Greetings from Rev. Brian Vickers

Blessings Cooksville Family!

Here is the link to this week’s service:

As always, If you have problems with viewing the video, I have included the full text , of most of the service, below.

And remember, please try to keep in touch with each other, particularly those you know who are forced to spend so much time alone.

And feel free to call or email me personally if you want to connect or if there is anything I can do.

Blessings,

Rev. Brian

Rev. Brian Vickers
Cell – 905-802-4081
Email – b_d_vickers@hotmail.ca

April 11, 2021
Sunday Worship Service

Prelude: : This Joyful Eastertide - Dutch folk song, arr. Lee Dengler

Opening Video: Post Easter Hangover

Welcome & Greeting:

Lighting the Christ Candle

Hymn: “Lord of the Dance”

Call to Worship and Opening Prayer:

The Lords Prayer

Scripture:

John 20:19-31 New International Version

29:19On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”
20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”
22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.
23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), 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 that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Solo: Here I Am, Lord – Daniel L. Schutte Sung by Greta and Alicia Seiferti

Message: Take my Word

In this day and age – we are asked to take the word of a lot of people – asked to believe what they say is true. We are asked to believe what the government says – what the doctors and scientists say – asked to believe that others are acting with our good intentions in mind.

And then there are other opinions – people that believe that the first group aren’t telling us the truth – they ask us to believe them too. Now – I – personally – don’t have any problem figuring out which of those two groups to believe – I’ll go with the scientists – doctors – and yes – the government. Stay at home whenever possible – get your shot – stay safe.

Do you sometimes feel as though you are guided by others to believe something – maybe against how you really feel. I feel that way about Thomas – poor doubting Thomas.

Haven't most of us been guided toward our understanding of Thomas from things other people have taught us. From as far back as my Sunday school days – I was taught to call him Doubting Thomas – Thomas doubted Jesus' resurrection – and we must not – under any circumstances – be like Doubting Thomas!

But you know – the older I have become – and the more I have learned by study and experience – the more I dislike being told what to believe – and the more I want to revise my opinion of Thomas.

In fact – there are three things I want to point out about this old – familiar story of Doubting Thomas today that I hope will keep us from jumping to the conclusions that others might want us to jump too.

The first thing I hope we'll see from Thomas' story – is that doubt isn’t always such a bad thing. In fact – it’s been said that - there is a place in the Christian life for honest doubt – for doubt is often the prelude to faith.

If you look back at the lives of the great prophets and saints – from Jeremiah to Mother Teresa – you'll find plenty of evidence of doubt. It's there – in all the greatest and most faithful lives – so much so that it makes you wonder if – maybe – you can't really possess the fullness of a vital and fulfilling faith until through doubt – you've examined it – and you've struggled with it – and you've worked for it.

It's been said that – maybe – Jesus himself was a doubter – or that He knew the power of doubt in a life of faith. He doubted that anger and violence were ways to resolve differences – so he said – Forgive one another.

He doubted that the long prayers and rigid dietary laws and cleanliness codes of his religious tradition were essential to faith – so he talked about practicing an honest – simple – trusting faith. He doubted that Samaritans were of less inherent worth than others – so he told the parable about the Good Samaritan and the neglectful priest.

So – yes – maybe the capacity to doubt is the prelude to establishing vital – meaningful faith commitments. Have you had the privilege of struggling with a few faith-shaping doubts of your own – I hope so – I think most of us have – and so we ought to have some sympathy and respect for Thomas.

This story of Thomas is only found in the Gospel of John. And by the time the writer of John's Gospel records this story – it was about seventy years after Jesus' death – a time when Jewish and Gentile Christians were experiencing tremendous persecution from the Romans.

Certainly – those Christians were doubtful about the wisdom of having adopted this faith. The risks were great – and many of them were tempted to go into hiding for their own self-protection.

So maybe that helps us see why the author of John's Gospel would have felt it particularly meaningful to tell the story of the very first group of Jesus' followers who – after the crucifixion – were also doubtful about their futures and tempted to go into hiding.

They were all huddled in the upper room, locked away behind securely closed doors. And there we encounter Thomas. You know the story – for some reason – he wasn’t there – and missed Jesus' appearance among the disciples. And when he returned – he refused to believe what they had to say – and their assertions that the risen Christ had been there.

And why was he doubtful? Now this is critical to the story – and leads us to the second point I want us to see – which is this – Thomas is doubtful and says he will not believe until he can see and touch for himself.

Thomas wants proof in the form of realistic verification. But what's wrong with that? Wouldn't you want proof? In our scientific age we have all been trained to verify through sensory experience – practical evidence.

Thomas is important – because – while all the disciples before him did get to see and touch and hear Jesus directly – the millions of us who come after Thomas don't have that opportunity. So – you see – a new phase – or new stage of church life – and faith – begins with this story of Thomas. Thomas stands at a transition point.

But – notice how Jesus responds to Thomas' demand for proof. He doesn't criticize him for wanting it – instead – Jesus gives him what he needs for faith – He lets him see and touch.

But then Jesus goes on to say – for the benefit of all of us who will follow Thomas and hear of this story – Blessed are those who have not seen – and yet have come to believe. That line is intended for us – we who cannot see – cannot verify – cannot ask for proof – and yet are invited to share in the blessings of faith in Jesus Christ – just the same.

Perhaps we need to ask ourselves – what do we need to believe? How is it possible for us to believe – if we don't get what the disciples – and ultimately even Thomas got?

You might ask yourself – what is the basis of your belief? Have you had some experience – some insight – read something – heard something – seen something – what?

How can you believe – especially when maybe like Thomas – you've already been disappointed or disillusioned – and the last thing you want to do is foolishly believe in another impossibility? Is belief in something you cannot fully verify just wishful thinking – is it just grasping at straws?

There’s a story told by Father Henri Nouwen – a Catholic priest and author. Nouwen was a fan of the Flying Rodleighs – who were German trapeze artists – he greatly admired these acrobats – and he was able to meet them on several occasions.

Once – Nouwen recalls – he asked the leader of the troop about what kind of attitude it took to fly through the air. He said - As a flyer – I must have complete trust in my catcher. The public might think that I am the great star of the trapeze – but the real star is Joe – my catcher.

He must be there for me with split-second precision and grab me out of the air – I have simply to stretch out my arms and hands and wait for him to catch me. The worst thing the flyer can do is to try to catch the catcher.

A flyer must fly – and a catcher must catch – and the flyer must trust – with outstretched arms – that his catcher will be there for him.

Don't we live like the flyer on the trapeze? We are spinning and swirling through life – unable to see where we are headed. We can't see or touch or prove the existence of a catcher who won't let us fall – but nevertheless – we must learn to reach out our hands and believe that we will be safely caught and held.

Blessed are those who cannot see – yet who have come to believe – because sometimes reaching out in faith – unseeingly – but trustingly – is really the only way open to us.

We may not always be able to see the solid proof we'd like – the kind Thomas demanded – but really – we don't have that kind of proof for many of the things that are most important to us – do we?

How can we conclusively prove love – or friendship – or hope? We can't. But we know they exist – we feel them – and day by day – and even moment by moment – we need to hold out our hands and just trust we'll receive them.

And that leads me to the third and final point I hope we'll see in this story of Thomas. It's about the imperative of staying near to our friends in faith.

Thomas had lost his trust – you see. He couldn't reach out in faithful confidence to anyone. Did you notice that Thomas missed seeing Jesus in the first place – because he wasn’t there – in the room where all the disciples gathered – he had left the others? But he was granted all he needed for belief when he came back and stood among his fellow disciples.

I'm coming to think that the most important part of what this Gospel story is teaching us – is that we will find the assurance we need for belief most readily in the fellowship of others.

And if we are to brand Thomas as having been faithless – then his faithlessness did not lie only in doubting Jesus' resurrection. His faithlessness also lay in his unwillingness to stay with his friends and trust and believe with them and in them. And that's always a problem.

I read the story of a 97-year-old woman who said she had learned the most important lesson of her life when she was still fairly young. She and a group of friends had decided one afternoon to climb Mount Washington in New Hampshire.

Before they made it to the top – a late afternoon fog rolled in and enveloped them all in its thick – obscuring whiteness. They couldn't see the way ahead – and so they agreed they would move down the mountain very slowly – inch by inch – holding hands – and they would not – under any circumstances – let go of each other.

Remembering the event years later – the woman said – Sometimes – all I could see was the hand ahead of me and the one behind me. Sometimes my arms ached so badly I thought I would cry out loud – but that’s how we made it at last. We found our way home by holding on to one another.

What a metaphor for the significance of maintaining durable and trusting relationships with other searching and faithful people. Of course – we'll still face the challenges of those kids on the mountainside. Sometimes we'll get lost – sometimes we'll be strained to stay together – strained by our differences – though we share a faith.

Sometimes we'll be unwilling – or unable to trust what the others are telling us – or to credit their insights into the way ahead. But if we can hang together – we can all cover some pretty rough terrain – safely and securely - together.

I am so proud to be a part of this church family. So often – I have witnessed someone reach out – take a hand – grab hold of somebody in danger of being lost or alone or falling.

I've watched as church members sat beside grieving families at funerals – just to offer a touch of comfort. I've seen Christ's people bring flowers to hospitalized church members or bulletins and sermons to shut ins. I've seen them serve meals to those in need and mentor youth and tutor children.

I've watched them open their hearts and their wallets to the victims of natural and man-made disasters – and never begrudge the money spent on behalf of others. And I’ve watched the diligence of Christ's people in staying close to one another for good in a thousand other ways besides – trusting that all that effort and irritation and expense and risk were worth it.

And what's the payoff? It's that being in one another's company – doing the work of faith together – is where we all encounter the healing – loving – breathing spirit of Christ. Thomas learned that – when he came back to the upper room and encountered the risen Christ with the others.

Of course that kind of closeness – that kind of fellowship – an actual – physical kind – is something that we will just have to believe in for now – but we can all be together in spirit – and there are plenty of ways to support and care for each other that don’t involve physical presence.

So – Thomas the proof-seeker – doesn't deserve to be labelled – the Doubter. Because do you know what happens after the scene we read about today? He gets up out of that locked room – where he and the others found proof that Christ's spirit is alive and well – and he went out to serve in that spirit – fearlessly and with utter conviction!

Actually – Thomas has become something of a hero to me because of that. He had the tenacity to seek until he found – and the courage to live the rest of life fully trusting in the glory and grace of God which he glimpsed that day.

William Willimon tells of once visiting a man with only a couple of days left to live. He asked the man whether he was fearful - the man replied - Fear? No! I'm not fearful because of my faith in Jesus – I look back over my life – all the mistakes I've made – all the times I've turned away from Jesus – gone my own way – strayed and gotten lost. And time and time again - He found a way to get to me – looked for me when I wasn't looking for him. I don't think he will let something like my dying defeat his love for me.

What could get in the way of God's love for you – closed doors – doubts – demands? No – of course not. Illness – hardships – failings – mistakes? No – nothing can separate you from God's love!

The challenge then – is just to trust in that – and live in light of that – even when we can’t always see it or feel it.

Maybe in remembrance Thomas – we all just ought to widen our standards of proof – to include the truth of all the wondrous ways God's love already has – and is – and will – come to us. And then we will say – all I have seen teaches me to trust God – for all I have not yet seen. Amen.

Hymn: “Good Christians All, Rejoice and Sing”

Video: Changed Our World

Pastoral Prayer

Hymn: “Thine Be the Glory”

Benediction and Commissioning

Postlude: The Garden Walk - Gary Davidson

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