The gospel reading for the Second Sunday of Easter is the same every year of the lectionary cycle. It is also the key text of each Sunday. Rather than list links to other years, I’ve gathered all the resources here and added one or two more. So there is no need to check out Years B and C for this rich day.
+ I have a friend who practices Holy Humor Sunday in his congregation on the Sunday after Easter. I thought he invented it, but discovered he is part of a movement in which congregations are reclaiming a medieval practice of laughing at Satan’s defeat and reveling in Christ’s victory. Proper Holy Humor Sunday worship services are filled with jokes, funny stories, even pranks and costumes. The Easter reasoning for celebrating Holy Humor Sunday on the week after Easter is that “Humor is not the opposite of seriousness. Humor is the opposite of despair.”(Conrad Hyers). Google “Holy Humor Sunday” to find a plethora of links to all kinds of resources, including some complete liturgies. Two of my favorite are:
“The Joyful Noiseletter” at Joyful Noiseletter - Holy Sunday.
Go to the entry for this day on Ralph Milton Rumors Blog. Scroll down to “Mirabile Dictu!” for wonderful collection of international jokes. Also check out the reader’s theater idea for reading the gospel and epistle with a sense of humor.
If you have celebrated Holy Humor Sunday, tell the rest of us about it in Comment here or on the Worshiping with Children Facebook page.
+ Especially if you buried the Alleluia! For Lent, remember to include lots of Alleluias in today’s singing and praying. If there was not time to allude to Alleluia! Banners in Easter Sunday worship, do so today. Practice saying the word together, define it, explain why it is on the banners and how long the banners will stay in place.
+ Connect Alleluia! to both Easter and Holy Humor Sunday with, Hallelujah, the Clown, by Kathy Long. A court jester named Hallelujah tries to be good at a series of things (juggling, dancing, singing, etc) but everyone laughs at him. In the end God tells him that his gift is making people laugh and that it is an important gift.
Acts 2:14a, 22-32
This sermon is long and deals with generalities which are hard for children to follow. When the gospel includes not one but two stories that interest children, I’d be inclined to work with those texts and leave this one for the adults.
+ On the Second Sunday of Easter turn this psalm into a responsive reading of short praises separated by congregational “Alleluia”s. For the sake of keeping focused on Easter praises I have selected praises that seem to especially fit Easter. Children are more likely to catch the focused praises as they add their alleluias to each one than they are to hear the psalm read without interruption.
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Selected Verses from Psalm 16
One: I say “Only you are my Lord!
Every good thing I have is a gift from you.”
One: Your people are wonderful,
and they make me happy,
One: You, Lord, are all I want!
You are my choice,
and you keep me safe.
You make my life pleasant,
and my future is bright.
One: I praise you, Lord, for being my guide.
Even in the darkest night,
your teachings fill my mind.
I will always look to you.
One: You won’t leave me in the grave
or let my body decay.
One: You have shown me the path to life,
and you make me glad by being near to me.
Sitting at your right side,
I will always be joyful.
Selected verses from CEV
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1 Peter 1:3-9
Children will not understand all the abstract language of this passage as it is read and most of its message is beyond their understanding. I can think of two possible ways for them to connect with it.
+ Point out that this is a letter Peter wrote to Christians living in what is now Turkey two thousand years ago. Then read or tell in your own words verses 3 and 6.
Let us give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! Because of his great mercy he gave us new life by raising Jesus Christ from death. This fills us with a living hope. Be glad about this, even though it may now be necessary for you to be sad for a while because of the many kinds of trials you suffer. (TEV)
Briefly describe the persecution Peter’s readers were facing and how Peter was trying to encourage them. Then, imagine or ask for a list of people today who might like to receive Peter’s encouraging letter. People of the Ukraine and families of those on the missing Malaysian airliner come to my mind this morning. If worshipers join in the conversation expect to hear as well about individuals in tough situations. Close the conversation by restating or rereading the two verses.
Read verses 8-9 as a follow up on the story of Thomas to recognize the fact that though we cannot actually touch Jesus as Thomas did, we still believe as Thomas did.
U This passage is not that long, but a lot of different things go on. To help children follow it, try the following group reading
! ? ! ? ! ? ! ? ! ? ! ? ! ? ! ? ! ? ! ? ! ? ! ? ! ? ! ? ! ? ! ? ! ? ! ? !
Reader One (probably you) invites the children to come forward to help with the gospel reading. Imagine with them that they are the disciples on Easter Sunday night hiding out in a locked upper room, wondering about what the women said about Jesus’ tomb being empty, and still afraid the soldiers would come for them too.
Reader One: When 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.” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
Thomas joins the group off to one side to read this line. Then sits with the group as Reader One continues.
Thomas Reader: But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So 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.”
Reader One: A 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.” 27 Then 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.” 28 Thomas answered him,
Thomas Reader: “My Lord and my God!”
Reader One: Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”
New Revised Standard Version
! ? ! ? ! ? ! ? ! ? ! ? ! ? ! ? ! ? ! ? ! ? ! ? ! ? ! ? ! ? ! ? ! ? ! ? !
+ Invite children forward for the back story before hearing the gospel read:
The disciples were behind locked doors because they were afraid, embarrassed and ashamed. Recall some of their names and what they had done as Jesus died. Then note that they were afraid of what Jesus would say to them about all their desertions if he really were alive again. They were afraid the soldiers would come for them like they had for Jesus. And, if the women were wrong and Jesus was still dead, they were afraid to face people who now knew that they had been wrong about Jesus. They had been so sure, so loud in proclaiming Jesus and were apparently so wrong. They did not want to see anyone ever again. That is why they were hiding in locked room. Then read the story from the big Bible. After reading it, point out that Jesus did not say, “What happened? Where were you? You screwed up!” He said, “Peace.” In other words, “It’s OK. I understand. I forgive you.” Imagine how they felt when they heard that.
+ This passage offers several clues to what Jesus was like after the resurrection – he can appears inside a locked room, he can be touched (he is not ghostly), he still has the wounds, and still loves them and explains what is going on to them. Next week he will eat fish. Children are curious about all this. Take time to ponder with them what they think Jesus was like after the resurrection, being open to new ideas and affirming the mysterious part of it all.
Either include this discussion of reflection in the sermon. Or, it could be introduced before reading the scripture. In this case listeners are instructed to listen for clues about Jesus after the resurrection raising a hand each time they hear one. In an informal setting stop at each one to clarify the clue and ponder it briefly.
Forgiveness and Peace
+ In this short passage Jesus gives the disciples (and us) two Easter gifts (the Holy Spirit and peace) and one Easter task (forgiving others as God has forgiven us).
+ If your congregation regularly passes the peace in worship, before you do so today connect the ritual with this story. We are being like Jesus passing peace to other people. We don’t just say “Hi.” We say, “The peace of God be with you.” It is a wish or prayer for the other person. We can say it because we know God loves and forgives both of us. Then invite people to pass the peace to their neighbors.
+ Jesus’ forgiveness and call to the disciples to forgive in this story provide another opportunity to highlight and explore the Lord’s Prayer petition “forgive our debts/trespasses/sins, as we forgive…” Write “forgive us our debts/trespasses/sins” on one poster strip and “as we forgive our debtors/those who trespass or sin against us” on a second poster strip. Present them first in the order they appear in the Lord’s Prayer. Then connect the first strip to Jesus forgiving the disciples on Easter evening and the second strip to his command that they forgive others. Flip the order of the phrases and point out that we often have to pray this prayer backwards when we have someone to forgive. Note how hard it is to forgive people who have treated us badly. The only way we can do it is by remembering how Jesus forgave the disciples and forgives us.
+ Create a responsive prayer in which a worship leader describes situations in the world and in personal lives that need forgiveness and the congregation responds with “forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” Pray this prayer after having explored it’s meaning in light of today’s story.
|Caravaggio, Michelangelo Merisi da, 1573-1610. |
The Incredulity of Saint Thomas, from Art in the Christian Tradition,
a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN.
[retrieved March 13, 2014]. Original source:
+ There are two especially interesting paintings of Jesus and Thomas. Show one or both of them. Look first at Thomas’s face and imagine what he is thinking and feeling as he touches Christ’s body. Then, look at the faces of the other disciples and imagine what they are thinking and feeling. (I suspect they are glad Thomas asked his question because they really wanted to know the same thing but were afraid to ask. It does take courage to ask some questions and Thomas had it.)
|JESUS MAFA. Jesus appears to Thomas,from Art in the Christian Tradition, |
a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN.
[retrieved March 13, 2014].
Both of these paintings can be downloaded at no cost when no used to make money. Click on the link under each picture.
+ The story of Thomas is important to children who already ask lots of questions about everything and to those who will ask deep questions as they get older. If we want to encourage children to ask their questions, we must not label Thomas a doubter. No amount of explaining can make doubter into a positive adjective – especially in this story. So describe Thomas as a curious person who wanted to see for himself what others had already seen. Recall what it is like when everyone is talking about an exciting event that you were not at. Insist that Jesus welcomed Thomas’ questions and ours. There is no honest question God/Jesus cannot handle.
In describing Thomas, remember that he was the disciple who cared enough to interrupt Jesus when he did not understand what Jesus was saying (John 14:5). He really wanted to understand Jesus. Thomas was also the one who after telling Jesus he was nuts to go to Jerusalem where his enemies were out to get him, replied to Jesus’ insistence that he was going anyway, “Let us go and die with him” (John 11:7-16). He was that loyal. Finally, upon seeing Jesus’ wounds after the resurrection, Thomas replies, “My Lord and my God!” That was his statement of faith.
Thomas wasn’t the only confused, questioning disciple after Easter. List the responses of Mary, Peter, John, and the others as they encounter the risen Christ. Everyone was so confused that they were frightened.
+ To celebrate Thomas’ questions turn this into Questions Sunday. Collect questions about the Easter stories and God from the whole congregation. Take them verbally or invite people to write them on pieces of paper to put in the offering plate. Today read through the questions. Celebrate them. Elaborate on them adding related questions. Even, ask for clarification on questions you do not understand. Do NOT answer any of them – even if you can. Instead promise to deal with them during the coming weeks. If there is high interest in this, you might even print the questions in the newsletter or on the website. As you work through the Easter season, point to the question/s that you are working with at any given point.
It would also be possible to broaden the scope of questions to include all questions about God and God’s world. Pondering these might even become a summer sermon series. Some questions children ask include:
Why didn’t you make me taller or prettier or smarter or…..?
How can God pay attention to everyone in the world at every minute?
Why did you let that (awful thing – like someone dying) happen?
Why don’t you make this (wonderful thing – like a sick person getting better) happen?
Why can’t I see you or at least hear your actual voice like people in the Bible did?
+ Finally, if you have a little time to sit back and enjoy a somewhat longer story on the Sunday after Easter, read Miss Fannie’s Hat, by Jan Karon. It is the story of 99 year old Miss Fannie who gives her favorite hat, her Easter hat, to a fund raising auction to repair the church. On Easter she goes to church hatless for the first time and finds the church surrounded with flowers like those on her hat. To shorten the story a bit consider omitting pages 6, 7, and 13, then jumping from the first sentence on page 18 to page 21. Miss Fannie demonstrates that giving a loving gift is more important than having a pretty Easter hat.