April 16, 2023

Prayer of the Day

Almighty and eternal God, the strength of those who believe and the hope of those who doubt, may we, who have not seen, have faith in you and receive the fullness of Christ’s blessing, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.


Acts 2:14a, 22-32

14aPeter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed [the crowd], 22“You that are Israelites, listen to what I have to say: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through him among you, as you yourselves know—23this man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law. 24But God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power. 25For David says concerning him, 
 ‘I saw the Lord always before me,
  for he is at my right hand so that I will not be shaken;
26therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;
  moreover my flesh will live in hope.
27For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,
  or let your Holy One experience corruption.
28You have made known to me the ways of life;
  you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’
29“Fellow Israelites, I may say to you confidently of our ancestor David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30Since he was a prophet, he knew that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would put one of his descendants on his throne. 31Foreseeing this, David spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, saying, 
 ‘He was not abandoned to Hades,
  nor did his flesh experience corruption.’
32This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses.”

Psalm 16

1Protect me, O God, for I take ref- | uge in you;
  I have said to the Lord, “You are my Lord, my good a- | bove all other.”
2All my delight is in the godly that are | in the land,
  upon those who are noble a- | mong the people.
3But those who run after | other gods
  shall have their troubles | multiplied.
4I will not pour out drink offerings | to such gods,
  never take their names up- | on my lips. 
5O Lord, you are my portion | and my cup;
  it is you who up- | hold my lot.
6My boundaries enclose a | pleasant land;
  indeed, I have a | rich inheritance.
7I will bless the Lord who | gives me counsel;
  my heart teaches me night | after night.
8I have set the Lord al- | ways before me;
  because God is at my right hand, I shall | not be shaken. 
9My heart, therefore, is glad, and my spir- | it rejoices;
  my body also shall | rest in hope.
10For you will not abandon me | to the grave,
  nor let your holy one | see the pit.
11You will show me the | path of life;
  in your presence there is fullness of joy, and in your right hand are pleasures for- | evermore. 

1 Peter 1:3-9

3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, 7so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, 9for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

John 20:19-31

19When 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.” 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

24But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25So 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.”
26A 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.” 27Then 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.” 28Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

30Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31But 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.

The Incredulity of Saint Thomas by Carvaggio

Sermon – Pastor Meggan Manlove

Christ is risen but Easter is not over.  We need the seven weeks of Easter to ponder the mystery of resurrection. How do we see Christ? Each of the four gospels has its own story about seeing Jesus. In Mark, no one sees the risen Christ. In Matthew, the disciples see Jesus in the obedience of worship and by doing what Jesus says- forgiving each other and living lives of compassion and mercy. In Luke, disciples walk toward Emmaus and then see Jesus in the breaking of bread. John’s gospel tells another story.

In today’s passage, the risen Christ appears to his disciples twice in a room with locked doors. In these appearances we see Jesus amid gracious acts. He offers himself so that people will believe or trust. These passages tell the story of our roots as Christians, our roots as the Body of Christ.  

First, remember that when Jesus first enters the room he speaks these holy words, “Peace be with you.” Jesus enters our hiding places, the places we run to when we are afraid. He enters with the marks of the cross. The peace he left with the disciples on the night before he was crucified is the peace he brings to disciples on the night of resurrection. 

We deeply need these words of promise. Elie Weisel, the author who survived the prison in Auschwitz, said that the opposite of faith is not doubt but anxiety. We live in an anxious world. Where are we to put our trust? Where do we go for hope?  The world is filled with uncertainty.  

We do not know what the future holds and when we speculate, we are faced with ladders to climb and barriers to go through in every stage of life, in every community. It is common to feel uneasyand distressed about what lies ahead. We question what is necessary for the future to be peaceful.  

How do we continue to put our trust in God risen from the dead, in this anxious world?  In this country there is sometimes even an implied understanding that to be a true believer one must have certain kinds of experiences, point to specific things, completely understand scripture and other matters of faith.

There is an alternative. The path between anxiety and militant certainty is faith, maybe better described as trust. And rather than being a character to mock or feel sorry for, the disciple Thomas can be our guide. I remember when I viewed my first image of Thomas standing with Jesus, when today’s text came alive for me.  In his characteristic style of strong contrasts between light and dark hues, the artist Carvagio painted Thomas looking at Jesus’ marks, on his hands and side.  There is wonderment in Thomas’ eyes. It is clear that Thomas has faith. It is this faith, rather than unbelief, that we are meant to see in Thomas.  

Thomas asks only to see what the other disciples have already seen–the marks of the crucifixion on Jesus. Thomas wants to believe and Jesus offers himself. And then Thomas gives what is the most powerful and complete confession of Jesus in the Gospel of John, “My Lord and my God.” It is quite a declaration when one considers that Caesar was considered to be and was called Lord throughout the Roman Empire.

Thomas wanted faith and Jesus’ words were not ones of judgment or reprimand. It was not with a harsh and shameful tone that Jesus said, “Put your finger here; look, here are my hands…. Do not be unbelieving anymore but believe.”  Jesus speaks with a tone of grace. 

The gospel writer John wants us to know that having seen Jesus is not a prerequisite of trusting God or of professing like Thomas, “My Lord and my God” when speaking of Jesus. When John lays out the purpose of his entire gospel he writes, “there are many other signs that Jesus worked in the sight of the disciples, but they are not recorded in this book. These are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing this you may have life through his name.”  

A relationship with Jesus is not limited to the first disciples. We do not see Jesus as the disciples did in those post-Easter appearances, but we see Jesus in our lives.

In the water of Baptism and the bread and wine of Holy Communion, you have received gifts of forgiveness and new life through Jesus.  

Another image this morning’s text brings to mind comes from the home I grew up in. Off the dining room was a wall full of artwork—photos, paintings, mosaics, carvings, mostly with ties to Christianity.  In the top right corner was a dark wooden piece with two images on it. One is a hand with a hole in the middle—a hole just large enough for a nail to have been pierced through.  The other is a loaf of bread.  

The hand with the hole in it was for the early disciples. The bread is for you and me. Having heard the promises and receiving the bread and wine, you and I have been carried out of our fear and anxiety into the world with the good news of forgiveness and abundant life. We give thanks because we have entered the mystery and received forgiveness and new life. Like Thomas we continue to confess with confidence Sunday after Sunday, “My Lord and my God.”  

The sacraments are not our only nourishment. In baptism itself we are reminded of the life we are called into and the practices that nourish us in the faith: living among God’s faithful people; participating in Holy Communion; learning the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, and the Ten Commandments; and prayer. Tucked into the litany in a few different places is hearing the Word proclaimed in worship and reading the holy scriptures. 

This made me think of and turn to our second lesson today from First Peter. Look at that second sentence. “By God’s great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” Peter’s compassion and encouragement seem unstoppable. After 59 words he finally placed a period and lets us take a real breath.  The letters in our New Testament were meant to be read aloud to new Christian churches.

For the next six Sundays, the Second Reading will be from this wonderful letter of hope and identity. During Lent we learned what it meant to follow Jesus. Now we are tasked with hearing what it means to be an Easter people. Martin Luther loved this letter. First Peter holds within it the imagery of the royal priesthood from which Luther developed his crucial belief in the priesthood of all believers—the belief that each one of us, not only ordained pastors, are called to ministry in our daily lives.  

The letter is not perfect. Peter’s words about how slaves and wives, the weaker sex, are to behave cannot help but make me squirm. As we make our way through his first letter, let us take the great with the not so great, remembering that Jesus called Peter the rock of the church, even though Peter betrayed him three times.   

The epistle of First Peter addresses what came to be known as Christian Diaspora (or Dispersion) communities. The communities were located throughout four provinces of Asia Minor, which today is the country of Turkey. Right before our text begins, Peter writes, “To the exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.” These communities were disenfranchised “exiles” and aliens.  

So in this letter we come face to face with Christians vulnerable to local harassment, struggling to claim a sense of hope and identity amid the pressures of empire, poverty, slavery and displacement. We are not oppressed like those early Christians in Asia Minor. Still, the promises in the Affirmation of Baptism can be counter-cultural even today: to serve all people, following the example of Jesus, and to strive for justice and peace in all the earth. The encouragement in the letter of First Peter can help us live as a hope-filled community in Canyon County, Idaho 2023.  Listen for that hope and love this Easter Season.

Prayers of Intercession

United in the hope and joy of the resurrection, let us pray for the church, the world, and all in need.

A brief silence.

God of rebirth, the good news of your resurrection brings refreshment to a weary world. Following the women at the tomb, empower us to boldly share your radical love through our words and our work. Hear us, O God.

Your mercy is great.

As you breathed your Spirit into the disciples, breathe your spirit of healing upon all creation. Nourish the earth with sufficient rains. Strengthen us to counter the effects of pollution and destruction. Hear us, O God.

Your mercy is great.

You prepared the disciples for their ministry by calming their fears and granting them your peace. Equip our communities’ leaders (especially). Give them a spirit of peace and hearts that burn for justice, that their leadership reflects your love. Hear us, O God.

Your mercy is great.

You come among us in unexpected ways. Send us to those who hide in fear or question your love. Be a healing presence for any isolated by addiction, incarceration, mental illness, chronic pain, sickness, or grief (especially). Hear us, O God.

Your mercy is great.

As you met the disciples on the road to Emmaus, show us your presence along our journeys. Bless our doubts and questions. Provide trusting and safe relationships for all ages, to nurture our connection to you and one another. Hear us, O God.

Your mercy is great.

Here other intercessions may be offered.

Resurrecting God, you bring us to new life every day. Thank you for blessing us with companions on our faith journey, especially those who now rest in your love (especially). Strengthen us with the eternal peace of your promises. Hear us, O God.

Your mercy is great.

Rejoicing in the victory of Christ’s resurrection, we lift our prayers and praise to you, almighty and eternal God; through Jesus Christ, our risen Lord.


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