A WORSHIP SERVICE FOR THE WEEK FOLLOWING EASTER
19 APRIL, 2020
The following are suggested prayers, and a brief reflection for you to use as an ‘in-home’ worship time. Please feel free to adapt as you wish.
CALL TO WORSHIP:
As an Easter people let us celebrate the Risen Christ who stands in our midst.
As an Easter people, we come for renewal and restoration. We come in the knowledge that Christ is with us, waiting for us to greet him with joy and thanksgiving. Let us truly be an Easter people, gathering from wherever we are to praise the gift of new life!
O God, our Creator and Sustainer, Your constant love gives us reason to celebrate, even in the midst of uncertain times. As we come before You today, let us be ready to be filled with Your Good News. Let us have open and prayerful hearts that sing out songs of praise, whisper words of thanks, and reflect on the gift of Grace You offered us on that glorious day of Resurrection. Amen
READING FROM SCRIPTURE:
Psalm 16: ‘Protect Me God for in You I take Refuge’
1 Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuge. 2. I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
I have no good apart from you.” 3. As for the holy ones in the land, they are the noble, in whom is all my delight. 4. Those who choose another god multiply their sorrows; their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their names upon my lips. 5. The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. 6. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; I have a goodly heritage. 7. I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. 8. I keep the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. 9. Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices; my body also rests secure. 10. For you do not give me up to She’ol, or let your faithful one see the Pit. 11. You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
A PRAYER TO REFLECT ON THE PSALM
Lord, it has been a long journey to where I find myself today.
The twists and turns have brought with them lessons and questions and an ever growing desire for a firm footing in the shifting sands on which I stand.
I have put trust in things that have not brought lasting joy, while ignoring simple gifts from You.
But no matter how many times I stray from true paths of meaning, You call me back again and again, healing my wounds and granting a taste of the life that is mine in You.
Help me, Lord to not trade what is real for the easy and quick.
Help me, Lord to be faithful and steady in the darkest of nights.
Help me, Lord to continue this journey with my eyes always on You. Amen.
John 20:19-31 ‘Jesus greets the Disciples and Thomas Doubts’
19 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.” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 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 his side, I will not believe.” 26 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.” 27 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.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 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.”
30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31 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.
REFLECTION ON THE READING
The following are some thoughts about the reading from John.
This lesson is read every year in the week following Easter Sunday so is very familiar to most.
There are two frequent ways to interpret the story of Thomas who doubts Jesus’ resurrection until he sees it with his own eyes.
One interpretation you have likely heard often is that those who believe through faith without ‘seeing’ are blessed. Faith cannot always be proven, and we are called as Christians to stand on our faith by….well faith. When we believe, we are using our hearts more than our heads, and while this often goes against modern thinking, we may be filled with a sense of peace and hope that having faith can offer.
You have also likely heard sermons and reflections stating that it is ok to doubt what we cannot see; to ask questions; to need proof of the extraordinary story the Disciples were telling their friend Thomas. We are a thinking people. We were created to solve many of the mysteries of life around us. Indeed, thousands of scientists and researchers are right this minute, trying to solve the mystery of a new, virulent virus rather than waiting idly by having faith that it will solve itself.
So….which is right? BOTH!
Both interpretations of this passage have much to teach us.
Thomas was a beloved member of his community. He was faithful to Jesus, and grieved his Master’s death. So often he has been cast in the role of villain for not believing the story of Jesus’ coming to life. But why? Thomas did not turn his back on his friends. He questioned.
Have we never questioned events that have impacted our lives? Have we not asked God why? What is going on? Why should I keep believing when all these terrible things are happening to me? Over and over again, God has ‘been put to the test’ by we faithful humans demanding a ‘reward’ for enduring struggle. So often we ask for a sign that God is listening.
Other times, we have surrendered our need to know every how and why and what, as we choose instead to feel God’s peace surrounding us and walking with us when we are on a difficult journey. We somehow are able to feel connected to our God and our faith, and gain strength from this connection as we allow ourselves to feel sustained by the presence of the Holy.
Most often, when faced with struggle and events beyond our control, we will take both paths. We will ask questions, doubt, rail against the unfairness of it all. And God will be there to listen.
And then we will reach out in faith and rather than demanding answers or proof that God is there, we will look to God for peace and comfort. And God will be there to listen.
I invite you to pray in whatever way you choose, through words or in silence. Give thanks for the gifts you have received and offer prayers for yourself or others who are going through a difficult time.
BLESSING AND BENEDICTION:
God’s blessing rest on us not because we are perfect people or a perfect church.
God’s blessing rest on us not because we never stray.
God’s blessing rest on us because this is God’s Way: to seek the lost, heal the wounded and forgive any who have trespassed against us. May we live God’s blessing with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. Amen