Morning Worship

Collect for the Second Sunday of Easter

Risen Christ,
for whom no door is locked, no entrance barred:
open the doors of our hearts,
that we may seek the good of others
and walk the joyful road of sacrifice and peace,
to the praise of God the Father.
Amen.

 

Gospel Reading – 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!’ 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.’

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.

 

Doubting Thomas
Sermon Michael Winter

As I write this sermon, The UK Government have announced that the Lockdown has been extended for another three weeks.  Being in lockdown is something that none of us expected from this year.  It’s a very surreal world.  We can only go outside to do exercise or shopping for essentials and contact with people outside of your household is limited to phone calls or online video chats.  The invisible enemy of Covid-19 has put everyone on high alert and completely altered society.  Things will never be the same again, at least not in the short term.

In our Gospel today, the Disciples are also in a form of lockdown.  They are in hiding, locked behind the doors of a house, fearing for their lives.  Their world has also been completely upended.  Just a few weeks ago they were following Jesus around as he told stories to large groups of people.  Yes, Jesus didn’t always make sense to them but there was a real energy and enthusiasm for his message.  The Disciples felt that, with Jesus, anything was possible.  How were they to know that things were to turn around so quickly?

On the evening of the first Easter the doors were locked.  John makes a point of mentioning this. In spite of the doors being locked though, Jesus appears among them.  Some bible translations put it as Jesus appearing “in the midst”, or “in the middle”.  By appearing “in the midst”, we can assume that Jesus didn’t simply walk through the door.  He didn’t unlock it with the spare key found hiding under a plant pot.  He appeared “in the midst”, right in the middle of the room.  The Gospel does not mention what the Disciples initial reaction was.  Could it be terror? Shock? Confusion?  Whatever it was, the feeling is quickly dispelled by Jesus greeting them by saying “Peace be with you”.  This message of peace reminds the Disciples of Jesus’ message to them before his passion, “I’m leaving you peace.  I’m giving you my own peace.  It’s quite different from what the world gives.” (John 14:27).  It’s an embracing peace. A peace of welcome and openness.  After hearing these comforting words and seeing the wounds of Christ, the Disciples are overwhelmed with joy.  Once again, they have hope.  Jesus is with them once more.

Thomas, of course, isn’t with the other Disciples at this point.  He misses Jesus’ appearance and so doubts that Jesus has actually returned.  He has heard the testimony of Mary, whom Jesus first appears to, and now he has heard the testimony of the other disciples, but these are almost too good to be true for Thomas.  He craves for physical proof of Jesus’ return, going to the extreme of saying that he wants to put his hand and fingers into Jesus’ wounds!  According to the Gospel, it takes a week before Jesus appears once more.  In this week, some things change.  The doors, although still shut, are no longer defined as being locked, but the disciples are still gathered in the same house, waiting.  This time, Thomas is with them when Jesus appears once again “in the midst”, offering the same words of comfort, “Peace be with you!”.

Jesus then addresses Thomas directly in order to encourage and help Thomas understand that he has returned.  He offers his wounds for Thomas to see and touch but then Thomas exclaims the most significant statement that any of the disciples make.  Thomas says “My Lord and my God!”.  By calling Jesus “Lord”, Thomas is confessing Christ’s human nature, and by calling him “God”, he confesses Christ’s divine nature.  It is the culmination of John’s Gospel, the point that John is trying to make since the opening verse of his Gospel, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1).  The Word is God and God is Jesus Christ.  There is no stronger statement of belief in Jesus than this.  With this statement comes Jesus’ encouragement for us.  “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe”. 

As we sit at home, locked in our houses, unable to see our friends and family due to the virus, we may be able to take hope from today’s Gospel.  There is hope that, if we believe, Jesus can reach us and be with us despite the lockdown, despite being shut away from the outside world.  The collect for today tells us that no door is locked and no entrance is barred from Jesus.  This time is a struggle for many, but we are not alone.  Jesus is “in the midst” with us.  We cannot see him, but we can have faith that he is here.   But this also goes further.  It isn’t just Jesus with us.  Our Father in heaven is with us as well.  God breaks through these barriers and stands with us, just as the Father and the Son broke through the barrier of death and made the tomb empty.  And the Holy Spirit is there too.  As Jesus breathed on his disciples, preparing them for Pentecost by saying “Receive the Holy Spirit”, so we are also prepared to receive the Holy Spirit.  The whole power and might of the Trinity is able to break down the barriers, enter into our own homes and bring us that deep and all-embracing peace.   Blessed are we who have not seen Jesus but believe that Christ is with us.

Amen.

 

Intercessions, prepared by Julie Collis

Father, we come together in prayer giving thanks for the gift of new birth and a living hope of an inheritance of eternal life through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Father, we pray for the Church throughout the world.  As the disciples struggled with strange and disorientating times behind locked doors, we are challenged with finding new ways of living and being Church.  We give thanks for our brothers and sisters who reach out to care for each other.  We give thanks for the varied and creative ways we are able to worship together from our own homes.  Grace us with steadfastness of faith to sustain us.  We pray for opportunities to share our faith with those who do not yet know you, that they will come to see and believe.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer

Father, we pray for leaders of all nations as they respond to the pandemic.  Grace them with wisdom, compassion and humility, and guide them to make right judgements.  We give thanks for the selflessness of workers in hospitals and care homes; in essential services; and emergency services.  We pray for people who have had to stop work and fear the loss of their livelihoods, especially those for whom there is no support forthcoming.  Lord, protect, sustain and strengthen them.  We remember vulnerable people suffering the effects of poverty, violence and injustice, and especially in Yemen, which has reported its first Coronavirus case.  We pray their desperate situation will not be forgotten, and international efforts will be made to alleviate their suffering.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer

Father, we pray for our family, friends and communities.  We give thanks for the love and support flowing from these relationships.  Grace us with the gift of awareness, that we will nurture these relationships and be alert and responsive to those who are lonely or finding life difficult. We bring to you the lonely, the fearful, and those struggling with separation from loved ones, and we pray they will be comforted.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer

Father, we pray for people who are sick in mind, body or spirit and especially we remember Simon, Martin, Pam, Val, Brian and Janet.  We pray for those suffering from the Coronavirus, for people who are over-whelmed with anxiety and fear of contracting it. We pray for people who are worried because medical treatment has been delayed because of the pandemic. We pray for the bereaved, grieving the loss of loved ones.  Lord, ease their suffering and comfort them. 

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer

Father, we pray for those who have died - those we know, those we have heard of in news reports, and those known only to you. We remember in particular the recently departed, including Isabel Brasier; we pray for her family.   And at their years mind, we give thanks for Stanley Rumsey, John Beveridge, Claude King, Gerald Eedie, Betty Claridge, Ann Fielding, Helen King, Ruth Mundy, Stella Clackett, Joyce Fribbens and Marjorie Benison. Grant us, with all who have known you in their hearts, a share in your eternal kingdom.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer

Father, the presence of the Risen Jesus dissolved the fears of the disciples and gave them a deep inner peace.  We pray, amid all the uncertainty of this world, that we will recognise your presence and experience your peace.

Merciful Father,
accept these prayers for the sake of your Son,
Our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.


Blessing

The God of peace,
who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus,
that great shepherd of the sheep,
make you perfect in every good work to do his will;
and the blessing of God almighty,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be among you, and remain with you always. Amen.