Uniting Church Sketty ‘Worship from Home’ for Sunday 19th April 2020
We are very grateful to Rev John Atkinson who has prepared these thoughts for us.
During lockdown, these sheets have been going to the congregations of both Sketty and Clydach. In order to reflect a more ‘normal’ preaching pattern (ie not me every week!), I have asked our retired ministers based in and known to both of those congregations if they would like to prepare a ‘Worship from Home’ sheet. I’m very grateful that they said ‘yes’! Leslie
The Lord is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
Let us worship the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ: and because in his mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead; because he has brought us into an inheritance that nothing can destroy, spoil or wither; because this is cause for great joy, a joy to great for words; let us silently adore him. (silence)
Praise without limit, glory without end, be yours everlastingly, God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Lord Jesus Christ, forgive us our slowness of believing and our difficulties in understanding the mystery of Easter. Accept our faith and help us where faith falls short. And since you showed yourself alive to those who looked for you in a tomb, forgive us the way we still think of you locked in the past. Help us to grasp that you are permanently risen; so that remembering you as you were, we may worship you as you are.
Last week we celebrated the Resurrection. Jesus, who had died very publicly on the cross, was seen by Mary in the garden where she had gone to express her love and her grief. Peter and John ran to the tomb finding it empty. Today we find the disciples beginning to come to terms with what the Resurrection meant.
Hymn StF 306 Now the green blade riseth
Readings for today
John 20:19-31: We find the disciples later on Easter Sunday locked in together for fear of the Jewish authorities.
1 Peter 1: 3-9: The writer of this letter picks up the point that the resurrection is life-changing for everyone who follows Jesus
Since the enforcement of the lockdown I have been taking the opportunity of ‘exercise time’ to do a brisk walk down to the sea front over the Tawe and back. Then it is close the door and isolate for ‘fear of the virus’. Peter and ‘the other disciple’ had dashed out to confirm Mary’s news of the empty tomb but had then returned to hide behind their locked doors ‘for fear of the Jews.
We can hardly begin to guess what was going through their minds. Total bewilderment, I suspect. The women had gone to the tomb before dawn. Mary had met Jesus presumably in the early morning. Then Peter had been and come back. For just a few hours the frightened followers must have been trying to make sense of it.
Then when it was evening Jesus suddenly appeared standing among them – not a case of ‘Behold I stand at the door and knock’; he just appeared. Imagine that if you can! But his first words were ‘Peace be with you’ or more simply ‘Shalom’ which feels less liturgical. Then followed the ‘physical’ evidence, the wounds on his hands and side. At this it seems they began to register what had happened. And in John’s account this is when the disciples are given the gift of the Holy Spirit which gives them authority to act on behalf of God in forgiving sins.
Thomas of course missed out on this and caught up a week later when he eventually exclaimed ‘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.’
In 1 Peter 1:8 Peter writes ‘You have not seen him, yet you love him; and trusting in him now without seeing him, you are filled with a glorious joy too great for words.’
We follow in the footsteps of those first generation Christians who came to know Christ through the witness of the apostles and the evidence of the Spirit.
The last few verses of our reading are known as ‘the short ending’ to John’s Gospel. (Chapter 21 is thought to have been added later.) They make clear what is the purpose of the Gospel: But these are written so that you may come to believethat Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.
The aim is that we should come to faith in Jesus and so have true life.
Contemporary secularists and scientists require objective evidence. Our evidence comes from our inner conviction, the experience of our lives and as many of us have experienced in recent weeks a connectedness which goes beyond the physical and is underscored by love.
Read the Gospel passage again and try to imagine what it was like to be one of the frightened disciples in the locked room.
- What would be going through your mind?
- And when Jesus appeared?
- Or if you had been Thomas?
- Finally what does it mean to you today that Jesus is alive?
Pause and be still for a few moments in prayer
- Bring to mind the blessings you have received this week and give thanks.
- Bring to mind people and situations known to you, especially all those most affected by the coronavirus pandemic, and offer your thoughts to God.
Lord, your followers were shut in their home full of fear about what might happen if they came out. Their lives might have been at risk. But you came to them in their fear and offered them peace, ‘Shalom’.
We in our own time of uncertainty also face an enemy, albeit invisible, which could well threaten our lives and those of our friends and loved ones. Open our eyes to see you in our homes offering us that same ‘Shalom’.
Lord, your followers were overwhelmed by the events of recent days. The secure points of their lives had been uprooted. They didn’t know what would happen next. But you breathed the Holy Spirit into them, empowering them.
In our own time of uncertainty breathe your Spirit into our own lives so that whatever may face us we can know the assurance of your power to overcome.
Lord, Thomas was full of doubt. He was unwilling to accept the testimony of his friends; but you came to him in his personal need and his doubt was transformed to worship.
We too have our doubts and want to see the evidence before we are willing to rely on faith.
Lord we believe: Help our unbelief.
The Lord’s Prayer
Shalom! The peace of the Risen Christ be with you wherever you may be today, tomorrow and forever. Amen