Sunday 24th April 2022

Welcome & Intimations
Welcome to our joint service for this week, where we continue our journey in the light of the resurrection of Christ Jesus. This week we explore elements of what it means to live in the light of greatest story ever told.

Call to Worship (Psalm 150: 1, 2, 6)

Praise the Lord!
Praise God in his sanctuary;
     praise him in his mighty firmament!
Praise him for his mighty deeds;
     praise him according to his surpassing greatness!

Let everything that breathes praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord!

HYMN 132 – Immortal, invisible, God only wise

(from Westminster Abbey, Commonwealth Day Service 2020)

Prayer c/w Lord’s Prayer

Let us pray:

Your people gather
behind locked doors,
drawn together through grief,
worrying about what comes next.
Into this You come, declaring:
Peace be with you

Into all times of life,
in hope and in fear,
in joy and in despair,
in wonder and in praise.
Into these You come, declaring:
Peace be with you

We gather this morning
sharing our alleluias
for death overcome
and for joy to come.
Into this you come, declaring:
Peace be with you

Assure us of Your presence,
surround us with Your love,
hold us close to You,
and give us lives full of thankfulness.
Come into our midst and declare:
Peace be with you.

Lord Incarnate,
Creator of all
from fragile flower to great galaxy.
To You we confess we are imperfect.
We lack the words that encourage,
and the vision to heal hurts.
We speak too much
and do not listen or see as we ought.

Forgive us through the hands
that reached out to all.
Forgive us through the hands
that stretched out on the cross.
Forgive us through the hands
held out to bring peace.

In Christ we are offered hands
leading us to a future.
In Christ we are offered hands
upholding us in love.
In Christ we are offered hands
bearing the promise of forgiveness.
In Christ we are offered hands,
freeing us from the burdens that bind.
Accept those hands
reaching out
touching you, touching me,
and be set free.

Let us now come together
in the words of Christ Jesus,
saying together:

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial
and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours
now and for ever. Amen.

Scriptures:

Revelation 1:4-8
John to the seven churches that are in Asia:

Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.

To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

Look! He is coming with the clouds;
every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him;
and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail.
So it is to be. Amen.

‘I am the Alpha and the Omega’, says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.


John 20:19-31
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.’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’

But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 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.’

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.’ 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.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’

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

HYMN 413 – The day of resurrection!

(from the Chet Valley Churches)

Reflection:

The first Easter was a life-changing moment that changed the course of history. It set disciples, then and since, upon unimaginable. Yet how do we celebrate this transformative event? We celebrate with chocolate eggs and bunny rabbits! This time of year in this part of the world has always been about new life so perhaps these things make sense in a way.. However, remember that the first Easter was wrapped up in the impact of a death. It was wrapped up in the effects of grief. It was wrapped up in fear. The disciples, who would soon bring Good News to the world, were in hiding. The doors were shut and locked.

I imagine, to varying degrees, that we can all picture the scene. It helps that it has been portrayed in both painting and drama over the centuries. It is a scene of ten men, and sometimes some women, huddled in an upstairs room. The door is barred from the inside. Fear is clearly present. Into this image appears Jesus, having seemingly found walls and door to be no barrier to him. A week later an almost identical group are present. This time there are eleven men as Thomas is present as he was not on the previous week. He had heard their stories of resurrection and of meeting their risen Lord but had his doubts. We call him doubting, but was he? Was he simply wanting empirical evidence to back up the claims of his friends before he could believe that Jesus had risen form the grave? Or was there something else that made him await evidence?

However we look at this story, these appearances, we find a series of contrasts. On the first appearance of Jesus the fear and need for hiding make sense but not so a week later. This time, though, there are differences. Jesus is with them for longer. He proclaims peace to them not once but three times. Further, he breathes his Spirit upon them while, at the same time, commissions them. In that upper room, behind locked doors, Jesus commissions the eleven to go. He sends them out into the world. If we read the equivalent parts of the other Gospels, we find that they are sent out to ‘all creation’. Like Jesus, they are being sent to anyone and everyone. They are sent to baptise. They are sent to proclaim a message of forgiveness. They are also sent to proclaim a parallel message of judgement. They are sent to proclaim both triumph and final resurrection, just as we heard form the passage form Revelation. Importantly, though, they are sent like Jesus on a mission that could lead to suffering and death.

It is this, latter, sending that I believe holds the key to understanding what motivates Thomas. Perhaps he alone understands the truth that suffering could follow them in their calling. He had witnessed it with Jesus, the Lord whom he followed. Perhaps he had already faced threats and abuse because of his allegiance. We may never know. Perhaps it was not that empirical evidence was needed to enable belief in resurrection, but that sight and touch of wounds were needed to verify that Jesus had suffered. The idea that Jesus didn’t suffer but that it was an illusion or similar was an idea that circulated for several centuries after the resurrection. Thomas, though, receives his proof. As the writer to the Hebrews wrote, “Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.” His reaction to this is the dramatic declaration, “My Lord and my God.” Starting out from confusion and fear we reach the point where Thomas says this to the man who bears the scars of his humanity, and the wounds of redemption. Thomas declares that the crucified one, Jesus, is God.

Unlike Thomas and the other ten remaining disciples we were not there. Neither do we have the luxury of film footage or contemporary press reports to support the claims that would make their way into the gospel texts. What we do have are those writings and the history that has flowed from them. The breathing of the Spirit in that locked room would eventually reach full effect from the day of Pentecost. The transformation of lives and communities by that message has been recorded down the centuries. John, in his writing, does offer us a means of sharing in the story. Unlike Thomas we cannot see and believe, but we can read and hear.
Amen.

HYMN 237 – Look forward in faith

(from Alloway Parish Church)

Prayers

Let us pray:

We turn to the Lord,
who is and was and will be.
Let us raise our prayers
for the people who sit around us,
for the people who join us online,
for the people who have already worshipped
long before we were even awake,
for the people who are yet to see the dawn
and will continue the uplifting of prayers.

We pray for the people we know and love
and for their presence we give thanks.
We pray for the people whose lives are easy,
and we give You thanks.
We pray for the people who are anxious,
and we give You our worries.
We pray for the people whose lives are limited,
and we give You our concern.
We pray fora the people whom we have lost,
and we trust to Your care all those whom we love.

We pray for our Church
in the way we seek to serve and live
in the light of Your Resurrection.
May we seek how we can live well,
serving our communities,
and blessing Your Name
in all that we do and say and are.

We pray for our communities, country and world.
We pray for peacekeepers,
who reach beyond the boundaries,
offering a hand of hope and understanding.
We pray for healers,
who tend to the wounds of ancient hurts.
We pray for justice bringers,
who uncover hidden abuse,
to enable justice and healing,
and a different way of living.

These prayers we make in the Name of the Creator,
the Redeemer, and the Perfecter of our Faith.
Amen.

HYMN 286 – Tell out my soul, the greatness of the Lord!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3E7QWLyDWe8
(from Arundel Cathedral)

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Benediction

Go from this time
in the name of the One who created you,
the One who restores you,
and the One who upholds you.
As you go
may the blessing of that same God
go with you evermore.
Amen.

Sung Amen

Acknowledgements:
Bible Quotations taken from: New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

English translations of The Lord’s Prayer, © 1998, English Language Liturgical Consultation (ELLC), and used by permission. www.englishtexts.org

Prayers adapted from Church of Scotland Weekly Worship.

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