The Upper Room

Pastor Kim Gilliland
Easter 2
SCRIPTURE: John 20: 19-23
After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
John 20: 20 (NIV)

WHAT HAPPENS AFTER EASTER?

This is God’s day so it’s a good day, so let us rejoice. Good morning. My name is Kim Gilliland and I am the pastor of Cottam United Church. I’m so glad you can join us for our weekly online messages that we hope will provide you with some good news in your life in the crazy world in which we live.

Last week, we celebrated Easter, the highlight of the Christians year. It is the day when Jesus rose from the dead, defeating the power of sin and death and opening up the gates of the Kingdom of God for all who put their faith in him. That is incredibly good news for everyone.

In fact, that’s the best thing ever. But what now? Where do we go after we’ve just gone through the mountain top experience of the resurrection? That’s a good question. Over the next three weeks, we’re going to be looking at just that. While the resurrection is the epitome of God’s good news for us, we, as the people of God, need to do something with that experience. We don’t just sit on it. We can’t. It’s too good not to share. We are called to respond to this good news in real and practical ways.

Over the next three weeks, we’re going to be looking at three post resurrection stories in the Bible and discover what they have to say to us about how we apply this resurrection story in our daily lives. What we will discover is that the resurrection of Jesus is not the end of the story. It is, rather, the beginning of whole new and exciting story that continues to be good news for the world.

JESUS SHOWS UP

The story we are going to be looking at today happens on the evening of the resurrection. If you want to follow along in your Bible, it is found in John 20:19-23. The story begins in verse 19 with the disciples meeting together. But it isn’t a happy gathering because it also says that they are gathered behind locked door. Why? Because they are afraid of the Jewish authorities.

Why would they be afraid? That’s easy. Remember that this is Sunday evening. Just two days ago, on Friday, Jesus was crucified by the Romans at the request of these same Jewish authorities. We know now that on Easter morning Jesus rose from the dead. But the disciples didn’t know that, at least not for certain. Oh sure, a few women had come back to them claiming that Jesus had risen. Peter and John had done the same thing. But how could anyone be expected to believe such a thing? After all, if someone told you that a friend of yours whom you had seen die two days ago was up and walking around, wouldn’t you be just a little bit skeptical? If I’m going to be honest, think I would be.

And so they lock themselves in a room because they are afraid that, now that Jesus is gone, the Jewish authorities will be out to get his disciples, will be out to get them personally. That is a legitimate concern. No one wants to endure crucifiction so I think we need to be easy of them if they are afraid.

But then something amazing happens. What happens? Jesus shows up. And he says, “Peace be with you!” This is a game changer because, up until now, all the disciples know about the resurrection are unsubstantiated rumours. But now, suddenly, Jesus is there. What do you think that did to their fear? Did it take their fear away? No, not at all. In fact, it probably added to their fear. Not only are they afraid of the Jewish authorities, now they’re seeing ghosts. This has to be a huge, unexpected surprise. And not a good surprise either because they have no idea how to respond.

But then Jesus, sensing their fear, does something interesting. Verse 20 says that he shows them his hands and his side. This is important because remember that his hands had been pierced by nails and the Roman soldiers had stabbed his side with a spear while he still hung on the cross to make sure he was dead. And he was.

By Jesus showing that disciples the scars in his hands and side, he is proving to them that he is not a ghost. He is real and he is the friend Jesus. He really is resurrected. The proof is before them.

Their response to this evidence is that they now are overjoyed. Their fear is turned to celebration. Why? Because Jesus does something to take away their fear. He shows them the evidence that he really is alive. And they believe.

JESUS STILL SHOWS UP

That’s a great message for us today. Living through the reality of Covid-19, maybe we get a sense of what the disciples were going through on that first evening. Doesn’t it sometimes feels like we are fearfully locked behind closed doors? Isn’t there a sense of that in social distancing and self-isolation? Some people are afraid to go outside. They are afraid to go to the grocery store. This is especially true of people in the older generations – and with good reason. We need to be so very careful right now. And we cannot let down our guard even for a moment. It’s the world we live in. Lots of times, I’d really like to just to in my house, lock the door and wait for someone to tell me that the world is back to normal. I think you can understand that.

But what if we met those fears in the same way fear was dealt with for the disciples as they huddled behind locked doors? What happened? Jesus showed up. And when Jesus showed up, the fear turned to joy.

But now you’re thinking that I’ve finally gone goofy. How is Jesus supposed to show up now? Isn’t he in heaven right now at the right side of the Father? Yes, we believe he is. But we also believe that he can show up in two important ways.

We discover the first way when we continue on with the rest of the story in verse 22. After Jesus shows them his hands and his side, he breathes on them and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” That’s pretty important because it says that even if Jesus is not with us now physically, he has left his Holy Spirit with us in each of us. So, even if we can’t see his hands and his side, we can still feel his presence within. That presence is real and that presence is comforting. It gives peace and strength and joy. So, yes, I believe that Jesus is still with us. He hasn’t gone anywhere. Through his Spirit he is still right here, right now.

So Jesus does show up through his Spirit. But he also shows up in another important way. He shows up through us. You and I are called to be his hands and feet. We are called to be his voice until he comes again at the end of time whenever that is. That means that when you show up, Jesus shows up. And when you show up, you can do the things that help to relieve fear and bring joy into the lives of people who feel like they are locked behind closed doors.

What does that mean in practical ways? I delighted to tell you that I’ve been hearing all kinds of stories of what the church is doing right now to be the hands and the feet and the voice of Jesus, to be Jesus to the world.

I’m still phoning people in our congregation and our community. I thought I’d be through everyone by now but I’m not. I’m almost there. But here’s what’s happened. I started phoning people back on March 22, I was able to phone about ten numbers every evening. So I figured that I’d get through the list in about two or three weeks. Back then, the average conversation was about ten minutes. But as time has gone by, I’ve noticed that the conversations are getting longer, more like twenty minutes or even half an hour. And that’s okay. In fact, I’m really happy with that because it means that I’m having real conversations with people I haven’t had a conversation with in a long time.

A lot of these people are people I see in church every Sunday. I see them on committees and task groups. I see them on the streets of Cottam and Kingsville and Essex. And we say, “Hi,” and talk about the weather. But, like a lot of us, I haven’t really taken the time to have a good in depth conversation with them. That’s changing and that’s a good thing. In some ways, I feel more connected to people now that I did a month ago. In that way, Jesus is showing up for both of us who are part of the conversation.

And it doesn’t stop there because, in almost every conversation that I have, I’m hearing stories of how Jesus is showing up in their lives in other ways. Some of the most vulnerable people are talking about how their family and friends are getting their groceries for them. I’m hearing about people who are connecting through social media and discovering things like the video feature on Messenger so they can see their family even if they can’t be near them. A month ago I didn’t know what Zoom and Google Meet were but suddenly, I’m getting reasonable good at using them. In those things, Jesus shows up.

I have heard people say that they are connecting with family and old friends they have heard from in years. Now that they have some time because they are working from home or perhaps laid off, they are re-establishing old relationships. In those ways too, Jesus shows up through us, through our hands and our feet and our voices.

REACHING OUT

We need to keep doing that. And I’m going to ask you to make a special effort today to reach out to a very special group of people. All of us have heard of the issues in long term care facilities and retirement residences, where both staff and residents are facing all kinds of scary issues. I think especially of Country Village just up the street in Woodslee where more than eighty residents and staff have tested positive for Covid-19. This virus is devastating their community, and make no mistake about it – it is a community of people who love and care for each other. This is a very difficult time for them. They need our support. They need our prayers. They need our phone calls and our encouragement and whatever else we can do to make a difference. And here’s one thing we can all do. As a retired army chaplain, I know how much our soldiers used to appreciate cards and letters from Canadians especially at Christmas. I’d like to challenge you all to write a note of encouragement to the residents or staff. It doesn’t have to addressed to any particular person. I’m sure your card or letter will get posted somewhere for all to see. That is a simple thing that might just help someone get through the day.

If Jesus is going to show up, it is going to be through you and me. Each of us can do something to make a difference to someone who feels like they are sitting in fear locked behind closed doors. You can help to turn that fear into joy. You can be the hands and the feet and the voice of Jesus.

PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE

We come to you, O God, in the full assurance of your presence with us. You have said that where two or three gather together in your name, you are in their midst. We thank you that you are faithful even now to hold us in your love. Your compassion is endless. Your mercy extends to the bounds of eternity. How awesome you are in tenderness and power.

There is so much for which we can be thankful. We offer our thanks for the power of the Cross and the reconciliation that you provide in Jesus Christ. We pray for those who need to experience the power of the resurrection. Many people still do not know Jesus as their Saviour. Many still live under the illusion that they can discover their salvation through careers, education, relationships or the things of this world. We have discovered recently just how fleeting such things can be.

We lift up those who are sick at home or in hospital, those isolating themselves and those who are feel as though they are locked behind closed doors. Lift them up, O God of Love, above their confines of their conditions so that they may life to the fullest as each new moment arrives. Be especially with the residents and staff at long term care facilities and seniors residence. Give them your strength and peace and may we do our part to support them in these very stressful time.

Help us every day to live the resurrected life of Christ that others may see the difference that it makes. Open doors of faith through which we can walk. Open hearts for Christ that all may come to saving faith and be made right with God. These prayers are lifted in Jesus’ name. Amen.

WORSHIP RESOURCE PAGE

April 9, 2019 / Easter 2

SCRIPTURE

Acts 2:14a, 36-41; Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19; 1 Peter 1:17-23; Luke 24:13-35

CALL TO WORSHIP

We love you God because you hear our prayers.

We love you God because you see us as we are.

We love you God because you touch our souls

and save us by your grace and compassion.

PRAYER OF APPROACH

Holy and Merciful God, the flowers of spring poke their brave heads above the frozen ground reminding us of the hope that we have in you. When all seems bleak, you are there. When all seems cold, you give us warmth. When all seems dark and forbidding, you shine your light upon us. How wonderful are your paths, how magnificent your visions, how awesome you handiwork. Inspire us, anew, in our time of worship. Enliven our hearts to live in your way, the way of Jesus. Amen.

PRAYER OF CONFESSION

We come proclaiming that Jesus is risen but we sometimes live as if his body were still in the tomb. Darkness creeps into our souls and blinds us to your way. Forgive us when we forget to walk the road of the cross. Forgive us when we struggle to believe and are filled with doubt. Thank you God that, even in the midst of our fear, you are there with compassion and hope. Hear our confessions and heal our wounds.

ASSURANCE OF PARDON

The early Christians walked the road with our Risen Lord. They touched him and spoke to him. They shared the things of life and of eternity. Though we do not see him, we know him. Though we can not touch his wounds, we are able to come before him as whole and forgiven people by the blood of the cross and the power of the resurrection.

DEDICATION OF OFFERING

Jesus walks with us along the way of life. He gives us bread and drink, hope and healing. We offer in return our lives represented by what we have gathered in these brass plates. Fill us with, O God, with your inexplicable love that all of our lives may be dedicated to your holy service. Amen.

COMMISSIONING

The blessings of the Father of Glory be with you.

The blessings of the Son of Light be with you.

The blessings of the Spirit of Life be with you.

The blessings of the Three carry you through life.

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