Click the video to view the complete service or read the transcript below which also has links to the music.
Good Morning everyone
Welcome to our service for this Second Sunday of Easter.
Although church buildings remain closed the people who are the church, the body of Christ are very much open. Open to God, open to the needs of one another, open to the widespread and deep needs of the people of the world at this time. We take those open hearts into our worship.
Easter is not just a day – it is a season, we hear the accounts of the resurrection appearances of Jesus and follow the stories from the Acts of the Apostles and we continue to celebrate and affirm the risen Christ as we join in with our first hymn: Love’s redeeming work is done.
HYMN: Love’s redeeming work is done
In the name of the Father,
and of the Son,
and of the Holy Spirit.
Alleluia. Christ is risen.
He is risen indeed. Alleluia!
Prayer of Preparation
to whom all hearts are open,
all desires known,
and from whom no secrets are hidden:
cleanse the thoughts of our hearts
by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,
that we may perfectly love you,
and worthily magnify your holy name;
through Christ our Lord.
Prayers of Penitence
Christ our Passover lamb has been sacrificed for us.
Let us therefore rejoice by putting away all malice and evil
and confessing our sins with a sincere and true heart.
Most merciful God,
Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
we confess that we have sinned
in thought, word and deed.
We have not loved you with our whole heart.
We have not loved our neighbours as ourselves.
In your mercy
forgive what we have been,
help us to amend what we are,
and direct what we shall be;
that we may do justly,
and walk humbly with you, our God. Amen.
Gloria in Excelsis
Listen or join in with the Taize Gloria
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.
Reading: Acts 2:14a 22-32
14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them:
22 ‘You that are Israelites, listen to what I have to say: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through him among you, as you yourselves know— 23 this man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law. 24 But God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power. 25 For David says concerning him,
“I saw the Lord always before me,
for he is at my right hand so that I will not be shaken;
26 therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;
moreover, my flesh will live in hope.
27 For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,
or let your Holy One experience corruption.
28 You have made known to me the ways of life;
you will make me full of gladness with your presence.”
29 ‘Fellow Israelites, I may say to you confidently of our ancestor David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Since he was a prophet, he knew that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would put one of his descendants on his throne. 31 Foreseeing this, David spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, saying,
“He was not abandoned to Hades,
nor did his flesh experience corruption.”
32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses.
This is the word of the Lord
Thanks be to God.
HYMN: Now the green blade riseth
Hear the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to N.
Glory to you O Lord.
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), 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 that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.
This is the gospel of the Lord.
Praise to you, O Christ.
“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet come to believe.“
I think one of the human difficulties that is revealed through the endless debates and discussions about the nature of the Covid-19 and how we are going to live with this virus is how disturbed we are by uncertainty. Broadcasters, politicians, and all kinds of people are seeking certainty – they are looking for assurance. Assurance that this measure or this course of action is the right one. They are desperate for proof that the right steps are being taken and that this approach or another approach will work. The reference point in this debate is ‘the science’. The evidence of the science. Yet the scientists will tell us of all that they don’t yet know…
In the gospel passage – Thomas wanted proof. He wanted proof that Jesus had been raised the dead – he wanted proof that the disciples had seen what they claimed they had seen – solid, incontrovertible physical proof. I like Thomas- he was a realist, a down to earth bloke who knew what was what – not someone who was interested in airy fairy ideas. When Jesus said to his disciples after they had eaten the last supper – ‘I am going to prepare a place for you – and you know the way to the place where I am going.’ Thomas replied ‘no we don’t know Lord, we have no idea where you are going so how can we know the way..’
I can imagine Jesus smiling…
Thomas was a cynic by nature, one who questions. When he hears that Jesus is headed off towards Jerusalem once again when Jesus finally responds to the message that his friend Lazarus is sick, and it seems to Thomas that Jesus is walking straight towards trouble, he is cynical but resigned – ‘Come on’, he says to the others – ‘let’s all go with him that we may die with him.’…
In the story that we heard Thomas is cynical once again. He hasn’t seen the empty tomb or the abandoned linen and he’s not around on that first evening when Jesus came and stood among his disciples. He’s struggling with what the others are telling him and he can’t share their joy. He probably feels a bit left out. Angry and upset that something seems to be happening that he’s not part of. And only a few days earlier he saw Jesus die on the cross in a horrible and brutal way. The image of that execution is still in his mind and the pain of it still fills his heart – and so Thomas refuses to believe. He demands proof. He’s quite categorical. ‘I won’t believe it until I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them and place my hand into the wound in his side.’
Thomas stands for everyone who struggles to believe. He’s not just a first century sceptic. For some one to be resurrected after death seemed as unlikely then as it does now. It went against all experience and expectation. Thomas found it daunting and impossible to come to terms with.
There are plenty of others who do so too. Because what John and the other gospel – writers claim is that the resurrection isn’t mythology, it’s history. They’re inviting people to believe in the historical reality of the resurrection. The physical truth of the resurrection. That the body of Jesus was restored – so that he was seen and known by his followers. That he was able to appear and be present to his disciples. That’s a big ask. It means coming to see the way the world works in an entirely different way from the way people understand that it does. It means that the world is not as it seems – because this seemingly impossible event takes place.
Thomas was brought to believe because Jesus appeared to the disciples again, in the same way in the upper room a week later. Jesus, in his love for Thomas had come to him. Thomas recognised that and although he was invited to touch Jesus’ wounds and place his hand in his side he didn’t need to. He simply looked upon Jesus and believed. All his doubt fled and he was filled with faith. Faith not simply to believe in the resurrection but faith to proclaim Jesus as his Lord and his God.
Of course, the evidence was before his eyes. John, as he writes his gospel knows perfectly well that his readers aren’t going to have the same opportunity as Thomas to see the resurrected Christ. All John can do is to present the evidence and challenge us to believe. He tells us of the disappearance of the body. The appearance of the angels. The puzzlement of the disciples. The appearances of Jesus to Mary Magdalene and then to the disciples and then to Thomas. The presence of a genuine physical wounded man. The one who was on the cross standing amongst them. John wants us to know it was so.
Peter wants us to know it was so too. Again, and again through his letters and through the stories in Acts we hear Peter refer to himself as a witness to the resurrection. In the reading from Acts we heard a moment from his sermon on the day of Pentecost. ‘This Jesus God raised up’, Peter tells the crowd, ‘and of that all of us are witnesses.’
But we have not seen. We have been told the stories of the empty tomb, the angels and the appearances that Jesus made but for us to believe in the resurrection takes a step of faith. We might want proof but we not going to get it.
When I was taking an Easter assembly once at school, one young girl asked me ‘does that mean that Jesus is alive today?’ …. And straightaway I knew I was in trouble trying to explain that Christians believe that Jesus is alive and that we can know him even though we can no longer see him.
Jesus says to Thomas “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
For over two thousand years generations of Christians have to come to believe, and have reached that point where they too can proclaim with Thomas – in faith, and with assurance and certainty as they come to Jesus in prayer or worship, ‘My Lord and my God’. What brings people to this point?
Key to making the resurrection real to us is the activity of the Holy Spirit at work within us. The Church Festivals reflect the account of Luke and separate Easter and the Resurrection from Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit with a gap of seven weeks – but in the gospel of John – these two things come together as Jesus come to the disciples on that first day as they are still in hiding and breathes on them and says receive the Holy Spirit.
Think of God in the account in Genesis 2 breathing into Adam’s nostrils the breath of life, and how he, the first man became a living being. Think of God telling Ezekiel to prophesy to the dry bones, ‘I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’” It is this breath of God, the Holy Spirit which brings us to life in a new way and makes the resurrection real for us.
When Jesus appeared to the disciples despite the locked doors of their fear and said ‘peace be with you – they had a moment of knowing – they knew it was Jesus. It went beyond simple recognition like you would recognise a friend who had returned from a long holiday – it was an encounter with the divine – it was a moment of truth and understanding.
We are living behind doors and in secret and in hiding. Our society and culture have unravelled in the face of the pandemic. Those things in which we put our hope and those things in which we invested our lives and thought significant – football teams, celebrities, pop culture, art, music, the gym, all sorts of other sports events, the Olympics, summer festivals and activities, our work, our business – have evaporated – where are they now? And it begs the question – where is truly the hope of our lives.
This is the moment to realise again where our hope truly lies. It is in the resurrected Christ. Behind our locked doors, in our apartness, in our prayer, Jesus comes to us and says ‘peace be with you’ – the very peace of Christ which means more than just peace but ‘May God give you every good thing’ – Jesus is saying – be reassured. Christ breathes his Holy Spirit into us and we are brought once again to that place of certainty, not uncertainty but complete assurance and belief and trust. A rock to hold to when the storm rages around.
Let us pray.
Lord Jesus – you are our certainty in the midst of not knowing, you are our hope in the midst of anxiety and fear, you are our life even when confronted with the bitterness of death. Give us your peace we pray.
We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven,
was incarnate from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary
and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come.
Prayers of Intercession
Let us pray to God, who alone makes us dwell in safety:
For the church, that our risen Saviour may fill us with the joy of his glorious and life-giving resurrection,
for all God’s people that the assurance of their faith and their hope in the Lord Jesus Christ will remain strong throughout Christians shall be a beacon of hope to others.
Lord in your mercy
Hear our prayer
For all who are affected by coronavirus, through illness or isolation or anxiety,
that they may find relief and recovery:
For those who are affected through loss of employment, loss of businesses, loss of income.
For children losing their education and ability to socialise. For young people concerned about their futures.
Lord in your mercy
Hear our prayer
For Elizabeth our Queen and those who are guiding our nation at this time, and shaping national policies, that they may make wise decisions:
For the wellbeing of our political system, for local councils and all who
serve in public life.
Lord in your mercy
Hear our prayer.
For doctors, nurses and medical researchers, that through their skill and insights
many will be restored to health:
For the safety of health workers and care workers and all who treat those who have the virus.
For the safety of all who serve the communities responsibly and faithfully in their regular jobs, shop assistants, drivers of public transport, council service workers
Lord in your mercy
Hear our prayer
For the vulnerable and the fearful,
for the gravely ill and the dying,
For the bereaved and those anxious about their families and loved ones.
that they may know your comfort and peace:
Lord in your mercy
Hear our prayer
We commend ourselves, and all for whom we pray,
to the mercy and protection of God.
accept these prayers
for the sake of your Son,
our Saviour Jesus Christ.
Lord in your mercy
Hear our prayer
Merciful Father accept these prayers for the sake of your son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen
The risen Christ came and stood among his disciples
and said ‘peace be with you.’
Then were they glad when they saw the Lord. Alleluia.
The peace of the Lord be always with you.
And also with you.
Although apart let us offer peace to one another in a moment’s prayer.
The Lord’s Prayer
Let us pray with confidence as our saviour has taught us
Our Father, which art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come; thy will be done,
in earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive them that trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever.
God, who through the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ
has given us the victory,
give you joy and peace in your faith;
and the blessing…
HYMN: In Christ Alone – in this version played by Celtic worship, the words are printed below
In Christ alone my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song
This Cornerstone, this solid Ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My Comforter, my All in All
Here in the love of Christ I stand.
In Christ alone! – who took on flesh,
Fullness of God in helpless babe.
This gift of love and righteousness,
Scorned by the ones He came to save
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live.
There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain:
Then bursting forth in glorious day
Up from the grave He rose again
And as He stands in victory
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me,
For I am His and He is mine –
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.
No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life’s first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand:
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.
Go in the peace of Christ. Alleluia, Alleluia.
Thanks be to God. Alleluia, Alleluia.
‘Finale Symphony No. 1’ – Louise Vierne