Home Service for Sunday 24th April 2022

Prayers of Approach

Eternal God ever present, ever loyal, we gather today as one family – each with our different experiences of faith, but with one longing to serve you; each with our own questions and doubts, but with one heart to learn from you; each with our own burdens and joys, but as one in our desire to worship you;

We come to find the risen Lord. we come with our whole selves, with our worries and our successes, our fears and our joys, our questions and our answers. we come, excited or anxious, confident and searching, knowing God will meet us here.

In the middle of our busy lives, we seek Jesus. In our caring and providing, in dreaming and hoping, we seek Jesus. In our seeking after truth and our longing to know more fully, we seek Jesus.

In the troubles of the world, in conflict and distress, we come to find peace. In our challenges and our hopes, in all we wish was different, we come to find peace.

When we don’t know the answers, when we don’t know what is true, in all our searching and longing, Jesus, meet us we pray.

Lord Jesus, we thank you that although we cannot touch you as Thomas did, we can reach out in prayer; although we cannot put our fingers in your side, we can proclaim you as our Lord and our God; although we cannot see the marks of the nails, we can open our hearts to receive your peace and praise your wonderful name. Amen

Hymn Alleluia, alleluia, give thanks to the risen Lord (R&S 234)

Reading: John 20:19-31

Introduction

When Jesus appeared to his disciples after he rose from the dead, Thomas missed out on the experience. It was hard for him to believe what the others told him afterwards, because Thomas needed to touch Jesus himself to know it was true. When Jesus came the second time, he gave Thomas exactly what he needed.

In a world where reality is constantly brought into question by conflicting reports and counter narratives and where fake news can distort our perspectives, how can Christians ensure the validity of the stories we tell and the message by which we live? Is it wrong to seek or even to demand evidence?

Hymn He is Lord, he is Lord (R&S 264)

Sermon/Reflection

Quasimodo; Low Sunday; 2nd Sunday of Easter; what do they have in common? Simply that they are all names for today – the Sunday after Easter Day (the French novelist Victor Hugo named his character, the Hunchback of Notre-Dame, after a day in the church year). In many churches the Sunday after Easter would see one of the lowest congregations of the year. Why should this be? Perhaps it is because after all the excitement and joy of Easter (and the emotional week leading up to it) the Sunday after seems a bit of an anti-climax and people are tired and emotionally drained.

That seemed to be the case for the disciples too – all except for Thomas who had not been present when Jesus first appeared to his disciples on the evening of his resurrection. This story, which only appears in John’s Gospel, has perhaps unfairly, resulted in Thomas being forever known as ‘Doubting Thomas’. But would we have done any better? I suspect not. Even with modern medicine and seemingly miraculous recoveries from ‘incurable’ diseases and life changing injuries, and possibly because of what we know medicine is capable of, we are much less likely now to believe that a person could come back from the dead. Added to that a modern cynicism and distrust of ‘fake news’ we too would demand proof.

But surely after 3 years of travelling, working and living with Jesus and the other disciples Thomas would have trusted them? Perhaps, though, it is not so much a question of trusting his fellow disciples as of trusting himself. Was he suffering from what we now call ‘post-traumatic stress disorder’? Thomas had been the one who, when Jesus said he was going to Jerusalem and the other disciples had tried to dissuade him because of the danger, had said, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’ (John 11:16). Maybe it was ‘survivor’s guilt’. Jesus had indeed died but Thomas and the rest hadn’t. In fact when Jesus was arrested they had done nothing or had even run away. Is Thomas blaming himself for his inaction? If Jesus had resisted would he have fought and died with him?

Thomas longs for Jesus to be alive, he has a deep yearning for it to be true, but after his ‘failure’ he can no longer trust himself. What if he is wrong again? It is something too awful to contemplate. Until he sees with his own eyes Thomas cannot allow himself to believe. And when he does see, with no possible room for doubt, Thomas makes the most profound declaration of all, going further than any of the other disciples, ‘My Lord, and my God!’ (John 20:28).

Doubt and faith are not mutually exclusive. We need to question if we are to understand, and there are times when we too need evidence if our faith is to withstand the test. What are some of the things about faith that make you ask, ‘How do I know?’

Hymn Jesus stand among us, in your risen power (R&S 388)

Prayers of Intercession

In places where there is conflict between nations leading to violence and destruction, on decision-makers and ordinary people: Spirit of unity, bring comfort and peace. To the leaders of different religions and to their faithful followers, where there is difference and dispute: Spirit of unity, bring comfort and peace. In homes where people live in fear of violence and abuse; where there is neither safety nor sanctuary: Spirit of unity, bring comfort and peace. In communities fragmented by greed, disagreement and discord, to peacemakers and those who seek to bring healing: Spirit of unity, bring comfort and peace. May the risen Lord be present through the Holy Spirit to heal, renew and fill people with hope. In his name we pray. Amen.

Hymn Christ is alive! Let Christians sing (R&S 260)

Blessing

God beyond our understanding, yet always with us, we offer to you: our minds to think of your words and your promises; our hearts to show your love for the world; our imagination to dream big for your kingdom; our hands to work for a better world, and all of our lives to love and serve you always.

And as we pass through this world may your blessing rest on us,

And prosper our work in your name, always. Amen.

Prayers (adapted) © Roots for Churches Ltd. Used by permission.

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