22 Apr

Third Sunday of Easter

Read the texts online at the Vanderbilt Divinity Library:

Acts 3:12-19

Psalm 4 (UMH 741)

1 John 3:1-7

Luke 24:36b-48

Color: White




Planning - The Third Sunday of Easter


"Repent" -- A scene from the Washington National Mall.

Photo by takomabibelot. Used by permission under a Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.

Note that the sackcloth banner calling people to repent is accompanied by a smile!

Acts 3:12-19.

After a lame beggar is cured by the power of the Risen Lord through Peter and John, Peter invites the wondering crowd to repent and follow Jesus. Five thousand of them do!

Psalm 4 (UMH 741).

Thanks to God for vindication and rebuke/teaching to those who criticize or disgrace. The sung response is a line from the familiar song, "There is a balm in Gilead." For singing the psalm, consider Tone 5 in D minor.

1 John 3:1-7.

We are God's children now as we abide in Jesus. Abiding in Jesus enables us to live more and more without sin. Repentance is no one-time act, but a lifelong commitment to abide in Jesus. That is why we continue to purify ourselves that we may be like him when he appears.

Luke 24:36b-48.

After his appearance to two dispirited disciples heading toward Emmaus, Jesus tells the rest of those gathered at another meal to proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins in his name.

For Leccionario Comn Revisado: Consulta Sobre Textos Comunes (in pdf), click here.

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Worship Notes


The Third Sunday of Easter continues our celebration of the Risen Lord. On this Sunday last year, we heard the story of the Emmaus Road and experienced walking and talking with Jesus and recognizing him in the breaking of the bread. In Year B (this year), we hear the continuation of that story. We experience the awe of seeing the Risen Lord and his call to be witnesses of his resurrection to extend the call of repentance and forgiveness made possible through him. In Year C, we go fishing with Peter and experience breakfast with the risen Christ on the beach. All three years involve encounters at Table. Although this is a "fourth Sunday" rather than a "first Sunday," strongly consider the possibility of offering Holy Communion today.

Remember that Easter for us is not a single day, but a season. So as you plan, think of these weeks as a continuous series, each building on the previous, all leading to a crescendo of celebration at Pentecost. During these weeks, we reaffirm together what it means to serve a Risen Lord in the power of the Spirit, and prepare the newly baptized to understand our theology and use the gifts of the Spirit in ministry in the world. See "Worship Planning for Eastertide, Year B" for a planning guide to use the Eastertide lectionary texts to plan worship that supports the missional purpose of this season.

The General Conference of The United Methodist Church begins this week, April 24-May 4, in Tampa, Florida. We hope you will encourage your congregation to join in daily prayer for and with their delegates and leaders. See 50 Days of Prayer for General Conference for resources available in multiple languages and by multiple means to help you join United Methodists around the world in daily prayer.

Today (April 22) is also both Festival of God's Creation (Earth Sunday) and Native American Ministries Sunday (a Sunday with offering). Remember, it is also still Eastertide! So, as you plan worship, plan with Eastertide and its texts in mind first, and find ways to relate the programmatic and offering emphases to the Scriptures for the day. The links above take you to the primary support sites for these days in our denomination. You can find additional supports on the Discipleship Ministries website for Festival of God's Creation/Earth Day and Native American Ministries Sunday. This coming Friday at General Conference, evening worship will consist of an Act of Repentance to Native Americans and Indigenous Commmunities. Consider how worship and other initiatives this Sunday and in the weeks to come may help connect your congregation to this Act of Repentance in ways that allow our collective ritual action to move into real change on the ground where you are.

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Atmospherics: "Resurrection Invites Repentance"

The suggested theme for worship today seems almost an oxymoron. We associate Resurrection with joy, and repentance with sorrow. We associate Resurrection with exuberance, and repentance with solemnity. We associate Resurrection with life, and repentance with death, or at least with life gone wrong.

Yet in the stories of the resurrection of Jesus and his presence as Risen Lord in the early church, repentance is a constant theme and is constantly connected precisely with Resurrection! Like the face of the woman decked in sackcloth proclaiming "Repent" in the image above, these stories declare repentance with a broad smile!

Repentance with a smile? Yes! Christ is risen! Death is conquered. Christ is risen! Sin no longer has dominion over us. Christ is risen! We can truly be changed by the power of the Risen Lord dwelling in and among us. Christ is risen! We can repentfor the joy of it!

Repentance remains solemn work, to be sure. To undergo a change of mind and a redirection of our actions requires us to face the reality of our sinfulness, the harms we have caused, the harms in which we continue to participate, and the evil we may not yet have fully renounced. To repent almost always requires us to discover and uncover to others things we may not wish to admit about ourselves. Repentance requires vulnerability, that we lay ourselves open to experiencing wounds and truths about ourselves we may have tried to numb ourselves against.

Repentance is thus never a one-time act, but always a journey we take day by day, one step at a time.

That is part of why it seems daunting to us to undertake seriously. Repentance becomes our way of life if we do so.

Yet it is the first word of the commission Jesus gives to his disciples in our reading today. "Repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem" (Luke 24:47).

How will you plan worship today in ways that invite people to the hard work of repentance with a smile? How will you help people begin to grasp that the resurrection of Jesus means repentance is indeed good news, both for their own lives individually and for the life of the world?

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Atmospherics: The Texts

The common theme across this week's texts is repentance as a response to the resurrection of Jesus. Throughout his ministry, and throughout Lent in the church year, we repeatedly hear the call of Jesus to repent in response to his teaching that God's kingdom has drawn near. Often, that call can feel like condemnation, and the move toward repentance can feel like it is motivated by fear. For some, perhaps those whose lives were most invested in resisting God's reign for their own benefit, it surely was. But for most of his first hearers -- the poor, the marginalized, the sick, the mentally ill, the oppressed -- repentance meant the embrace of the good news that God really was on their side of history and they needn't live any longer as if those who claimed to have ultimate power really did. In short, the call to repentance during Jesus' ministry was, for most, a call to revolutionary hope.

The resurrection of Jesus made that revolutionary hope and its accompanying call to repent and receive God's forgiveness spread and multiply everywhere. The text from Luke this week, with its commission to declare repentance and forgiveness of sins, is the necessary background to the reading from Acts. If your congregation prefers to hear the readings in a more or less linear way, consider reading these "out of order" this week. Consider letting the reading from Luke come first today, and then the readings from Acts and I John.

In Acts, the kingdom-sign of the healing of a man born lame created the opportunity for a public call to repent, receive forgiveness, and follow Jesus. Note how Peter's proclamation proceeds. It starts with the fact of this man's healing and their astonishment. It names Jesus as the power by which this happened. It names their complicity in the execution of Jesus, but then immediately does two other things. It declares the resurrection of Jesus and recognizes that their complicity in his execution was the result of ignorance, not malice. This invitation, even to persons complicit in the execution of Jesus, thus moved away from condemnation and offered revolutionary hope. It was an offer of genuine repentance -- of metanoia, a change in consciousness that could cure their basic ignorance and unleash healing even for those that might be thought to be utterly incurable.

Where and how do folks in your worshiping community bear witness to the actions of God's reign overcoming what may have appeared to others to be beyond repair or change? When have folks where you are used such opportunities to declare the resurrection of Jesus, the presence of his reign, the offer of repentance and forgiveness, and the invitation to join them in following Jesus?

Encourage your worship planning team to think outside the usual boxes as they ponder this question. We're not talking about worship services here, necessarily. The story in our reading from Acts happens outdoors in the course of daily living! Maybe such stories have happened for your folks at a hospital or a funeral home. Maybe it was through an automobile accident or an AA meeting. Maybe it was a surprising decision in a courtroom or a social worker's office. Maybe it was in a classroom, or via Twitter! Wherever and however they happened, connect these stories to this text in some way -- through art, storytelling, images, song, whatever it might be. Consider including examples from such stories among your prayers of thanksgiving today. And consider giving thanks both for what was recorded in Luke and Acts and what has happened in your midst as part of your thanksgiving at the Lord's Table today.

I John explores the same theme in a different way for a different audience. While the story in Acts describes disciples in ministry literally outside in the world, the words in I John are directed to disciples gathering exclusively as disciples and addressing especially their "personal" lives. "Remember what you are," John says, "children of God destined to look like Jesus in his final appearing." That's the reason we can continue to live repentant lives. That's why we "keep cleansing ourselves." (The verb here is mostly associated with cleansing by water -- an allusion to baptism and so to God's gracethan other "ascetic" forms of self-purification). Continuing to cleanse ourselvesabiding and growing in sanctifying grace, as John Wesley might put it-- means we are living out of our identity as God's children. It also means we will attain "that holiness without which no one shall see the Lord" (Hebrews 12: 14, often quoted by Wesley).

There is a kind of spirituality out there that says something like "If I just listen to my inner self, my true self, and follow through on that naturally, I will be fulfilling God's will. I don't need rules and laws and guidance for practices."

I John does not support this view. Instead, John immediately says, "Everyone doing sin is practicing lawlessness. And sin is lawlessness" (verse 4). Our call to continue cleansing ourselves is a call to practices attentive to the law and way of Jesus who came "to eliminate sins" (plural, referring again to practices, not "nature"). Sin was not part of his own nature ("sin is not in him," verse 5). "All abiding in him," staying close to him, "are not sinning." Why? Not simply by spiritual proximity. They are cleansing themselves (verse 3), and it is those practicing righteousness that are righteous (verse 7). The logic is not reversible. It is not that if we are righteous (by nature) we won't be able to do sin. We are not righteous by nature. Only God is.

It's that if we are doing righteousness, we will become righteous and participate in Christ's elimination of sin from the world and sin's power over our lives.

In I John, the words are simple. The Greek is perhaps the easiest to translate in the entire New Testament. But the task of interpretation, as we have seen, can be intense. How will you and your worship planning team help your worshiping community both hear and understand this teaching about repentance in response to the Resurrection today?

You might start by asking folks on your worship planning team what their practices of righteousness are, and how they've seen people deeply practiced in such ways growing more like Jesus, able to see him as he is. See where that conversation leads in your group, what stories are told, what images are evoked, what songs may be brought to mind. You might think about where in the normal flow of worship you are, or in the flow you design for today, these examples may fit. Might it be in preparation for confession, pardon and peace before Communion? Or perhaps as a response to the sermon, giving testimony to how, indeed, a life of repentance (continually cleansing ourselves) draws us closer to Christ and frees us from sin? If you are offering baptism or receiving new members today, might there be tie-ins there? Or might this be an emphasis that you need to let folks take home with them, or take up in a small group or in a Facebook group during the week?

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Compass Points

Experience and storytelling. One way to connect the experience of the Third Sunday of Easter to Native American Awareness Sunday is through the practice of storytelling one or more of the readings, or offering the sermon more as story than as exposition. For examples and guidance for telling the gospel lesson today, see Thomas Boomershine's GoTell website.

Baptism and the newly baptized. Not only are the Sundays of Easter appropriate days for baptism, but they are also wonderful days for preaching to the baptized, both to the newly baptized and to those who have been living in the baptismal covenant for a long time. You may want to consult William Willimon's Peculiar Speech: Preaching to the Baptized or The Intrusive Word: Preaching to the Unbaptized for help with this approach to preaching.

If there were baptisms (or professions of faith or confirmations) on Easter Sunday or last Sunday, be sure to continue to affirm, pray for, and attend to these people. Integrate them into the life of the congregation especially your worship life! We have ample witness from the early church that the newly baptized all served at the altar (with the clergy!) during the daily Eucharist for the entire week after their baptisms. (Yes, daily Communion!) Continue to work with them to discern their spiritual gifts and how they sense God calling them in daily-life ministry. See pages 107-108, 120, 143 in Come to the Waters. Begin planning now for a "Service of Affirmation of Ministry" on the Day of Pentecost.

Living resources. As you plan, think about the people in your church and community and consider how you can invite them to participate in worship. For example, are there Native Americans who can lead in prayer or offer music that enriches your celebration? Are there ecumenical representatives who could bring greetings or lead in prayers for the unity of the church? Are there people who need to hear that God is out to forgive them? Who from your congregation is making sure this good news gets out?

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Resources in The United Methodist Book of Worship and UMH

Act of Congregational Centering: BOW 470 (Native American)

Response: BOW 197 Shawnee Traveling Song (Native American)

Call to Worship: BOW 184, "Kiowa Hymn" (Native American)

Greeting: BOW 379 (Easter, Native American)

Greeting: BOW 458 (Native American)

Greeting or Litany: BOW 425 (Native American)

Opening Prayer: BOW 455 (Native American)

Canticle: UMH 646, "Canticle of Love" (Psalm, 1 John)

Prayer of Confession: BOW 487 (Native American); 494 (Festival of God's Creation

Prayer: UMH 329, Prayer to the Holy Spirit (Luke, Native American)

Prayer: BOW 507, For Creation; 508, Psalm of the Woodlands (Festival of God's Creation)

Prayer: BOW 512, For Guidance (1 John)

Prayer of Intercession: BOW 399, Week 3 (Easter)

Great Thanksgiving: BOW 66-67

Prayer of Thanksgiving (if no Lord's Supper): BOW 396 (Luke)

Prayer of Thanksgiving (if no Lord's Supper): BOW 553 (Acts), 556-558 (Festival of God's Creation)

Response: BOW 176, "Heleluyan" (Native American)

Blessing: BOW 560 (Psalm)

Blessing: BOW 562 (Native American)

Benediction: BOW 190, "Benediction" (Psalm)

See Book of Worship 425 for additional suggestions for Native American Sunday. (Note: Festival of God's Creation was added to the United Methodist Program calendar after the publication of The United Methodist Book of Worship in 1992. That is why that volume does not contain a set of resources specified for that use).

The Ecumenical Cycle of Prayer: Djibouti, Somalia

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Notes for Acts 3:12-19

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Notes for Luke 24:36b-48

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Putting the Sermon Together

Consider which of the following you might include in this week's sermon:

  • Faith and doubt

  • Faith and healing

  • Resurrection and testimony

Questions to consider:

  1. "Why do you stare at us as though by our own power or piety we had made him walk?" What does the postmodern, post-Christendom church believe about healing and miracles?

  2. The Eleven believed after they saw and touched Christ. What is the basis of the faith of the multitude of today's Christians?

  3. The Emmaus believers ran to share their testimony of an encounter with the Risen Lord. What does this passage suggest about the nature and importance of testimony?

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Sermon Starters

Acts 3:12-19

Old Time Religion? When Peter preached to the Jews in the courtyard, he used reverence for a shared past as a basis for trusting God more fully in Christ. Peter started with Christ's Jewish heritage. Jesus was a servant of the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and their ancestors. The Jews in the courtyard had more in common than they realized with these strange believers who had just healed a lame beggar.

Peter modeled a common strategy for missions and evangelism. He started with what would have been common ground before stretching his audience on the importance of the Christ event. Peter's sermon, delivered to the Jews present near the Temple, anchored Christ in their own history.

As more and more people stumble into churches without faith memories, what common ground will you use in your sermons to help newcomers connect with the Christian faith? Not so long ago, effective preaching could build upon the faith stories of the local community. Today, however, Dr. George Hunter reminds us that Americans may now have as many as three generations of people in one family who have no Christian memories! It may be hard to imagine a child, her mother, and her grandmother with no experience with the church, but this is becoming increasingly true!

Where is the common ground for today's sermons? You might start with analyzing what today's people are concerned about, what they aspire to, and how they identify themselves in current affairs and history. Compare their fears, hopes, and self-location with that of biblical people during Jesus' time as you imagine how you might preach Jesus to the people in your courtyard.

The Name that Heals. What a powerful statement. Faith in the name of Jesus has made this man strong! The reports of events beyond the natural found in Acts are often unsettling to the ultra-rational twenty-first century mind. Don't be afraid to just report the story, without an attempt to rationalize. The gospel is meant to be unsettling and thought provoking.

Luke 24:36b-481

See From Emmaus to Jerusalem.

Not in spirit only. What will you say to your congregation about the Resurrection of Jesus Christ? There have been a number of church controversies, past and present, over the nature of Christ's body both before and after the Resurrection. Several online resources are provided on this subject, including what The United Methodist Articles of Religion say about the Resurrection of Christ and John Wesley's notes on the passage.

What are you afraid of? We live in a time of great fear and anxiety, as did the early disciples. Violence and hate have rented a permanent spot on the evening news. The economy is still in a fragile state of recovery. World events are unpredictable, and countries once considered our allies now have new, unfamiliar rulers. The world as we know it has been turned upside down. The disciples' world was also turned upside down. Their leader had been crucified, and those who followed him closely went from celebrity to suspect. What would their future hold? Chaos or celebration?

Jesus appeared among them and spoke words of peace to those fears and doubts. How does Jesus appear among us today, and what is God saying to us about doubt and fear -- even in the midst of national, international, and economic crises?

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Online Resources

Preacher's Portal on Patheos with Alyce McKenzie and John Holbert (Perkins/SMU)

Center for Excellence in Preaching Commentary (Acts)

Center for Excellence in Preaching Commentary (Luke)

Sermon Helps from WorkingPreacher.org (Luther Seminary)

"Repossessing Virtue: Parker Palmer on "Economic Crisis, Morality and Meaning" from the American Public Media series: "Speaking of Faith"

"Processing through Pain" (pdf) -- A sample chapter from Mad Church Disease: Overcoming the Burnout Epidemic by Anne Jackson

Official United Methodist beliefs about the Resurrection of Jesus Christ can be found in the Book of Discipline under the Articles of Religion.

"The Good News Is for Everyone" -- Sermon by Bishop Minerva Carcao (UMC)

Folding Screens and Forgiveness -- Sermon by the Rev. Benjamin Anthony (Episcopal)

Seeing the Dead -- Blog post from the Rev. Peter Pangore (UCC)

"Peter's Speech in Solomon's Porch" -- From the IVP New Testament Commentary

"Easter on the Road" -- A vintage sermon by Martin Marty

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Print Resources

Preaching Luke-Acts by Ronald Allen

The Storyteller's Companion to the Bible, Volume 12: Acts of the Apostles by Michael Williams and Dennis Smith

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BOW - The United Methodist Book of Worship
CLUW - Come, Let Us Worship (Korean)
MVPC - Mil Voces Para Celebrar (Spanish)
SOZ - Songs of Zion
TFWS - The Faith We Sing
UMH - The United Methodist Hymnal
URW - Upper Room Worshipbook
WSM  - Worship & Song, Music Edition
WSW  - Worship & Song, Worship Resources Edition
SoG  - Songs of Grace


And Can It Be that I Should Gain




Author of life divine


Christ Has Risen


Come, Sinners, to the Gospel Feast (Communion)


Come, Sinners, to the Gospel Feast (Invitation)



Come, Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy


God of Grace and God of Glory



He Lives




Healer of Our Every Ill



Loving Spirit



My Song Is Love Unknown


Now the Green Blade Riseth


Cares Chorus


Children of the Heavenly Father



God Has Smiled on Me


If Thou But Suffer God to Guide Thee


Lead Me, Guide Me


Lead Me, Lord



Lord of All Hopefulness



Maker, in Whom We Live


My Soul Is at Rest


Please Enter My Heart, Hosanna


Precious Lord, Take My Hand




We Bring the Sacrifice of Praise


You Are Mine


Amazing Grace! How Sweet the Sound





Baptized in Water


Celebrate Love


Change My Heart, O God



Children of the Heavenly Father



Come, We That Love the Lord (Marching to Zion)




Come, We That Love the Lord (St. Thomas)


Cry of My Heart


Draw Us in the Spirit’s Tether


God, Whose Love Is Reigning o’er Us




He Came Down


Holy, Holy


I Want a Principle Within


Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee


Jesus, Thine All-Victorious Love


Living for Jesus


Lord, I Want to Be a Christian




Lord, Listen to Your Children


Love Divine, All Loves Excelling



O How He Loves You and Me


O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go




O Love, How Deep, How Broad, How High


O World of God


Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven



Sing with All the Saints in Glory



Take Time to Be Holy


The Strife Is O’er, the Battle Done


There Are Some Things I May Not Know


Water Has Held Us


Your Love, O God, Has Called Us Here


Alleluia, Alleluia! Give Thanks to the Risen Lord


As we focus on money


Blessed Jesus, at Thy Word



Camina, Pueblo de Dios (Walk On, O People of God)



Christ for the World We Sing



Christ the Lord Is Risen Today




Come, Let Us with Our Lord Arise


Come, Ye Faithful, Raise the Strain


Enlighten our hearts, Father of glory


Go Ye, Go Ye into the World


God of Life, your risen Son has gathered


Hail the Day That Sees Him Rise



Hail, Thou Once Despised Jesus


He Is Lord, He Is Lord!




He Lives




Holy Spirit, Rain Down on this Place


May the love of the Father enfold us


Nurturing God, let us not grow weary


O Sons and Daughters, Let Us Sing


Precious Lord, amid the twinkling lights


Stay with Us



Surely the Presence of the Lord Is in This Place




The Day of Resurrection



Thine Be the Glory, Risen, Conquering Son





Offertory Prayers

God of all creation, you have put a gladness in our hearts that goes far beyond any craving for food, drink, or the comforts that the world would offer us. Help us to see beyond the many desires for things that can't begin to bring us the contentment that being generous disciples will pour into our lives. As we present these gifts to you, may our offerings of service, of prayers, of witness, and of wealth be pleasing to you and fill our lives with the joy that is like no other. We pray in the name of the Risen Christ. Amen. (Psalm 4)