavenly chorus, with prophets, apostles, and martyrs, and with all those in every generation who have looked to you in hope—to proclaim with them your glory, in their unending hymn:

Celebrant and People Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.

Celebrant   And so, Father, we who have been redeemed by him, and
made a new people by water and the Spirit, now bring before you these gifts. Sanctify them by your Holy Spirit to be the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ our Lord.

On the night he was betrayed he took bread, said the blessing ☩, broke the bread, and gave it to his friends, and said, “Take, eat: This is my Body, which is given for you. Do this for the remembrance of me.”

After supper, he took the cup of wine, gave thanks ☩, and said, “Drink this, all of you: This is my Blood of the new Covenant, which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Whenever you drink it, do this for the remembrance of me.”

Remembering now his work of redemption, and offering to you this
sacrifice of thanksgiving, (said together) We celebrate his death and resurrection, as we await the day of his coming.

Lord God of our Ancestors: God of Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar; Isaac and Rebekah; and Jacob, Leah, and Rachel. God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, born to Mary, his mother, and watched over by Joseph, with a father’s care: Open our eyes to see your hand at work in the world about us. Deliver us from the presumption of coming to this table for solace only, and not for strength; for pardon only, and not for renewal. Let the grace of this Holy Communion make us one body, one spirit in Christ, that we may worthily serve the world in his name.

(said together) Risen Lord, be known to us in the breaking of the Bread.

Send now, we pray, your Holy Spirit, upon your redeemed and holy people, ☩ and upon these your gifts of bread and wine, that we may bear fruit worthy of repentance. Bless us to abound in hope, be filled with all joy and peace in believing, and receive our inheritance with all your saints in light.

People        Through Christ and with Christ and in Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, to you be honor, glory, and praise, for ever and ever. Amen.

And now, as our Savior Christ has taught us, we are bold to pray:

 

 

The Lord’s Prayer

    People         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, and the power, and the glory for ever and ever. Amen.

 

A Call to Communion

Celebrant   The gifts of God for the people of God. Take them in remembrance that Christ died for you, and feed on him in your hearts by faith, with thanksgiving.

 

The General Thanksgiving

Celebrant and People

Almighty God, Father of all mercies, we your unworthy servants give you humble thanks for all your goodness and loving-kindness to us and to all whom you have made. We bless you for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but above all for your immeasurable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ; for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory. And, we pray, give us such an awareness of your mercies, that with truly thankful hearts we may show forth your praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up ourselves to your service, and by walking before you in holiness and righteousness all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory throughout all ages. Amen.

Celebrant    Let us bless the Lord.
People        Thanks be to God.

 

The Blessing

Celebrant             Sisters and brothers, we go out into the world in peace. We live and walk as part of God’s beloved community. May God help us all to be of good courage, to hold on to what is good, and to return to no one an evil for an evil. Strengthen the faint-hearted, support the weak, aid the suffering, do justice and hope, honor all people, and let our gentleness be known by everyone. May God, who raised our Lord Jesus from death, lift us up and restore us to wholeness. And may God bless us all, ☩ in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

Celebrant    Go in peace to love and serve the Lord. Alleluia, Alleluia.

People         Thanks be to God. Alleluia, Alleluia.

 

 

MORE ABOUT THE ARTWORK ON THE FRONT OF THIS BULLETIN

The Incredulity of Saint Thomas is a painting by the Italian master Caravaggio, painted around c. 1601–1602. It is housed in the Sanssouci Picture Gallery, in Potsdam, Germany. It shows the episode that gave rise to the term “Doubting Thomas” which had been frequently represented in Christian art since at least the 5th century, and used to make a variety of theological points. According to St John’s Gospel, Thomas the Apostle missed one of Jesus’s appearances to the Apostles after His resurrection, and said “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 Jesus appeared and told Thomas to touch Him and stop doubting. Then Jesus said, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

 

In the painting, Thomas’s face shows surprise as Jesus holds his hand and guides it into the wound. The absence of a halo emphasizes the corporeality of the risen Christ. The compelling nature of the painting is increased because Caravaggio paints Jesus in unearthly beauty. The work is in shadow of darkness, pierced by light. “The Incredulity of Saint Thomas” was painted in the early years of Caravaggio’s residence and success in Rome. In this painting, Caravaggio depicts Thomas the Apostle’s skepticism of Jesus’ resurrection as told in the Gospel of John, with Thomas looking at—and touching and probing—Jesus’ wounds.

 

As with many of Caravaggio’s paintings, “The Incredulity of Saint Thomas” is swamped in theatrical darkness, bringing to life the central figures of Jesus and his apostles as if lit upon a stage. Because of Caravaggio realism in painting heavenly themes, his paintings created a sensation in Rome as both dramatic and divisive. Caravaggio’s technique was polarizing to contemporary Catholic critics with some considering it vulgar. Caravaggio used life models to render his work more realistic.

 

Given the originality of this approach, Caravaggio was an instant success on the art scene; he went on to secure numerous high-profile and prestigious commissions for other religious works. However, Caravaggio was not without his own personal controversy; he was known to drink, to fight and brawl, eventually fleeing Rome for Naples in 1606 after murdering someone.

 

Caravaggio offers us a profound theology of innocence through the Beauty of his art. Known for his gritty realism, Caravaggio has Jesus grasping the hand of the apostle Thomas and thrusting it deep within the wound at his side, powerfully aligning Jesus’ and St. Thomas” hands to form a lance. St. Thomas” face expresses profound surprise as his finger thrusts deep into Jesus’ wound. Perhaps, the surprise has to do with his unbelief. It could also be surprise at the realization that he, too, is also pierced. Indeed, St. Thomas appears to clutch his side as if he becomes aware of a wound at his side as well. And we who wince at this gritty depiction feel a wound at our side as well.