A podcast of this reflection can be heard via the Podcast page
Hello Cheviot Churches and welcome to our service for the 2nd Sunday of Easter (Easter Day was the first!). It has traditionally been called ‘Low Sunday’, after the highs of Easter Day, and we focus on Thomas’ encounter with the risen Christ.
Call to Worship
In worship and in prayers
JESUS IS AMONG US
In the telling of stories and in signs
JESUS IS AMONG US
In this place and in this moment
JESUS IS AMONG US IN JOY
Hymn 413 (Tune Ellacombe - Hosanna, loud Hosanna)
The day of Resurrection!
Earth tell it out abroad;
The Passover of gladness,
The Passover of God!
From death to life eternal,
From sins dominions free,
Our Christ has brought us over
With hymns of victory. (St John of Damascus)
Let us pray
God our Maker, we come before you this day,
giving thanks for all the wonders of your creation:
for the detailed perfection revealed in a baby’s tiny fingers,
in pussy willows and daffodils greeting the spring,
in the hills worn over the centuries by wind and rain,
witnessing to your wisdom like wrinkles around an aging smile.
These details lift our hearts to praise you.
So, let the story the Risen Christ lift our hearts this day,
that we too may discover him in our midst,
making all things new with the springtime of your Spirit.
O God, in raising Jesus from the dead, you showed us your power to defeat all that brings fear and sorrow to our lives.
In his resurrection, Jesus promised to be with us always.
Yet we confess we are sometimes hesitant about how to find him. Like Thomas, we are unsure if we can trust the promise of resurrection for ourselves.
Forgive us when we have kept your resurrection as a past event rather than a present encounter: Lord, have mercy.
Forgive us for the times when we have been blind to your presence: Lord, have mercy. For those times when we have failed to live as those who have risen with Christ: Lord, have mercy
Breathe your Spirit upon us and bring us the peace Christ promised.
Friends, the risen Christ is in our midst, speaking words of peace and forgiveness to us this day. Receive his gift of forgiveness. Be at peace with yourself and with one another. Amen.
Lord’s Prayer – Our Father…
Readings: 1 Peter 1:3-9
John 20: 19-31
This joyful Eastertide, away with sin and sorrow.
My love, the Crucified, has sprung to life this morrow.
Had Christ, who once was slain,
Not burst his three day prison,
Our faith had been in vain:
But Christ has now arisen.
Here is our weekly prayer from Arthur and Kathleen:
"My Lord and My God", we thank you that we are blessed having not seen, yet we believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that by believing we have life in His name. Help us to continue to live a resurrection life and despite our present difficulties and restrictions, show the world that we are His disciples. Amen
We hear a lot about heroes these days. There are the doctors and nurses and all who work on the frontline or the likes of Captain Tom, the 99 year old veteran, who has raised enormous sums of money for the NHS through walking in his garden. People are responding to this crisis we are in in so many creative and positive ways, and many are truly heroes.
In the Bible we have many heroes, and the disciples should probably be included among them. HOWEVER, in the aftermath of the crucifixion of Jesus, they were not being very heroic. Far from it. They huddled away behind locked doors, fearful of the authorities; fearful of being accused of being friends of Jesus, fearful of being quietly ‘disposed of’. And so they shut themselves away, and not even the news from the women that the tomb was empty, that incredibly Jesus was risen, could make them unlock that door and venture outside.
And Jesus came and stood among them. In Revelation we have the famous line, ‘Behold I stand at the door and knock…’ which we associate with the picture of Jesus knocking at the handle-less door, waiting for the one inside to open it and let him in. Well in this case, the risen Christ didn’t even bother knocking - he gatecrashed the gloomy gathering and stood among them, he breathed the Spirit on them and offered them peace.
There is a Graham Kendrick chorus, ‘Jesus stand among us at the meeting of our lives, be the sweet agreement at the meeting of our eyes’. Well, I am sure the disciples would have been filled with incredible joy to see Jesus alive, but no doubt some would have been uneasy looking into his eyes, for they had denied knowing him and run away. They had let him down. But Jesus stood with them, offering peace and offering forgiveness and, by breathing the Spirit onto them, offering a new start.
As we isolate and protect ourselves, we need to know that Jesus still comes into our anxiety-filled spaces and still offers us his peace amid the chaos and offers us his hope amid our fears.
But of course, Thomas wasn’t there on that occasion. Why, we don’t know. Maybe he was out doing the shopping, fetching the groceries. Or perhaps he was checking the situation and whether it was safe. Or maybe he just needed his own space to grieve. But he wasn’t there when Jesus appeared. Imagine how that must have felt when he was what (or who) he had missed. But at the same time, he was unwilling to go along with the crowd and rely on 2nd hand experience. He had seen Jesus die on the cross. No wonder he questioned and dismissed his friends’ ravings as a kind of hysteria.
Thomas has of course been branded ‘Doubting Thomas’, which is so unfair. I like to think of him as ‘Questioning Thomas’ and the patron saint of all the researchers carrying out work on the coronavirus, asking the questions to find ultimately a vaccine. Thomas can be our patron saint too, for I think that our faith is always strengthened by asking questions about what we believe.
The story does not end there, but a week later we still find the disciples behind their locked door, but this time Thomas is with them. Jesus appears. I am thankful to Thomas, as because of his questioning we can focus on the wounds the Risen Christ still bore. He still has the marks of the nails on his hands, the mark of the spear in his side. He still has the scars that speak of sacrifice and was the same Jesus who had been nailed to the cross, who was willing to die to show us the height and breadth and depth of God’s love. That means Christ can still speak to our wounded, suffering world today. Christ can still speak to us in our pain.
Christ showed Thomas his wounds, and Thomas said ‘my Lord and my God’, one of the most heartfelt affirmations of faith we find in the Gospels. And from there the disciples became transformed into an Easter people, ready to turn the world upside down with their belief in the Risen Christ. We too are an Easter people ready with our questioning and with our faith to be as Christ to those around us at this challenging time. In the name of the father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen
We would normally have our offering after the sermon. Like so many other organisations, the church, both local and national, is suffering financially because of the lockdown, and that has a knock-on effect on the various care homes run by the church and other missions at home and abroad. While some of us give our offerings by standing order, which is great, others give by freewill offering, and I would encourage you to keep filling your envelopes during this present crisis.
Hymn – SGP 7
Alleluia, Alleluia, give thanks to the risen Lord!
Alleluia , Alleluia, give praise to his name.
Jesus is Lord of all the earth
He is the King of creation.
Our prayers of Thanksgiving and Intercession
God of new Life, Christ came speaking words of peace and understanding. Thank you for strengthening our faith
and empowering us to live with hope and trust in you day by day.
We are grateful that you give us courage to face our fears and struggles, patience to endure moments when the way ahead is not clear,
and resilience in the face of new realities.
Loving God, we pray for the many places of brokenness in our world. We think especially of those suffering in the COVID-19 outbreak, those with the disease, those who have lost loved ones, those working hard to respond to the pandemic, and those who have lost work or lost hope.
We ask that the whole earth will experience your gift of new life and hope.
We thank you for scientists, working to understand this virus and to find an antidote. For journalists, keeping us informed; for teachers finding new ways to teach children from afar and parents holding it all together. We pray for careworkers and caregivers of any kind and for all who have illnesses like cancer and need treatment. We enfold them in your care.
We pray for those who struggle with their experience of the church. Open them to your love and grace so that any pain the church has caused will be healed. Guide us with your Spirit of wisdom to know how to live out our faith in ways that create pathways for others to find you, not barriers.
We pray for our congregation, for the Church of Scotland, and for the Church in every country and culture. In these days of unexpected challenge, when worship and fellowship have been disrupted, strengthen our trust in you and our concern for others. Make us good stewards of time apart to reflect on your presence with your people in circumstances of deep challenge. Help us maintain the joy we know in the Risen Christ.
In silence we bring the prayers of our hearts.
Hear these and all our prayers in Jesus’ name Amen
Hymn 432 (this can be sung to Aurelia – the church’s one foundation)
How often we like Thomas
Need proof before we trust.
Lord Jesus friend of doubters,
Come speak your truth to us.
We long to feel your presence
And gain new faith from you,
To find, without our seeing,
The blessing Thomas knew.
You always stand among us,
No doors can lock you out.
Your presence reassures us
Though we still live with doubt.
As present-day disciples,
Whose lives by sin are flawed,
We want to come believing
And cry: ‘My Lord and God’.
(Edith Sinclair Downing)
Risen Christ, no tomb could hold you and no door could shut you out. Bless us with your presence and fill us with your peace. Send us out into the world to live and love with you. And may the blessing of God Almighty, the Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer, be with you and with those whom you love, wherever they may be, now and always. Amen