Sunday, April 19, 2020

Step into Mystical Hope

Let’s start with three deep breaths and relax….

Opening Reflection

Jesus, Savior, Resurrected Messiah,
we come before you from different paths:
some of us certain
of your joyful presence in our lives,
some of us not so certain
of the hope of being touched by your joy.
Yet we are all here, gathered virtually,
spiritually, reaching out to you:
for understanding,
for hope,
for joy,
for all that is imperishable.
Meet us here, today,
in all your power and consolation. 

Amen let us begin todays worship

Call to Worship

Leader:          We come as we are

People:        doubting Thomases, fearful disciples, sorrowing exiles,
 rejoicing psalmists!

Leader:          You come as you are

People:        Risen Christ, Christ of Peace,
Holy Spirit, Spirit of Forgiveness, God of Life,
God of new birth!!

Leader:          Show us the fullness of your joy!

People:          Show us the path of life and living hope!

Leader:          We join our hearts in song and sing
“Alleluia! Gracious Jesus!”
for Christ is living and so are we!

Let us sing today’s opening hymn; This Joyful Eastertide #244 (Glory to God Hymnal)

Today’s Gospel reading is John 20:19-31 NSRV

19 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.”

24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin[a]), 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.”
26 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, “My Lord and my God!” 29 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.”

30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may come to believe[b] that Jesus is the Messiah,[c] the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

This is word of God for the people of God!


Today’s Gospel reading has two scenes… it opens on the disciples huddled together locked in a room for they fear those in power might come after them just as they did come for Jesus. It also seems to point that the disciples do not believe in the resurrection yet no matter what Mary has told them.

“Mary the Magdalene comes announcing to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,’ and he had said these things to her… (John 20:18)

This seems to point towards my question last week what did the beloved disciple believe?  Evidently, he has not supported Mary in her claim to have seen the Lord. Because now they were all together locked in the room shaking in their boots afraid what fate may be awaiting them.

Joy Moor the associate professor of Biblical teaching at Luther seminary in St. Paul reminds us
“Disciples have gathered. Here, the record does not specify how many, as in other places (6:66-67; 20:24), but Thomas is not present. The unconfirmed rumors of the resurrection started by Mary has brought neither understanding nor obedience. (Instead it has fed) Perplexity and amazement, cynicism and unbelief. The disciples are clueless concerning the meaning of Jesus’ death, disappointed by this presumed dashing of their hopes, and astounded by reports of the empty tomb (not much has changed).

The disciples are fearful. Good news does not erase fear. Good news, incredible news, can ignite hope, but even hope does not eliminate genuine fear. So, there they were in a familiar place desperate with unfamiliar fear. An empty tomb isn’t enough to confirm all that Jesus promised is true. What does the resurrection mean? It means God still shows up. The writer of this gospel account continues to rehearse elements of the storied witness to God as testimony to Jesus. Like God finding the first couple behind trees, the disciples are found behind closed doors, perplexed by the knowledge they have.”[1]

God still shows up. In the midst of fear God still shows up and offers Hope…

Richard Rohr this week addressed that hope in the midst of fear.

Hope is the main impulse of life. —Ilia Delio, OSF[2]
Because we are so quickly led to despair, most of us cannot endure suffering for long without some sliver of hope or meaning. However, it is worth asking ourselves about where our hope lies. My friend and colleague Cynthia Bourgeault makes a powerful distinction between what she calls ordinary hope, “tied to outcome . . .. an optimistic feeling . . . because we sense that things will get better in the future” and mystical hope “that is a complete reversal of our usual way of looking at things. Beneath the ‘upbeat’ kind of hope that parts the seas and pulls rabbits out of hats, this other hope weaves its way as a quiet, even ironic counterpoint.”[3]

If we listen to Cynthia’s words this very different hope does not seek results, it does not operate in a sensual realm of optimistic feeling, this hope lies quietly even in our despair and pain it lingers behind it.

“She writes,
We might make the following observations about this other kind of hope, which we will call mystical hope. In contrast to our usual notions of hope:
  1. Mystical hope is not tied to a good outcome, to the future. It lives a life of its own, seemingly without reference to external circumstances and conditions.”[4]
This hope lives without a physical reference point, This mystical hope exists in times of joy and despair equally.

  1. “It has something to do with presence—not a future good outcome, but the immediate experience of being met, held in communion, by something intimately at hand.”[5]
We can hear her using words that imply the physical and yet it is beyond the physical, Mystical hope depends upon our language to describe something that lies beyond it.  She Goes on to explain that Mystical hope, well;

  1. “It bears fruit within us at the psychological level in the sensations of strength, joy, and satisfaction: an “unbearable lightness of being.” But mysteriously, rather than deriving these gifts from outward expectations being met, it seems to produce them from within. . .”[6]
Mystical hope exists within us, even in the midst of the greatest pain, Mystical hope is underneath it all providing a deeper resilience beyond what we thought we could endure. It is part of who we are as Christians as we live our daily lives connect to that which is beyond our words, connected to God, spirit, the light, the blessings of the, the resurrected life.

“[It] is all too easy to understate and miss that hope is not intended to be an extraordinary infusion, but an abiding state of being. We lose sight of the invitation—and in fact, our responsibility, as stewards of creation—to develop a conscious and permanent connection to this wellspring. We miss the call to become a vessel, to become a chalice into which this divine energy can pour; a lamp through which it can shine. . ..
We ourselves are not the source of that hope; we do not manufacture it. But the source dwells deeply within us and flows to us with an unstinting abundance, so much so that in fact it might be more accurate to say we dwell within it. . . .”[7]

We dwell within it but that dwelling within and allowing it to spring forth requires nurturing.  It is not enough to go to church on Sundays, it is not enough to be a great humanitarian and love our brothers and our Sisters and even more so the stranger. It’s not enough!  It needs to be fed and nurtured even though we do not necessarily know we are doing it.  How do we do it?  Through prayer, through spiritual practices. Whatever that means for you.  Richard Rohr reminds us…

“The good news is that this deeper current does exist and you actually can find it. . .. For me the journey to the source of hope is ultimately a theological journey: up and over the mountain to the sources of hope in the headwaters of the Christian Mystery. This journey to the wellsprings of hope is not something that will change your life in the short range, in the externals. Rather, it is something that will change your innermost way of seeing. From there, inevitably, the externals will rearrange. . .. 
The journey to the wellsprings of hope is really a journey toward the center, toward the innermost ground of our being where we meet and are met by God.”[8][9]

For Richard it is a deep theological journey but for another it may be in a quiet prayer time, for another, an active prayer time.  It may be when you lovingly prepare a meal for your family in the midst of preparation you sense something beyond yourself and lift that up. You need to find that spiritual practice for you and develop it, nurture it.

Let’s look again at today’s reading, the disciples are fearful locked in an upper room Jesus has appeared to them and says Peace be with you and then he showed them his hands and side…

Thomas wasn’t there.  So, the others say we have seen the Lord and he, Thomas, “doubts them” everyone else doubted the woman why should he believe these guys who are again in the room with the door closed.  No one chastises him for his doubt.  He has been just as traumatized by Jesus death as the rest of them.  If they dared to chastise him, they would all be labeled hypocrites.

Thomas represents that last grain of fear and sorrow, the pain that is so deep it is the last to heal.  The hope is buried so deep it dares not rise to the surface for the fear of being crushed and perhaps even destroyed.  Thomas is no more doubting than the others were.  He asks for no more verification than was given the others.  He has had 8 more days to fear, to doubt, and to live in sorrow.

Healing does not come as quickly as we like it. Pointing it out, does no good so, the others leave him be. Then The Lord appears and offers him the same thing he had offered the others.  Here touch my hands, feel my side. The wounds and the pain I endured were real and yet here I am.

Jesus is the physical representation of the mystical hope.  Thomas is the physical representation of human suffering, grief and fear.

What do we hear in today’s message, what does the world hear?

Today we bring our own world turned upside down. Many are disenfranchised not just by this new way of being in the world, but by systems promised that has now left them stranded, many are feeling alone and isolated, their connection to love and support only connected by a wave through a window, a phone call, or an email. The world is not what it was just 45 days ago.

What one would not give for Jesus to come into our room and say Peace be with you.  A chance to just touch his cloak and experience some healing. but

“The whole of this is neither about a phantom appearance nor even a doubting disciple. It is how to tell of a world when the divine shows up in disaster. It is how to tell of a world when forgiveness is forever possible. It is how to tell of a world when a woman’s witness welcomes wonder.”[10] It is how to tell the world that there is a deeper hope, a mystical hope, which lies underneath it all and it is just waiting for an invitation from each one of us. This mystical hope is waiting for us to find our connection to it and feed it and nurture it so that we may offer it to others. Amen!

Please write your joys and concerns in the comment section and
I will lift them up after this hymn

We Live by Faith and not by sight is #256 (Dunlap’s creek melody)
Lifting of prayers, joys, and concerns.

Let us pray the prayer Jesus taught us

Our Creator, who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kin-dom come, Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For Thine is the kin-dom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen

Invitation to the Offering (1 Peter 1)
May we give out of the love
that we have for Jesus Christ,
so that others may share
in our imperishable and unfading inheritance
of hope and life.

If you would care to, you may mail in your offerings or go to the top of the Church’s  webpage and click the donate now button.  This is a PayPal donation and once you are in pay pal there is a message box where you can earmark the donation to the church, kidz cupboard, the Food Pantry, and/or all three.

The office is open for regular hours
We have bible study via zoom Mondays at noon via zoom
And we have virtual office drop in on Tuesdays via Zoom from 10:30-12:30

Please Join in singing our final hymn of Blessing; Love Divine all loves excelling #43

[2] [1] Delio, Ilia, “Hope in a Time of Crisis,” The Omega Center, March 9, 2020,
[3] Adapted from Cynthia Bourgeault, Mystical Hope: Trusting in the Mercy of God (Cowley Publications: 2001), 3, 5, 9-10, 17, 20, 42.
[4] Ditto
[5] Ditto
[6] Ditto
[7] Ditto
[8] Ditto
[9] Richard Rohr’s Daily meditation © 2020 | Center for Action and Contemplation


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