Our Worship for the 2nd Sunday of Easter (19th April)

Whilst we are unable to meet in church to worship together, we are offering online worship for you to use at home. This week’s offering includes hymns for the day, our gospel reading, a reflection on the Gospel, some intercessions and a special musical treat. You will need about half an hour to enjoy this ‘virtual service’. ‘The Lord be with you; and also with you’.

Hymn: Good Christians all, Rejoice and Sing [Words below]

Good Christians all, rejoice and sing!  
Now is the triumph of our King.
To all the world glad news we bring:
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!

Praise we in songs of victory
that Love, that Life, which cannot die,
and sing with hearts uplifted high
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!

Thy name we bless, O risen Lord,
and sing today with one accord
the life laid down, the life restored:
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!

Our Gospel Reading for today is from John, Chapter 20: 19-31. You can just read it or follow the dramatised reading below.

Jesus Appears to the Disciples

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.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 

Christ Appears to Disciples

When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 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.”

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.” 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.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 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.”

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 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.

An Anthem: Amelia Snoxall, former member of the St Nicolas Church Choir for 10 years, and now studying singing at the Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester, was to have sung ‘I know that my Redeemer liveth’ in church this morning, but instead,  she has kindly made us  a ‘virtual’ recording.

I know that my Redeemer liveth 
and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth, 
and though worms destroy this body, 
yet in my flesh shall I see God.  
For now is Christ risen from the dead, 
the first fruits of them that sleep.

A Reflection on the Gospel Reading: by the Rev. Jane Cresswell

Week four of lockdown and increasingly we realise that our 2020 spring and summer plans will not come to fruition.  Couples looking forward to their wedding day for the past 18 months now face the prospect of waiting another year.  Special holiday plans have been cancelled; joyfully anticipated family reunions put off.  New job opportunities have failed to materialise.  Many of us grapple with waves of genuine and understandable disappointment. And for some whose loved ones have been sick and died, that disappointment is accompanied by a depth of agonising grief.

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Doubting Thomas

Jesus’ disciples were more than disappointed.  They were lost and grieving.  All that they’d hoped and planned for seemed gone.  And then suddenly Jesus appears to them and their hearts are overflowing with joy.  Until Thomas comes along and casts another pall of gloom with his persistent and vociferous doubts. They must have been on a roller coaster of emotion.

Doubt is something a lot of people know and perhaps particularly at the present time when we struggle to comprehend the terrible toll that Covid 19 is taking on the world. What does our faith look like in this situation?

Doubt is understandable and it gives us pause for deep thought.  

In the film, “The Life of Pi”, there’s a conversation between the adult Pi and a young writer.  Pi comments: “Faith is a house with many rooms.”  The writer asks him if there is room for doubt, and Pi replies, “Oh plenty, on every floor.  Doubt is useful; it keeps faith a living thing.  After all, you cannot know the strength of your faith until it is tested.”

Thomas’s doubt is an element of his living faith – one that grows and develops with him.

Brett Ward suggests that it is not doubt that is the opposite of faith but certainties.  He argues that certainty is one of humanity’s greatest perils because certainty fuels fanaticism, and builds walls between people and locks them into the cycle of violence that harms generation after generation.

Honestly spoken doubt, on the other hand, such as that of Thomas in today’s gospel, places him, and perhaps us, right in the centre of the great tradition of God’s faithful people.  Living faith is a process of exploration, of grappling with God, of honestly articulating our thoughts and our feelings and our questions, and expecting God to meet us there.

Thomas is able to respond with great faith and conviction to Jesus’ eventual appearance to him because he has been open and honest and God can meet with him.  When our minds are closed, because we are convinced that we already have all the answers, we cannot recognise the truth when it appears in front of our eyes.  An open mind is one into which God’s Spirit can come with fresh insight, a place where the Risen Lord can meet us.

It is from a doubting and yet open mind that Thomas ultimately proclaims with joy “My Lord and my God!” Doubt is transformed.

This Eastertide may we also know the transformation of Christ’s risen life, drawing us from honest and holy doubt into the resurrection experience of a faith made deeper for the struggle.

Hymn
Firmly I believe and truly God is three and God is One;
and I next acknowledge duly manhood taken by the Son.

And I trust and hope most fully in that manhood crucified;
and each thought and deed unruly do to death, as he has died.

Simply to his grace and wholly light and life and strength belong,
and I love supremely, solely, him the holy, him the strong.

Adoration ay be given, with and through the angelic host,
to the God of earth and heaven, Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

Our Prayers: You can listen to, and follow the words.

Forgive us Lord when we want proofs for our faith, and demand absolute certainty before we will commit ourselves to you.  Strengthen our trust in you so that we, who have not seen you, may still believe; and in believing may be blessed with the fullness of joy, now and always.   [Angela Ashwin]

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer

Lord, we feel isolated; alone.  Like an island in the middle of a huge ocean.  All around us there is fear, sickness, anxiety, death.  We are filled with thoughts of ‘if only’ things could be different.  Lord, lift us out of fear into hope, out of frailty into strength, out of self-interest into love for those around us.  You entered death to raise us to life.  Come Lord, raise us up, we pray.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer

Lord, we bring before you all those who need our prayers at this time:  

The worries of those whose incomes have dried up

The concerns of those who have lost their jobs

The frustrations of those living together in confined spaces

The anxiety of those not knowing if they have the virus

The struggles of those who are inflicted with desease

The grief of those who have lost loved ones.

We give thanks for all those who work to help us through this crisis:

The care and dedication of key workers

The commitment of those in authority to do the right things

The reflections and prayers of our church leaders helping us to see things in a clearer perspective

The kindness and selflessness of so many people supporting others around them

The imagination and creativity of those seeking to brighten our lives.

Lord strengthen all those who work to alleviate our suffering and let loose the spirit of your love amongst us.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer

Lord, without your resurrection, our faith would be empty and without hope.  But you are alive; may your light scatter the darkness of our hearts and minds that we may live with the power of your love, this day and always. Amen.

Hymn: The Strife is O’er

The strife is o'er, the battle done;
now is the victor's triumph won;
O let the song of praise be sung:
Alleluia.

Death's mightiest powers have done their worst.
and Jesus hath his foes dispersed;
let shouts of praise and joy outburst:
Alleluia.

On the third morn he rose again
glorious in majesty to reign;
O let us swell the joyful strain:
Alleluia.

He closed the yawning gates of hell;
the bars from heaven's high portals fell.
Let hymns of praise his triumph tell.
Alleluia!

Lord, by the stripes which wounded thee
from death's dread sting they servants free,
that we may live, and sing to thee
Alleluia.

Notices

  1. Until we return to church, we can’t offer coffee and fellowship in the normal way but please do feel free to react to today’s worship or connect with others by commenting below and if you do need any further support, don’t hesitate to contact us.
  2. You are also invited to join us on ‘Zoom’ on Wednesday evenings (8:45 for 9:00pm) for Compline (Evening Prayer). This is a lovely, calming service and an opportunity to join with others in prayer. Contact Jim (oliverjim1@sky.com) for the meeting number and password.
  3. For further details of online worship opportunities, follow the links on our website.
  4. You may have heard that there is to be a National Fundraising event next Saturday (26th) to raise some money for those charities who were expecting to raise funds from the cancelled London Marathon. It is called ‘2.6’ and fund raisers will be running, cycling etc 2.6 miles in accordance with current social distancing guidelines. We are going to join in this initiative to raise funds for our church which is losing over £1000 per month during this ‘lockdown’ period. Full details will be on the website, facebook and in a mail chimp email in the next few days so start thinking about how you could complete the challenge!

Blessing

May the power of the cross, the joy of the resurrection and the presence of our risen Lord be in our hearts and lives, now and always.

A Final Song: Lord of the Dance. This joyful song tells the story of Jesus’s ministry and the last verse highlights the power of the resurrection:

They cut me down and I leapt up high
I am the life that will never, never die.
I'll live in you if you'll live in me;
I am the Lord of the Dance said he.

Best wishes for this next week; keep safe and keep in touch.

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