Sunday Worship April 19th

Before the service, as we prepare for worship, enjoy this montage of some members of our congregation, with a stunning soundtrack from a recording made last year at Coxwold. Sorry that not everybody is included – since I have been on leave this week I have had limited time to contact people and some emails have gone astray. Hopefully there are a few familiar faces. Thank you to all the wardens who passed on the message and persuaded people to send photos.

Our first song is one that we nearly always have on Colourful Sunday. As with the lyrics of many songs, they are not quite lockdown-compliant. Please do not go down into the city, but do continue to tell people about Jesus while remaining at home!

In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Amen

Grace, mercy and peace
from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ
be with you
And also with you
Alleluia, Christ is risen.
He is risen indeed, Alleluia.

Almighty God,
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. Amen.

Confession

Like Mary at the empty tomb,
we fail to grasp the wonder of your presence.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Like the disciples behind locked doors,
we are afraid to be seen as your followers.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Like Thomas in the upper room,
we are slow to believe.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Almighty God,
who in Jesus Christ has given us
a kingdom that cannot be destroyed,
forgive us our sins,
open our eyes to God’s truth,
strengthen us to do God’s will
and give us the joy of his kingdom,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

As God’s forgiven people, we can praise him boldly.
This version of the Gloria really made me smile. I would love to know the story behind their costumes!

The prayer for the week

Almighty Father,
you have given your only Son to die for our sins
and to rise again for our justification:
grant us so to put away the leaven of malice and wickedness
that we may always serve you
in pureness of living and truth;
through the merits of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Christians from all over the world join in singing In resurrectione tua Christe, coeli et terra laetentur (Let heaven and earth rejoice in your resurrection, O Christ).

Reading – John 20: 19-31

Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to John.
Glory to you, O Lord.

This is the Gospel of the Lord.
Praise to you, O Christ.

Sermon – The Revd Dr Stephen Pope

Last week, on Easter day Rev Liz shared how much of a challenge it had been in the previous few weeks with the threat of coronavirus dominating so much of our lives.

And this on top of the discipline of Lent. Where is God in all this?

Some might well have been able to leap out of bed and celebrate Easter that morning. But others would have been struggling, and some struggling badly, like Mary was, arriving early at the tomb to find Jesus’ body gone.

We were reminded of the gentleness in Jesus’ speech to her, as He broke the good news of His resurrection to her – a gentleness that He will use to those of us who are struggling too at present.

We were also encouraged to look for moments of encouragement, joy and hope where we could:

Remembering that the greatest JOY for Christians is discovering that death is not the end, knowing we will share in the resurrection ourselves in due course;

Being aware of the mystery that with the first Easter we moved into the realm of now and not yet. Things are not yet perfect. We can celebrate and sing, but not together yet; we can eat eggs and cake but not share together yet.

That was last week. Today, the Sunday after Easter, we have a local custom of celebrating it as ‘Colourful Sunday’, and when I think of all the colourful clothes many people wear to church, it always brings a smile to my face. But today is a Colourful Sunday like no other we have had before. We cannot share and rejoice together as in past years. But then, our God is a God like no other. How can Jesus speak to our current situation?

Let us turn to our Gospel reading and find out.

We meet most of the disciples. They are in many ways like us. They were in a locked room – for fear of the Jewish leaders. We are still in lockdown – for fear of coronavirus.

Then, just like that, Jesus was there, standing among them saying ‘Peace be with you!’ Two words in Hebrew – ‘Shalom aleikhem’ A regular Jewish greeting – and made for a gentle engagement with them. Jesus had been gentle in the way He revealed himself to Mary, and he was being gentle with his male disciples here. When anyone is overwrought with any strong emotion, gentleness is usually a good way to help them feel more settled.

Next Jesus shows His disciples His scars. This seems strange, but it is important that they know He really is Jesus, not some imposter. Yes, there could be no doubt – this really was Jesus, and the disciples were overjoyed.

From fear to joy after two words in Hebrew and a simple visible proof of the presence of their master and friend.

Peace and Scars somehow typify Christ’s ministry on earth.

‘Peace’, ‘Peace be with you’. That was the story of His life on earth. We heard it from the angels that first Christmas, on the day of His birth – ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth Peace to men, with whom he is well pleased’. And teaching mankind the peace that comes from right relationships with God and their neighbour and with themselves was the story of his life in ministry.

His ‘Scars’ tell the story of his ignominious death which, paradoxically bought and brought Life to all who will receive and act on his message – all of us who have received and all who will receive Him as Saviour and Lord. They also remind us of the cost that God paid so that our relationship with Him could be restored; they also speak of how much He thinks we are worth it.

The disciples, having adjusted to this latest surprise (or good shock), are now ready to receive a bit more. First another blessing of ‘Peace-be-with-you’. They will surely need it! Then the commissioning- ‘As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’ And Jesus then, knowing that He needed the Spirit in his ministry and that they would too, breathed on them and said ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’. They needed a spirit, not of fear but one that would include forgiving others. And we are reminded of the fruit of the Spirit that Paul lists in one of his letters, a list which includes, gentleness and peace and joy.

Later, the disciples who were there tell Thomas, who, for whatever reason, was absent that evening. Thomas is very, very sceptical. But he does turn up to meet with the others a week later. The doors were locked again, but no mention of fear of the Jewish leaders.

Jesus appears again, and again starts with ‘Fear not’. Then He goes straight to Thomas and not only shows him his scars in his hands and side, but also invites him to check them out physically. ‘Stop doubting and believe’, Jesus tells him. Now Thomas does acknowledge that he really is His Lord and His God. To make the point beyond all doubt, Jesus, while acknowledging that Thomas does believe, goes on to commend and bless those who believe without requiring a physical proof – ‘Blessed are those who who have not seen and yet have believed’.

How might this story move us on in our fears, and our needs for encouragement and joy during the uncertainties of lockdown and the threat of of coronavirus?

The disciples responded and moved on after hearing Jesus’ words ‘Peace be with you’.

They also responded to the presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives, more dramatically obvious at Pentecost.

So, where do we need a reassurance of Peace in our lives?

This will vary from person to person.

The disciples needed to feel a sense of peace in the place where they were. We can ask Jesus for a sense of His presence and His peace at any time and in any place.

We can also ask Him for a sense of His Joy. I have found that being thankful helps. So too can physically moving, talking to cheerful people and even singing!

And as Love loves to share, we can share our good news with other people in whatever way we can, not forgetting to thank our loving Heavenly Father too.

If you want to pause and do some of that now, that’s fine. It is an actual advantage of a service like this.

Affirmation of Faith

Let us declare our faith
in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Christ died for our sins
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he was buried;
he was raised to life on the third day
in accordance with the Scriptures;
afterwards he appeared to his followers,
and to all the apostles:
this we have received,
and this we believe.
Amen.

Intercessions

During the prayers of intercession, every time there is a “…”, take time to pause and think about who specifically you want to pray for.

In joy and hope we pray.

We pray to the Father. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

That our risen Saviour may fill us with the joy of his
glorious and life-giving resurrection …
we pray to the Father.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

That isolated and persecuted churches
may find fresh strength in the good news of Easter …
we pray to the Father.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

That God may grant us humility
to be subject to one another in Christian love …
we pray to the Father.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

That he may provide for those who lack food,
work, or shelter …
we pray to the Father.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

That by his power war and famine
may cease through all the world …
we pray to the Father.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

That he may reveal the light of his presence to the sick,
the weak and the dying,
to comfort and strengthen them …
we pray to the Father.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

That he may send the fire of the Holy Spirit upon
his people, so that we may bear faithful witness to his resurrection,
we pray to the Father.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We keep silence and pray particularly for all affected by the Coronavirus.

Keep us, good Lord,
under the shadow of your mercy
in this time of uncertainty and distress.
Sustain and support the anxious and fearful,
and lift up all who are brought low;
that we may rejoice in your comfort
knowing that nothing can separate us from your love
in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer

Let us pray with confidence as our Saviour has taught us

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;

thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who 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.
Amen.

Blessing and Dismissal

May Christ,
who out of defeat brings new hope and a new future,
fill you with his new life;
and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,
be among you and remain with you always. Amen.

Go in the peace of Christ. Alleluia, Alleluia.
Thanks be to God. Alleluia, Alleluia.

Copyright Notices

Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Common Worship, material from which is included in this service, is copyright © The Archbishops’ Council.