Grace in the darkness: walking in the light (click here)
April 11, 2021 Easter 2
Welcome to Worship with St. Andrew’s Salmon Arm. We are so glad that you have joined us, and hope that you will find a blessing here.
- Scripture Readers sought: In an effort to keep improving our experience of worship, we are asking for people to sign up to read Scripture. We have heard how much you miss hearing each other’s voices. You can come to the regular video Session on Saturday’s at 11:00 or arrange with John to submit a video or audio file. Scripture Lessons for the post-Easter season are available from Ena. Please prayerfully consider taking part in this expansion of our worship experience.
- Special Prayers: Shirley asks for prayer for her brother Bill and his wife Sarah. Their home in Kupong was damaged in the cyclone that hit Timor this past week. Pray for them and all who are rebuilding following the cyclone.
- We ask for prayers for Dianne and her whole family following the death of her mother, Henny Kloostra.
- April's Loonie offering is going to Second Harvest Food Bank. Please check the "Recent Posts" for more info and how to donate. Thank you for your continued support of our Loonie offerings.
Lighting the Christ Candle
The light of Christ has come among us.
Thanks be to God
CALLED TO WORSHIP
Come to me, all you who sit in darkness
and in the shadow of death!
On you has the light shone!
For Jesus Christ is the light of the world
and this is the story;
the light shines in the darkness
and the darkness could not put it out!
“I am the resurrection and the life.
I am the bright and morning star.”
We join with the angels in their hymns of praise;
Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, Alleluia!
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!
PRAYER OF APPROACH
in whom we know the power of redemption,
you stand among us in the shadows of our time.
As we move through every sorrow and trial of this life,
uphold us with knowledge of the final morning
when, in the glorious presence of your risen Son,
we will share in his resurrection,
redeemed and restored to the fullness of life
and forever freed to be your people. Amen.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION:
Lord, you have called us to be children of light, and we want to be, but sometimes we act more like children of darkness. Children of light love and care for others, but too often we love ourselves most and take care only of ourselves. Children of light are honest in all things, but we sometimes twist the truth to get our own way. Children of light admit it when they are wrong, but we try to cover up our sins or pretend that they are only mistakes. Forgive us.
ASSURANCE OF PARDON:
Because we are children of light, we know that we are not perfect. We also know that God loves us. Indeed, Jesus lived, died, and has risen so that we might know that God forgives us. When we admit our sins, God promises to forgive us.
We remember always, that in Jesus Christ we are forgiven.
Thanks be to God.
PASSING THE PEACE
The peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you. And also with you.
Share a sign of peace with those nearby, or ask the Spirit to bring his peace to another you may know, or to a world situation.
WE HEAR GOD’S WORD
Listen, hear and remember, these portions of the revelation of God’s word for us.
1 John 1: 1-10
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 2 The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. 3 We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4 We write this to make our[a] joy complete.
5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all[b] sin.
8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.
John 20: 24-31
Now Thomas (also known as Didymus[a]), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”
But he said to them, “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.”
26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe[b] that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
These first few weeks after Easter are about the gradual emerging from the darkness and into the light. We see that truth so beautifully displayed in Thomas who proclaims, “unless I put my fingers in the nail holes in his hands, I will not believe.”
The struggle to believe, especially after such a long, dark and frightening experience is very real. We see it played out in our own lives all the time. When someone we love recovers after a devastating accident or health incident… the words we speak show not only our joy, but also our disbelief that this miracle could be true. Maybe its that we don’t experience or acknowledge the miracles that surround us, or maybe it is because the darkness in us is fighting the light.
That is where community is an essential part of everyone’s faith journey. We encourage one another, we uphold each other in prayer, we remind those around us of the glorious truth of the gospel and of how much God loves us.
The other disciples must have been both compassionate and kind to Thomas in those days following the resurrection; because it is a week after that conversation that Jesus appears once again in the Upper Room, and Thomas is still with the other disciples.
After a week of encouragement and acceptance; love and prayers, in and of themselves the acts of grace that flow through the community of believers, for Thomas, in Jesus, grace abounds.
Jesus appears and without condemnation, without frustration and without any disappointment in Thomas goes directly to him and offers his hands for Thomas to touch.
Do we remember how many times on the journey, when Jesus in frustration commented on their slowness of understanding? None of that is present this day. It is a day that is all about grace and how that grace moved Thomas from the darkness into the light.
This is an act of love.
John, who often speaks of himself as the disciple that Jesus loves, does not speak of that claim with any arrogance, but with humility, as we see his faith unfolding in the communities that he gathers around him.
The three letters of John are an exploration of that love as a means of encouraging the believers to embrace the light of God’s truth and love in the growing pains of the congregation. Nothing that is important is ever easy and others will often have different ideas and goals than we do for trying to accomplish the same task.
The encouragement to love is much the same as acknowledging that you are loved. If John can say boldly that he is the disciple that Jesus loves, then we too can say boldly that we are the disciples that Jesus loves. And just as Jesus accepted and loved John in spite of his flaws, so Jesus accepts and loves us; thus the message from John is clear--when we love as Jesus loved, we accept and love each other in spite of our flaws.
There are denominations, like the Mennonites, who work through congregational conflict by asking the question, “what do we agree on? Only Jesus Christ. The rest is just details”.
John takes a similar approach to the matters that the community struggles with. He tells them that what is central is the light and life that is revealed in Jesus. He reminds them that God reveals the way of the cross as the route where radical condemnation is trumped by radical grace for all.
The cost of dwelling in darkness is confronted by the everlasting light of God’s love.
John wants the followers to be aware that by being exposed to the light and by facing the darkness that lurks in their own hearts, they have found the place where Grace and Love abound and darkness is defeated.
God’s presence illuminates, offers guidance, and gives strength to all the believers in order that they can live differently.
That difference changes our focus from the sins and flaws of those around us, to bringing our own flaws and sins to the light of God’s love. I am reminded of the saying from the AA and Alanon groups, which tells us, that the only person’s inventory that we can take is our own. That is the starting point of our healing in the love and grace of God.
So John goes on to tell the people what he has seen and what he has known. He has seen the darkness of the death of Jesus. And he has seen the light of the resurrected Christ. He has also seen the shadowy existence of those who struggle to move from darkness to light, and the love, acceptance and support of the community who held the person who struggled in grace.
Thus, when we walk in the light, we have an acceptance of one another. We are grace for one another.
This past week I have been reading the book, Better than Brunch. The premise is that our faithful gathering for worship is better than the brunch that many congregations plan for after worship. In some cases, the brunch seems to have become the real main event.
No, this book reminds us that worship is better than brunch, better than anything. Worship is pivotal in the lives of believers because it brings us into the presence of God who is grace. Worship also brings us into the presence of the community of God’s people, where we share that experience of being loved by God and being filled with grace and of being accepted by God and one another.
Ken Evers-Hood speaks of his experience of leading a congregation that dwells in the light of grace. He says it is about being a place of generous community, adventuring and buoyancy.
The church that dwells in the light of grace is a place where questions are welcome, and where it is acknowledged that everyone is different and at a different place in their journey. He adds: “The church is the community that brings people together and lifts them up with joy, hope and laughter.”
In First John we read that the church is the faithful who meet together, each acknowledging their own sinfulness and their own need of Jesus. John reminds us that the only way to have genuine fellowship is to embrace the steps in our own journey with our walk with God. And we accept that the others are on their own journey with their walk with God.
It does not look like our journey; but that’s the point. God’s walk with each one of us, is about giving each one of us the grace that we need for the day. It is what we ask for in the Lord’s prayer: and give us this day our daily bread. Your bread is different from mine and mine is different from yours. That’s as it should be.
Ken Evers-Hood reminds us that the church is a place of acceptance of one another without judgement. A place without judgment is one where we acknowledge that if Judas was welcomed at the table by Jesus, who are we to say that someone shouldn’t be showing up?
That statement took me aback. If the one who betrays Jesus is welcome, then who isn’t welcome? I have a list of names, is what I want to say… what about so and so, or the other person.
Again, we are reminded in 1 John, that the only sinfulness we can look at is our own. We are reminded that John walked with the man who accepted sinners, tax collectors, prostitutes, thieves and betrayers into his inner circle. Jesus worked with each person where they were at. Never once did he condemn.
Yes, he who was without sin, did sometimes remind people to sin no more, or shed the light on the pathway they needed to travel to make amends. But we are people with sin. That kind of judgement belongs to Jesus and to God; not to us.
We deal with our own sin and bring it into the light of God’s grace, and leave the others to deal with their sin as they bring it into the light of God’s grace.
When we encounter grace in the darkness, and walk in the light of that grace, then worship becomes our lives lived in response to God’s love and God’s passion for justice and reconciliation. With that commitment to walk in the light of God’s love, worship expands our imagination, takes away the darkness and makes it possible to more fully encounter and embrace the reality of God.
Grace in the darkness. It is the gift of love for you and for me. Glory be to God. Amen
Today we remember the gift of Jesus Christ given to us. We join together giving thanks to God, by bringing our offering into the storehouse. Please check the front page of the website for ways in which you can contribute. Thank you.
Generous and surprising God, when we thought that death
had claimed your only Son, you amazed us with the resurrection.
Surprise us again with your ability to turn these humble offerings
into gifts that will transform the world through our witness to your love.
We lay our very lives at your feet, O God, knowing that you will use us
to proclaim and embody the gospel. Amen.
PRAYERS OF THANKSGIVING AND INTERCESSION
Jesus, spirit, companion, friend, you embrace the whole world with human/divine love and caring. Bring your caring touch, we pray, into all of our relationships. Remind us to be patient. Remind us to look for the person you love in all those whom we meet. Remind us to look for the person you love in ourselves. Remind us to look for love.
You ask each of us to show our love for you by tending and feeding your world and its people. Enable us to recognize the people and places to whom we are being sent. Enable us to offer love.
Open us to fresh expressions of your loving of us, so that we can be more whole and more accepting of ourselves and out of that acceptance move toward others with trusting hearts.
With trusting hearts we ask you to direct our thoughts and actions to what we can do to serve you. We are physically constrained for now, but with your Spirit we can reach out to touch your world in so many ways. Show us the path, call us forth in new ways, show us how to build community both in the congregation and in the community at our doorstep.
Turn us from mourning into dancing. Loosen our sackcloth. Gird us with gladness. We don’t mean just in our response to your glorious resurrection, remind us to dance in all of our living. To dance in the darkness. To sing in the gloom. To praise you from our own upper rooms.
But remind us that we are meant to pray for peace and for comfort for those who mourn, right now, as the enter the time of waiting to be reunited with those whom they love.
We remember the Queen and her family mourning Prince Phillip.
We remember all those who mourn a friend or family member who has died of the Corona virus. Surround them all in peace. Comfort them with your whispered promises that those who die are invited into your glorious presence.
Today we pray especially for Diane and her family. Guide them through the days ahead as they explore the options to make or delay plans. Each with its own extra level of pain. We are grateful that for them Hennie has made her plans known, now guide them we pray through the Covid guidelines to make choices that will be best for their whole family. We ask not just for peace and comfort, but for wisdom and acceptance in the journey of these next few days.
We pray for the people of Timor and especially of Bill’s family in Kupong. Help them to assess and to rebuild. Help them to find sources of aid. Guide them in decisions about rebuilding. And in that they must do in a hurry, send your Spirit to comfort, to bring peace, and to provide a place to breathe and to be calm.
God, Father, Son and Spirit, you go before us and call us into the future.
Encourage our community as we form and re-form ourselves as your Body.
Just as the revelations of Easter energized the first disciples, so we would be energized to dream new visions and be open to new risks and to the unknown. Challenge us to find the ways to go forth as we serve the people among whom we live. Guide us as we work for the peace and prosperity of our town.
OUR PRAYERS FOR THE COMMUNITY
We pray for our dark and dreary world, caught in a Pandemic, a world in need – in need not just of a technical fix, but in need of love and grace, forgiveness and new life, hope, peace and fellowship, in need of renewal, in need of YOU.
This week we pray for: Local Charities, Thrift Stores, Shuswap Community Foundation and the Service Groups/Clubs whose work supports numerous charitable endeavors.
Hear us now as we pray as Jesus taught us saying, 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 debts as we forgive our debtors, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory for ever. Amen
CHARGE AND BENEDICTION
May you trust in God’s promises to his people:
even when they are difficult to believe.
May you know that God’s news is good news,
even when people tell you it is not.
And when you encounter doubt,
may you strengthen your belief
guiding you in his perfect wisdom and counsel.
SUNG BLESSING: Blessed be the name of the Lord