April 30, 2017: Christ is present in our deepest times of need

Posted on : Apr 27th, 2017 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

During the past few months our Sunday Bible Study has been studying the book of Acts.  “Acts” is the nickname of the book.  The full name is “the Acts of the Apostles.”  The book of Acts is an interesting, intriguing, and sometimes contradictory collection of stories about the disciples, apostles and followers of Jesus after the resurrection.  Even though the stories are all over the map, the one thing they all have in common is that something happened to that motley crew that totally changed and empowered their lives and attracted thousands of new believers.

To say it another way, they experienced something in the resurrection that most of us don’t today.  These folks risked their lives, and some of them lost their lives, bearing witness to the power of the Risen Jesus.  They were stuck between two groups that feared and hated them:  the Jewish religious authorities and the Roman Empire.  But, that didn’t stop them.  Something radical had changed their lives, and it was so obvious, that even the gentiles (folks who were not born or converted to Judaism) wanted what these followers had.  Since Christianity started out as a sect of Judaism, this created intense conflict and division among the first generation Jewish followers of Jesus.  But, that didn’t stop them.  A couple of the brave Apostles baptized a few gentiles, and the next thing you know, the followers of Christ had more gentile-Christians than Jewish-Christians.

It is very hard to enter the mindset of those who lived 2,000 years ago.  They used words differently than we do today.  Up until just recently when the difference between lies and truth began to be blurred together, we as Americans used to be rather literalistic and precise in our use of language.  Folks living two thousand years ago used words to describe an experience, not whether it actually happened or not.  As we like to say when studying the Bible, the question is not “Is this story literally true?;” it’s “What’s the truth in this story?”  What spiritual truth are the stories trying to tell us?

So, when we read the many stories about the Resurrection of Jesus, the question is not “Is this story literally true? – Did it really happen this way?”  The question we need to ask ourselves is “What are these followers of the Risen Christ trying to tell us?  What spiritual truth are they passing on to us?”

This Sunday, we are going to look at one of the early stories of the resurrection from the Gospel of John.  It’s a story about Jesus appearing to all of the disciples except Thomas.  Thomas was not present with them.  Thomas didn’t believe the testimony of the other disciples that the Risen Christ appeared to them.  For him to believe, he wanted to personally encounter the Risen Christ.   He got his wish.  But the story then continues with the teaching that we are not going to have the same experience as Thomas and the other disciples.

One of the things that I find really interesting in this story is the difference between “appearance” and “presence.”  In the time in which the Biblical writers lived there wasn’t a difference between appearance and presence.  People had appearances from angels and messengers; strangers and travelers, prophets and healers.  Most of the time we are told they appeared and disappeared with the same ease.  My hunch is these stories had little to do with whether these angels, messengers, strangers, travelers, prophets, healers, etc. actually appeared.  What these folks were really telling us was that God or the Risen Christ was present with them.  That presence was most deeply experienced in their times of greatest need.  So, this Sunday we’ll focus on how Christ is present with us, especially in our times of greatest need.

Easter Blessings of new life to you and those you love,

Dan

 

~ This Sunday’s Scripture ~

Psalm 46

God is our refuge and strength,

a very present help in times of fear and trouble.

Therefore we fear nothing –

even if the earth should quake

and mountains plunge to the depths of the sea,

even if the earth’s waters rage and foam

and the mountains tumble with its heaving.

There’s a river whose streams

enliven the city of God,

the holy dwelling of the Most High.

God is in its midst, God will never fail us.

Though nations are in turmoil and empires crumble,

God’s voice resounds, and it melts the earth.

God is with us. 

Come, see what God has done –

God makes the earth bounteous!

God has put an end to war,

from one end of the earth to the other.

Hear these words from God:  

“Be still, and know that I am God!

I will be exalted among the nations;

I will be exalted upon the earth.”

God is with us!

God is our refuge and strength,

a very present help in times of fear and trouble.

 

John 20: 19-31

In the evening of that same day, the first day of the week, the doors were locked in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Temple authorities.

Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”  Having said this, the savior showed them the marks of crucifixion.

The disciples were filled with joy when they saw Jesus, who said to them again, “Peace be with you.  As God sent me, so I’m sending you.”

After saying this, Jesus breathed on them and said,

“Receive the Holy Spirit.

If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven.

If you retain anyone’s sins, they are retained.”

It happened that one of the Twelve, Thomas – nicknamed “the Twin” – was absent when Jesus came.  The other disciples kept telling him, “We’ve seen Jesus!”

Thomas’ answer was, “I’ll never believe it without putting my finger in the nail marks and my hand into the spear wound.”

On the eighth day, the disciples were once more in the room, and this time Thomas was with them.  Despite the locked doors, Jesus came and stood before them, saying, “Peace be with you.”

Then, to Thomas, Jesus said, “Take your finger and examine my hands.  Put your hand into my side.  Don’t persist in your unbelief, but believe!”

Thomas said in response, “My savior and my God!”

Jesus then said,

“You’ve become a believer

because you saw me.

Blessed are those who have not seen

and yet have believed.”

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