Acts 2: 14a, 22-32; Psalm 16; 1 Peter 1: 3-9; John 20:19-31.
CALL TO WORSHIP: based on John 20:19 – 20
When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week …Jesus came and stood among the disciples 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. Let our rejoicing be heard far and wide as we witness to our belief in the risen Lord.
PRAYER OF APPROACH:
We worship you, O God, aware that we are a group of people at differing stages in our journeys of faith. Our knowledge of you has been shaped by diverse experiences, teachings and relationships throughout our lives. At times, we move between faith and doubt, certainty and unbelief. So today, we rejoice in the word of the gospel where John declares that he has written his gospel to confirm and strengthen our belief that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God, and that in believing, we might have life in his name. We worship you, O God, with praise and thanksgiving for that gift of life made possible through Jesus’ costly death and victorious resurrection. Strengthen and confirm our belief in Jesus in this time of worship here today. May we know the blessings of his peace within us and the breath of his Spirit upon us. We offer this prayer and our worship in Jesus’ name
and for his sake. Amen
WE SAY SORRY:
When we acknowledge Jesus Christ as our Lord and God, true Christian fellowship exists. One of the major marks of this fellowship is the sense of joy we experience as we gather to worship God, to give thanks for Jesus Christ and to witness to the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Yet, we confess that there are times when we feel afraid, abandoned, and lonely; when our lives seem bereft of God’s presence; desolate times when faith leads to doubt and questions, rather than a sense of joy or peace of mind.
Lord Jesus Christ, unlike those first disciples, we cannot touch you or see you, and so it is all too easy to become downcast and given to despair.
Forgive us when, like the disciples, we find the truth of Easter hard to believe.
Come to us, risen Christ. Come through the closed doors of our hearts and minds and take away our fears and doubts. Come to us, risen Christ. Breathe on us and fill us with the joy and peace of your presence.
Bless us all as people who have not seen you but who believe that you are truly the risen Christ, Son of God. Amen
ASSURANCE OF FORGIVENESS:
We read in the letter of Peter: “Although you have not seen Jesus, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1: 8, 9) The good news therefore is this: in Jesus Christ we are loved and we are forgiven. Thanks be to God!
SCRIPTURE READINGS: 1 Peter 1: 3-9; John 20:19-31
RESPONSE TO THE WORD:
I’m sure there are times when we say “stop pulling the wool over my eyes” when we question the truth of what we are being told.
Thomas was saying something like that to his fellow disciples when they told him that they had seen the risen Christ. Come on, you can hear Thomas saying, quit pulling the wool over my eyes and give me the truth. So, Jesus gave him the truth in person. And a mortified no doubting Thomas, responds with the confession: “My Lord and my God!”
As is the case with most stories, there is more to this story than meets the eye. It is not simply about belief and disbelief, its not simply a reproach to those who believe only what they can see. It tells us something highly important about Jesus, about Thomas and about ourselves.
First, this appearance of the risen Jesus, like all his appearances, tells us something of supreme importance about Jesus himself. It tells us that Jesus has chosen to remain human forever. True – there are differences between his humanity before and after Easter. Jesus’ risen flesh does not have the limitations of our earthbound bodies. Doors cannot keep him out – but it is still the flesh that stopped breathing on a cross – still bearing the marks of Calvary. But it is permeated with God’s Spirit, God’s life.
The gospel also tells us something significant about Thomas. At first, he is portrayed as refusing to believe his peers, demanding to probe the very wounds of Jesus. Yet, he moves impressively from disbelief to genuine faith when Jesus appears and offers him the proof he has asked for. The gospel does not say that Thomas did actually take up Jesus’ offer, instead, we can picture him perhaps sinking to his knees with that cry “My Lord and my God”
We might say “So what?” Thomas still had his proof right there in front of him. Thomas could see his hands; why need to touch them? He had as much proof as the rest of the disciples a week before. So, who wouldn’t believe? Wouldn’t we? We don’t know because of course we weren’t there. But, the episode with Thomas draws from Jesus words that certainly speak directly to us. “Do you believe because you see me?” Jesus asks Thomas, and then says these marvellous words about faith: “How happy are those who believe without seeing me.”
When John was writing his gospel, the vast majority of Christians had not seen Christ. And so John relates this scene to make it clear that they too are blessed, fortunate, and happy. They are not inferior to those who did see the risen Lord. They too share in the joy ushered in by Jesus’ resurrection. Whether one has seen Jesus or not, is relatively unimportant. What is of supreme importance is to believe.
Jesus does not show us the print of the nails, the mark of the spear. If he were to appear right here in the midst of us all, and say “Examine my hands, put your hand into my side.” I suspect that even the most sceptical amongst us might exclaim: “My Lord” if not “My God.”
But such is not our situation. Yet Christ is not removed from us, he is present, as he promised when he said: “Where two or three are gathered in his name”. The trouble is, we cannot see him, cannot touch him, as we can see or touch so many others we love. And that makes for problems because it can test our faith. Little wonder, then, that Jesus calls us blessed if, never having seen the risen Christ in person we can still exclaim “My Lord and my God!”
But the Christian story does not end with that exclamation. For all its importance, sheer faith is not enough. On this the letter of James is uncompromising. “What good is it for someone to say that he has faith if his actions do not prove it? Can that faith save him? Suppose there are brothers or sisters who need clothes and don’t have enough to eat. What good is there in saying to them, ‘God bless you! keep warm and eat well!’ – if you don’t give them the necessities of life? So, it is with faith: if it is alone and includes no actions, then it is dead.” James 2:14-17
A living faith is a loving faith, a total commitment to Christ that forces us out of ourselves – out to the needs of the human family. Our love for others is the visible sign that Jesus is among us; that is how the world recognises him.
So, we have to ask the question, do people in our community and beyond, see Christ in us who claim to believe in him? We cannot proclaim the Easter cry “My Lord and my God” and live for ourselves alone; that is a Christian contradiction.
Fortunately, our hope rests where Christian hope must always rest – not in ourselves but in the Christ who died for us, in the Christ who rose for us, in the Christ who lives for and in us.
Let’s hope and pray that our faith in the risen Christ – a living, loving, and active faith, makes him recognisable not only here inside the church but outside in the community as well – especially outside in the community. Amen
PRAYERS OF INTERCESSION:
Suggest that you pray for people that you know, health care workers, all involved in keeping us safe from Covid-19, families and loved ones of those that have died throughout the world. Plus, any other prayers you want to offer.
THE LORD’S PRAYER:
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 forever. Amen.
May the God
who brings life from death,
enliven all your days.
May the God who shines as a light in the darkness,
bring you hope when all hope is gone.
And may the God whom the tomb could not hold,
set you free to be all that you can be, today and always.