Sunday Worship, 11 April 2021

watch today’s service here:

Welcome

I pray that your inward eyes may be enlightened, so that you may know how vast are the resources of his power open to us who have faith.

Ephesians 1: 18-19

Hymn SGP 7 Alleluia alleluia give thanks to the risen Lord

Opening Prayer

Lord

We are supposed to have faith, to trust in you

 neither to doubt what we have been told about you

 nor to doubt that you are a loving and caring God

   who has the power to right wrongs

   and establish peace and justice

But it isn’t so easy to do that in practice:

 we have questions, we have concerns

 we have niggling doubts

 we look at the world around us –

 maybe at our own circumstances –

  and find it isn’t always easy to match

  the theory with life as it actually is.

Thank you that Jesus lived a human life

 and understands the challenges

   that come with being human.

He had questions and concerns

His friends had questions and concerns

  and he taught them to go on living and serving

  without knowing all the answers

Help us to do that

Where there are things we need to know

 help us to learn them

Where there are things we don’t need to know

 help us to cope with uncertainty or lack of knowledge

and help us to know which is which.

Through Christ our Saviour we pray. Amen

All age time (for ages 0-100)

Let’s have a True or False Quiz today. No shouting out the answer. Put up your Right Hand if you think the statement is True, and your Left Hand if you think it is False

  1. Tulips come originally from North America                                 TRUE/FALSE
  2. If you mix red and blue paint you get orange                             TRUE/FALSE
  3. Those who receive the royal Maundy money
    receive the same number of silver Maundy coins
    as the years of the sovereign’s age                                    TRUE/FALSE
  4. If you had 6 Easter eggs and ate 2 you have 4 left                   TRUE/FALSE
  5. Cadbury released their first hollow egg filled with
    sugared almonds in 1875                                                          TRUE/FALSE
  6. A baby hen is called a chick                                                      TRUE/FALSE
  7. The name ‘Spain’ comes originally from the
    Phoenician I-Shpania ‘The Land of the rabbit’                         TRUE/FALSE
  8. Daffodils have purple flowers                                                   TRUE/FALSE
  9. 38 Faberge eggs were made for the Russian Tsars
    Alexander III and Nicholas II to give as Easter
    gifts to their wives and mothers                                         TRUE/FALSE
  10. A lamb is a baby sheep                                                          TRUE/FALSE

Whatever our age, how do we know whether to believe a bit of information or not? When we are young we believe grown-ups, especially parents and teachers. As we get older, not only do we become naturally more sceptical (even cynical as we become even older again!) but we are taught and expected to be able to assess whether something we are told or read is true or not.

That said, how often do we just take things at face-value: what we read on social media, what a web-site says, what an ‘influencer’ thinks? We have to trust some people, we have to trust that some bits of information are right, or life just wouldn’t happen. So what are the guidelines we follow on when to trust people/ bits of information, and when to dismiss them?

Answers to the Quiz

 1 False (they come from Anatolia across to central Asia, with some species being found in Mediterranean areas); 2 False (the answer is purple) 3 True 4 True 5 True 6 True7 True (though some other suggestions for the origin have been made) 8 False (they are yellow) 9 False (it was 52) 10 True

Bible reading

John 20: 19-30

Hymn 430 Christ has risen while earth slumbers

Reflection

(what Thomas might have thought)

I think I’ll always be different from the other disciples. I just am different. Some of them as so full of miracles, of deep and meaningful sayings, of spiritual experiences. Me, I’m a practical person, I like to get on and do things, I call a spade a spade. I’m a natural sceptic. I’m the one who will say “Yes, but what about..” or “Have you taken into consideration the fact that..” The others think I’m an awkward so-and-so, that I’m not really committed, that I’m holding them back.

I’m also liable to say what I think, or maybe it’s more what I feel. I don’t always put it in the most diplomatic language. Sometimes I think I say what other people are thinking, but don’t have the courage to say.

I liked Jesus. I really did. But sometimes I just didn’t ‘get’ him. For someone with such a good grasp of human nature, he was too soft with other people, too ready to give them the benefit of the doubt, too ready to leave himself exposed to them. I’m not one to show my feelings very well. I was just as upset as the other disciples when Jesus was arrested, taken away and executed, and just as ashamed of my own behaviour – running away and hiding. Some of the others like to make a big show of being upset, and I can’t really handle that. Personally I like to go off somewhere on my own to think my thoughts and shed my tears when I’m alone.

Being together, eating together, wasn’t the same without Jesus. It made me miss him all the more. I took some stick for not being there that Sunday evening. “Where were you last night? Out enjoying yourself again? You really missed yourself. You’ll never guess what happened to us? We’ve seen the Risen Jesus. We received the Holy Spirit from him. Wonder what that means for you. Never mind, when we all die and we’re sitting on our clouds, we’ll wave down to you burning in the fires of hell”. That week was hell. It hurt so much. Like a knife going in and being twisted. My Jesus let me down! If he knows everything, surely he knew about my hurt and grief. So why did he turn up when I wasn’t there? I was missing him, I was feeling bad about letting him down, and he seemed to snub me, to give the others an excuse for making fun of me. “Doubting Thomas”. Doubting Thomas. Doubting Thomas.

May I shouldn’t have said what I said “Unless I can put my hand..” and all that. But I said it. Even without my personal baggage there are lots of questions round the claims they were making. Jesus died on the Friday. He must have died after all that suffering. He couldn’t have somehow survived and been well enough to be out and about three days later. But how could someone rise from the dead? How could a body as battered and broken as his come back to life? Could it really come unannounced into a room with locked doors? Was it wishful thinking? Was it really a dream, or a hallucination? Did they exaggerate things?

Despite everything I was there a week later. It wasn’t comfortable – those looks, those smirks, Doubting Thomas, Doubting Thomas. But that was as nothing to what I felt when Jesus appeared. I just wasn’t aware of the others at that point. All I could take in was Jesus standing there. Him and me. I thought I was going to get the full edge of his tongue, like the money changers in the Temple. I thought he might threaten me with the fires of hell. But I should have known better. What was it I said about him being too soft and giving other people the benefit of the doubt. He did that to me. “Put your finger here and look at my hands, stretch out your hand and put it in my side.” It was weird. It was gruesome, but it was fascinating. Nail marks. Spear mark. But it wasn’t raw flesh, there wasn’t blood or obvious pain. Just marks on living flesh. I wanted to touch them, and I didn’t. I didn’t need to. It really was him, alive, and not holding against me anything that I’d said or done.

Now I don’t care if I’m Doubting Thomas. I’m Jesus’ Apostle Thomas. He forgave me, he accepted me for who and what I am, and he sent me out. I’m still me, different from the others, not one who is full of miracles, deep and meaningful sayings or intense spiritual experiences. I’m still a practical person, who calls a spade a spade, asks awkward questions and says what he things or feels (though maybe I’ve learned to pause before I speak and consider how I phrase things). Jesus showed me that he has a place for me in his team, he needs someone like me in his team – though he wouldn’t really want a complete team of people like me. We’re all different, but Jesus needs our differences, our different skills, our different personalities, to make an effective team. He gave me the Holy Spirit, he gave it to the others, he has it given to everyone else who has joined his team, with the instruction to go out and be witnesses wherever we are to the Good News that he has been raised from the dead.

The others might never admit it, but I think they secretly appreciate my doubts and questions: it makes them have to think, it helps them to grapple with issues that people in the community of Jesus’ friends have to confront, and it prepares them for the sort of questions, arguments and doubts they encounter from people who don’t know Jesus, or are hostile to Jesus. And I think many of them have learned, or are learning, that there are some questions and doubts you have to live with, but against that there is the certainty of knowing Jesus’ love and presence with us all the time.

Prayers for others

Gracious God

We live in a world where many people

  live uncomfortably with uncertainty or doubt

Where will the next meal come from?

How secure is their job?

Will peace come back?

Will they be able to return home?

Will the captive be set free?

Will they or their friend or loved one be well again?

Can they believe what they are told in the media,

  by the authorities?

How much is propaganda, or ‘fake news’?

You are a God who cares.

You are a God who strives for truth, for justice and for peace

And so we bring you our prayers for those in need.

we pray for those who are ill, at home or in hospital

            those undergoing treatment

            and those for whom there is no treatment

            and for all who care for them

            we pray for those who are lonely or feeling low

            those grieving a friend or loved one

            we pray for those who are worried about work,

about money, about home

we pray for those who work for peace and justice

            that they may know your strength

            we pray for those who suffer loss of hope or purpose

            that they may know your comfort

            we pray for those who seek to heal and reconcile

            that they may know your patience

            we pray for those who feel the pain of anger, hurt or bitterness

            that they may know your peace

            we pray for those whose cries for help we cannot hear

            that they may know the courage of your presence

            we pray for the Queen

            and for all in positions of responsibility

            we pray for your church

            here and throughout the world

            help us to live together in love and unity

            and be your hands, your feet, your witness

            in everything we do

We bring to you our prayers for people and situations of special concern to us

And we sum up our prayers in the words of the prayer Jesus gave us

Hymn 432 How often we like Thomas

Blessing

Christ was raised from the dead

by the glorious power of the Father.

Set out, then, on a new life with Christ,

 Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,

 rest and remain with you,

 today, and every day, and for ever. Amen

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