The Second Sunday of Easter
Tomb of the Apostle Thomas, Chennai, India.
The text is a Tamil translation of Thomas’s confession:
“My Lord and my God.” Public Domain.
See the texts, artwork and Revised Common Lectionary Prayers for this service at the Vanderbilt Divinity Library.)
Leccionario en Español, Leccionario Común Revisado: Consulta Sobre Textos Comunes.
Para obtener más recursos leccionario, Estudios Exegético: Homiléticos.
Lectionnaire en français, Le Lectionnaire Œcuménique Révisé
Acts 2:14a, 22-32
Peter declares the resurrection of Jesus to a crowd amazed at the signs of the Spirit's presence and power.
Psalm 16 (UMH 748).
The United Methodist Hymnal selection, from the former Common Lectionary, includes only verses 5-11. For a musical refrain, use a refrain line from one of the selections from TFWS (listed below) or sing Response 1 with a soloist or several voices singing the psalm to Tone 4 in G minor.
1 Peter 1:3-9.
We have been born anew and granted an imperishable inheritance in the Risen Lord.
This story is not only about Thomas, but about Jesus Christ. It reminds us, the body of Christ, to go to similar lengths to show the signs of Christ's resurrection to those who doubt so they may come to believe.
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Easter is a season, not a one-day event. The Great Fifty Days reach from last week up to and including the Day of Pentecost.
The discipling purpose of Easter Season historically is twofold. The first purpose is doctrinal. Easter Season was (and is) a season to for “mystagog,” teaching the “mysteries of the faith” (core doctrinal matters) to the newly baptized and reminding the rest of these core teachings. Second, it is a time to help the newly baptized, and indeed all the baptized, discern, claim or reclaim their spiritual gifts and their calling to ministry in Christ’s name and the Spirit’s power. Easter Season culminates with Pentecost, where we celebrate the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (doctrine) and commission persons into their ministries (ministry).
Every Sunday, and the days between them, has both a doctrinal focus and ministry focus.
While the Second Sunday of Easter Season is often thought of as a “Low Sunday,” you and your planning team should plan to position it as a “Launch Sunday” for the core doctrinal and ministry development work of Easter Season that lies ahead.
April 20-June 8: Easter Season
May 5-11 Christian Family Week
May 17-18 Change the World Weekend
May 24 Aldersgate Day
May 26 Memorial Day (USA)
May 29 Ascension of the Lord
June 8 Pentecost
June 15 Trinity Sunday, Father's Day and Peace with Justice Sunday (Discipleship Ministries Resources)
June 19 Juneteenth
July 4 Independence Day (USA)
Back to School Resources
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Atmospherics -- Doctrinal Focus: The Mind-Blowing Mystery of Resurrection
Last week, we celebrated the news of the Resurrection.
This week, we hear the proclamation of the reality and mystery of the Resurrection by early Christians at the time (the confession of Thomas), and throughout the first (Acts and I Peter) and possibly into the second century (I Peter and John’s gospel).
Last week, we were hearing and saying together in worship, perhaps repeatedly, “Christ is risen! The Lord is risen, indeed!”
This week, we are hearing and called to join in Thomas’s pronouncement, “The risen Christ is Lord.”
Last week, we reveled.
This week, we reflect on the mystery and its implications for our lives and all creation.
Last week, we heard from those who saw Jesus risen on that first Easter Day.
This week, we hear of those who did not see, at least initially (such as Thomas), and yet, as I Peter puts it, “believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy” (I Peter 1:8, NRSV).
This week, we join with the few who did see with their own eyes, such as Peter and those who joined him in preaching on the first Day of Pentecost following the Resurrection and the many more who did not, including the vast majority of the crowd Peter addressed that day.
And we begin by asking, where do we find ourselves today in relationship to the proclamation, “The risen Christ is Lord and God?”
Some of us may be like those pilgrims who journeyed to Jerusalem and were simply overwhelmed and perhaps more than a bit bewildered by what they saw and heard at the feast of Pentecost that year. They came expecting to celebrate the giving of the Law and the ingathering of the wheat harvest in the temple. But before they ever got to the temple, they encountered over 100 persons, women and men, older and younger, mostly Galileans, scattered in their midst and preaching in the languages of pilgrims near and far, languages most of these Galileans couldn’t possibly know. They came expecting a fairly orderly and joyous processional through the Holy City to the temple. They found instead a fairly raucous hubbub everywhere they turned.
How many folks who worship with you, not counting those you know who are not part of your congregation or any congregation, may simply find themselves a bit overwhelmed and bewildered by the hubbub that happens around Easter? Think about it: there may have been travel, meeting with family members infrequently seen, and special clothing purchased for the occasion. These special efforts may have heightened the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus for some. But for others, they may have distracted them or overwhelmed them. Indeed, the celebration of Resurrection, per se, may have gotten lost in all the shuffle. What indeed does the resurrection of Jesus have to do with all of that? Perhaps more poignantly, what does the resurrection of Jesus have to do with me and my life, now that all that hubbub is over and things are settling back to “normal?”
Both Acts and I Peter invite us to consider the testimony of those who saw or now experience the Risen Christ.
Our reading from Acts this week with Peter affirming, “This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses” (Acts 2:32 NRSV). And so all of them were. They had seen Jesus raised from the dead, and their preaching on this day was simply in response to what they had seen as the Spirit gave them ability to proclaim it. Sometimes the assertion of such facts is all that is needed to overcome bewilderment.
I Peter meanwhile points to the experience of the Christians and communities he addresses in this “baptismal sermon” as verification that the risen Christ is indeed among them and will raise them, too. They are aware of being “protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (verse 5), and they rejoice in this awareness (verse 6). They love Christ, believe in him, and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy (verse 8). These behavioral signs all point to the underlying truth of the resurrection of Christ and the salvation they are already receiving (verses 3 and 9). Often, where facts fail to move the overwhelmed or bewildered, such clear displays of feeling or action become lights in the darkness, or sparks to dried kindling. And for those who already believe, the reminder I Peter gives of how their lives already bear witness to the risen Lord in their midst often stirs their hearts to greater devotion.
But what of those in your midst who simply doubt the resurrection of Jesus entirely? The story of Thomas in John 20, which we read every year on this Sunday, shows one way. Thomas’s questions and doubts were legitimate. He was not with the other disciples when Jesus had first shown himself to them alive. On the eighth day (symbolic of new creation, Resurrection, the fullness of God’s kingdom come), Jesus did reveal himself to Thomas. Jesus first showed his wounds. Then he invited Thomas to touch his wounds.
John does not indicate whether Thomas actually touched Jesus’ wounds. The very next thing after Jesus’ invitation is Thomas’s confession. “My Lord and my God,” the strongest confession of the divinity of Jesus found anywhere in the New Testament.
In Your Planning Team
1. In light of the Scriptures and the commentary above, name where each of you may be with the doctrine (and mystery!) of the resurrection of Jesus at this point in your life. Specifically, do you find yourselves overwhelmed and bewildered (pilgrims to Pentecost)? Assured and rejoicing (the newly baptized and people addressed in I Peter)? Seriously doubting (Thomas)? Or boldly confessing (Thomas and the 100 plus in Acts)?
2. After you’ve named where you are, remind the team that a major purpose of Easter Season is to help those newly baptized and the whole congregation embrace the doctrines you will be addressing each week more fully than they/you may now. Then ask, “Given where you are, what could we do in worship to help you both understand and take the next step in embracing the mystery of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead?”
3. Use the insights you glean from this conversation to help you determine the music, artwork, and directions for preaching, as well as additional interactions through the coming week, that would be most likely to help the congregation as a whole take their next steps in embracing the mystery of Christ’s resurrection and its implications for their lives.
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Ministry Focus: Rejoicing with One Another through Suffering
This may seem an odd ministry focus for the Second Sunday in Easter, but it is exactly where the Epistle and the Gospel lead us today.
I Peter notes the “various trials” (verse 6) the newly baptized and other Christians he addresses are having to undergo. He then compares these trials to a “testing by fire” (verse 7) that helps separate gold from other minerals. The temperatures required to purify gold vary from 1000 to over 1900 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on the method used. We do not metaphorically associate the word “crucible” with a very severe trial for nothing! I Peter, then, is not talking about the normal aches and pains of life, nor even tragedies like disease or natural disasters. He is most likely talking about actual persecution for their faith, which some Christians were undergoing at the time.
I Peter does not dismiss these persecutions, but embraces them as part of the process by which God was sanctifying them, just as all Christians had already embraced suffering and death in embracing Christ crucified as Lord and putting their whole trust in Christ raised from the dead in their baptisms.
And we see in the midst of their suffering also their love, belief, and rejoicing with indescribable and glorious joy.
When Jesus appears before Thomas in our reading from John’s gospel, he does not try to wow Thomas with signs of glory. The proofs he offers are the wounds in his hands and side.
In Western cultures increasingly seeking to avoid pain or distract ourselves from it, these early Christian messages from I Peter and John’s gospel may seem anti-intuitive, to say the least. What correlates with “indescribable and glorious joy” is going through persecution for the hope of redemption in Christ? What turns doubt into powerful confession is showing wounds?
Yes, and yes. How we approach suffering inflicted upon us determines greatly both the degree of our personal transformation and sanctification and the power of our ministries in Christ’s name.
For us to embrace the doctrine of Resurrection is also to embrace the expectation of suffering for Christ’s name and to allow ourselves to walk toward and rejoice with all who are suffering.
This is why the Wesleys were as insistent as they were that all Methodists should be involved in direct ministry with the poor and suffering, including those in prisons. It was in ministry with such persons that we and they discover Christ most profoundly and find ourselves learning to rejoice with them with indescribable and glorious joy.
In Your Planning Team
This week’s ministry focus is on teaching the newly baptized and the rest of the congregation to embrace suffering, even persecution should it come, rather than avoid or distract ourselves from it.
1. Share how each of you currently approaches suffering in your life. Do you avoid it? Do you distract yourself from it? Do you (unnecessarily) invite it?
2. Share how each of you stays in touch with suffering people (or not). How have you found your spiritual life deepened and your ministry empowered when you have been with suffering people?
3. Based on the answers to these questions in your team, what kinds of encouragement, communication or other interventions would be most helpful either in worship today or during the coming week to help more of your congregation move away from avoiding or distracting themselves from suffering and move toward focusing more time and energy with suffering people?
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Embodying the Word: Eastertide Creeds and Confessions of Faith
The use of creeds and other affirmations of faith in worship had lost some popularity in some circles during the “seeker sensitive” movement of the late 1990s and early 2000s. But in the English-speaking world, the use of creeds has seen a resurgence across the spectrum from traditional to contemporary to emergent worshiping communities. More and more Christians are seeing the value of boldly proclaiming their faith during worship using words Christians have shared for decades or centuries. During this past decade, there has also been an explosion in the writing and use of new confessions of faith—whether sung or spoken.
If your congregation has fallen away from using creeds in worship or simply has never adopted the practice, the Easter Season is a good time to reclaim or start. Week after week, the Scriptures boldly declare the resurrection of Jesus. Why shouldn’t the body of Christ respond with an equally bold declaration?
The key is to declare the creeds boldly. No mere reading. No muttering. The creeds and confessions of faith are poetic, prophetic acclamations for the whole worshiping community to proclaim aloud.
When do you use the creed? Our basic service order (Word and Table I, UMH 7) indicates they are a response to the word read and proclaimed. In some earlier forms of Methodist Sunday worship, built more on Morning Prayer than a Lord’s Day Order, or modeled more on Reformed than Anglican models, the confession of faith happens at the beginning of worship, a way for the congregation to begin worship by idenitifying who and whose we are. Here in Easter Season, either placement can work, but after the word is read and proclaimed may make more sense.
Recommended Confession for the Second Sunday of Easter: Affirmation from I Corinthians 15 and Colossians 1, UMH 888
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- BOW 381
- BOW 456
- BOW 390
- BOW 394
- UMH 321
Prayer for Illumination (based on John 20:31)
Risen Lord, stand among us and cause us to hear what is written in the Scriptures so that we come to believe that you are the Son of God; and that believing, we may have life in your name. Amen.
Concerns and Prayers
- BOW 395
- BOW 397
- Ecumenical Cycle of Prayer: Eritrea, Ethiopia
BOW 66-67 (note the direct use of language from the 1 Peter reading in the prayer)
Prayer of Thanksgiving if Holy Communion is not celebrated
BOW 553 or 556
Dismissal with Blessing
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