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Worship, Prayers and Bible Resources

Second Sunday of Easter - Year B - Low Sunday

Liturgical Colour - White


Introduction

In our Gospel reading today, the disciple Thomas wants to put his hands in the holes in the wounded body of Jesus. He needs to know that Jesus is really alive. If we had been near Jesus after the resurrection we might also have been surprised at what was going on. Thomas just says out loud the things the other disciples (and perhaps us) think but keep to themselves.

It was Thomas also who asked Jesus what on earth he was talking about when he said he was going to 'prepare a place for them.' We are fortunate that Thomas voices the questions which we all have and in so doing shows us that it is alright to have doubts ands fears in our faith. Like Thomas we do not know what happens when we die, we are filled with questions. But thankfully this is a good thing, faith is like a muscle it grows by stretching. It is good for our faith to be stretched like Thomas and as it is we learn to understand that there many things which we just do not and never will understand.

We all have doubts, we might not always express them, but they are there, a normal part of living. So it is with our faith, there will be things which trouble and confuse us, or things which we simply cannot bring ourselves to accept or understand. What do we do when our doubts trouble us? In the Gospel reading today we learn of Thomas. He could not accept that Jesus had risen from the grave, and he could not even accept the witness of the disciples who told him that they had seen Jesus with their own eyes. Thomas struggled with the resurrection story, but it was not just Thomas, we are told others doubted as well, until they too had seen Jesus.

Thomas was lucky, soon he saw Jesus for himself, we are not so fortunate So what do we do about our doubts, we who believe but have not seen ? Perhaps the first things is to understand that everybody has doubts, the best things is to talk about them and use them to encourage ourselves to move on in our faith.

 


Opening Verses of Scripture  John 6 : 40

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘This is the will of my Father, that whoever sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and that I shall raise him up on the last day.

Collect Prayer for the Day — Before we read we pray

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.  Common Worship

Risen Christ, for whom nor door is locked, no entrance barred: open the doors of our hearts, that we may seek the good of others and walk the joyful road of sacrifice and peace, to the praise of God the Father.  Amen.   Common Worship Shorter Collect

Risen Christ, you filled your disciples with boldness and fresh hope: strengthen us to proclaim your risen life and fill us with your peace, to the glory of God the Father. Common Worship Shorter Collect

Faithful God, the strength of all who believe and the hope of those who doubt; may we, who have not seen, have faith and receive the fullness of Christ’s blessing; who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen Methodist Worship

God of the prophets, you fulfilled your promise that Christ would suffer and rise to glory. Open our minds to understand the scriptures that we may be his witnesses to the ends of the earth. We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen. Methodist Worship

 

Almighty Father, who in your great mercy made glad the disciples with the sight of the risen Lord: give us such a knowledge of his presence with us, that we may be strengthened and sustained by his risen life, and serve you continually in righteousness and truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

First Bible Reading Acts 4:32-35

All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.

Second Reading  1 John 1:1-2:2

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched--this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete. This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives. My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defence--Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

Gospel Reading  John 20:19-31 

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors 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 side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven." 

Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord!" But he said to them, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it." 

A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe." 

Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!" Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." 

Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

 

Post Communion Sentence

Lord God our Father, through our Saviour Jesus Christ you have assured your children of eternal life and in baptism have made us one with him: deliver us from the death of sin and raise us to new life in your love, in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen

Commentary

He was not the only one who failed to believe, we are told that many of the disciples doubted at first, but he is the one who is remembered. And because we use the phrase ‘doubting Thomas’ pejoratively, we all know that we must not doubt! The problem is that we do all doubt and I know how many people feel that they are fraudulent Christians because of the doubts. There are many Christians who feel that they have let God down and they perhaps should not even be Christians at all, because of their doubts. So let’s think this morning for a short while about what doubt is and what we should do with it.

Doubt is when we find it difficult to believe certain things, we find some things in our communal faith difficult.

For example the creation stories. For many years Christian people struggled to hold the idea that creation occurred in six days, 5,000 years ago. Their faith was knocked because they thought that if you couldn’t sign up on the dotted line to creationism then you couldn’t be a Christian. There has been a tremendous sense of relief from many Christians when they discover that it is OK not to take the Bible literally at all times, that some of the stories are not meant to be taken literally, historically and scientifically. Interestingly most people never dreamed of taking the Bible literally when Jesus said cut your hand off if it causes you to sin !

Doubt is also when we find it difficult to feel certain things. We might be able to say in our minds that we believe God is looking after Aunt Priscilla and that everything is going to be alright on the other side, but there is in our hearts that aching feeling of sadness and loss which challenges our faith.

That is at least a major part of what doubts it. Troubles of the heart and mind, which challenge our faith in God and question perhaps whether God is really there at all, or whether we are all just making it up.

So what do we do with doubt ?

The first things is to own up. Everybody has doubts and fears about their faith. There can be a terrible superficiality in churches when everybody pretends that they never have any doubt, that they are always so sure. This is a dangerous way to live our Christian lives, we are in denial of our own selves.

You will know that in our churches there is a team of folks who visit the bereaved. This is the time of life when people most need support and friendship, and just the human contact from a caring person is much appreciated. The pastoral visitors are not there to tell people how to cope, they try to listen but not to give too much helpful advice. But the one helpful thing which we can share with bereaved folks is the knowledge that most people feel the same deep sense of shock and loss following the death of a loved one. This is important when you are in the position of a bereaved person, suddenly some people realise that what they are going through, unbearable as it might seem, is perfectly normal.

So it is with Christians. The realisation that Bishops, priests, ministers and deacons have just the same doubts and fears as everybody else can be quite liberating.

Doubt is normal. And honest doubt is part of faith. I would much rather talk to somebody honestly who was struggling with their faith than listen to somebody who was deceiving themselves. The Victorian cure for doubt was to avoid too much inquiry. Charles Kingsley is said to have cautioned his wife over doubt by saying

‘Think little and read less’

But this is not to deal with doubt, it is rather to consign our faith to ignorance in the search of illusive bliss.

‘He that never doubted scarce ever well believed ‘

Wrote the poet William Austen (d1634)


I am not pretending that doubt is a wonderful thing, it is not and it can paralyse us and prevent us from serving God or worshipping him. Yet every servant of God has had doubts, and it might seem that they are indeed a prerequisite for those whose seek to be honest before God.

  1. Think of Moses, I cannot do this God, I cannot speak.
  2. Think of Jeremiah, struggling with the doubts which characterise the deeply depressed.
  3. Think of Peter who had a life which seemed characterised by dreadful times of doubt, which led him to deny Jesus three times.

Yet it is in doubt and the process of dealing with doubts that we grow and mature in our faith. Perhaps the theologian who looked on the most positive side of doubts was Tillich. He said

No one can say of himself that he is in a position of faith, every theologian is committed and alienated, he is always in faith and doubt.

What he was saying was that doubt and faith are twins. The opposite of faith is not doubt, the opposite of faith, the opponent of faith is unbelief.

It is often the most honest Christian who has doubts
Obviously if we are in denial we can believe anything, we can refuse to deal with our faith in a honest fashion and pretend to ourselves and others. Now there are some Christians who do seem to drift along with a very ‘simple faith’ and I don’t use the word in a negative sense. If that works for you then fine. But, many people speak of having a simple childlike trust and keep their doubts to themselves and that is not good. Do not be afraid to speak your doubts, share them with other Christians and learn from them. A doubts shared is a doubt less easily the cause of trouble, secret doubts can become fears which harm our faith.

It is also often the most thoughtful Christians who have doubts
We can be utterly naïve and think that the moon is made of blue cheese, that is not the kind of faith which I would want to encourage. It is good for us to think through what we believe and be able to give account for our faith. We do not have to pay lip service to things which we find difficult, we should talk about them, pray about them and see how they lead us into a deeper knowledge of God. I believe that the Christian faith survives questioning and the strongest intellectual inquiry.

A small compensation for the broadening of the waist with age, is a corresponding broadening of the mind. As children we see things in easy blacks and whites, as we get older we see more shades of grey.  This is a good thing, it is a sign of maturity, even if it makes things less clear! It is sometimes said that the role of the preacher is

'to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable'

Occasionally we do the first well, but we must also do the second. It involves challenge and moving us all on in our understanding. Doubts can do this too. It reminds us that we do not have God all sown up in a box. God is bigger than the measure of our minds, we cannot contain God within our imagination or understanding, inevitably there will be much we do not understand. And isn't God all the more to be worshipped for that. Amen. 

 

Meditation

Word association is an interesting game, you give somebody and word and they have to say the first thing that comes into their head. 'Steak' = 'chips', and so on. If the word was 'Thomas', most Christians  would probably say 'doubt.' This is such an extent that we say call him 'Doubting Thomas.' This is not meant be be a compliment. Thomas has always had a bad press, he was the one who doubted, and we assume that he was a naughty disciple. In some ways it is true that doubt is not a great thing, it troubles and upsets us, we want to 'stop doubting and believe.' Yet in another way it can also be quite good. Paul Tillich saw doubt not as the opposite of faith but as an element of faith itself. Or as Frederich Beuchner put it in his book Wishful Thinking,

“Whether your faith is that there is a God or that there is not a God, if you don’t have any doubts you are either kidding yourself or asleep. Doubts are the ants in the pants of faith. They keep it awake and moving.”

Faith, as described in Paul’s Letter to the Hebrews, 11:1, “is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” An example given in that epistle is Abraham taking off on a journey with no maps. Faith is not knowing where you are going, but going anyway.

 
Doubt is like one of those taboo subjects. People feel that they should not doubt. We are afraid that people will feel less of us, that we look stupid. Yet doubt is not an unusual or particularly unhealthy thing. Surely we must stop doubting and believe and yet doubt is a step on the road to belief. Doubt is not scepticism, the decision to doubt as a matter of principle. Neither is it unbelief, the decision not to have faith in God. Unbelief is and act of will, rather than a difficulty with understanding.

If a child in class has difficulty understanding, finds a subject difficult or not to make sense, we don't even begin to call that doubt. Doubt often means asking questions, or voicing uncertainties from the standpoint of faith. You believe but you have difficulty with that faith. Doubt is probably a permanent feature of the Christian faith. As life is a permanent battle against disease, so a life of faith is a permanent battle against doubt.

Many people come to faith with doubts. We don't have to understand everything, indeed it would be strange if we did. This is what all relationships are like, we don't know the half of people before we get involved with them, how could we! When we embark upon any relationship we take a risk. Our doubt reminds us that we are in need of growth and development in our relationship with God and from that perspective it is a good thing.

We know that God is bigger than our minds, we know that we have to use analogies and images. Doubt is a spiritual reminder that we don't know it all and that we have a limitation as a result of our humanity.

We long for absolute security and certain proof. Yet we do well to remind ourselves that what we can know with absolute certainty is likely to be not that important
Tennyson said

'For nothing worthy proving can be proven
Nor yet disproven: wherefore thou be wise,
Cleave ever to the sunnier side of doubt.'


This is not to say that Christianity is intellectual suicide. It is not like the emperors new clothes, we are not afraid of questions and analysis. If we have serious questions we should ask them and think them through. Christianity is about encounter with the living God and yet there is also a challenge to the mind to begin to understand and grasp our faith. Experience should be reinforced with understanding. But we have to realise that life will be filled with much we do not understand.

An interesting passage from Romans 13:11-12.
'The night is nearly over, the day is almost here'
Gives the idea that the Christian life is as walking in the dark.

Paul also use the classic illustration in 1 Corinthians 13:12
'Now we see but a poor reflection in a mirror.'
He is acknowledging that there are many things which we can expect to be unclear to us.

It is in this acknowledgment that true faith comes into its own. In James 1:6, it says that
'he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.'

Yet it is faith which enables us to trust in the midst of the turbulence which surrounds us. We have not let God down if we doubt. Indeed our faithfulness is proved when we persevere through our doubts and uncertainties.

Psalm 42 may be helpful for it shows the Psalmist talking to God about his doubts and difficulties. He is brutally honest with God. The Psalms often speak about waiting faithfully for God. (27:14, 33:20, 130:5-6.) The Psalmist at these moments is aware of the feeling of absence of God, yet he knows that this feeling will pass. It is through these times that we must trust on the promises of God. In Joshua 1:9 God promises to be with Joshua wherever he went. The promise of Gods presence is unconditional. And yet God does not promise that Joshua will feel God's presence at all times.

So God promises us his love, assures of his presence with us, even when we find it difficult to comprehend. In John 10:28, Matthew 28:20 God promises to be with us, we need to know these promises are true. We live in a culture in which faith is hard - accept that fact and do not concentrate on your doubts. That is to focus on ourselves - 'my doubt'. We must see doubt rather as an opportunity to grow, for faith does grow like a muscle by stretching. Doubt encourages us to pray more, to seek God more, to worship more, to read our bibles more. Charles Royden

 Soap powder

How do we know if it is as good as it says it is?

Speak to the manufacturer
Ask somebody who has used the product
Try the product yourself
See what the person who uses the products clothes look like
Try it out yourself
 

Hymns

  1. Christ is alive
  2. After Confession Jesus stand among us
  3. Rejoice, rejoice  
  4. Low in the grave he lay
  5. I know that my Redeemer lives
  6. Thy hand O God has guided
  7. Walk in the light
  8. Come let us join our cheerful songs
  9. Glorious things of thee are spoken
  10. This joyful Easter tide
  11. I am the bread of life
  12. Go forth and tell
  13. The head that once was crowned with thorns
  14. He is Lord
  15. Be bold be strong
  16. We have a gospel to proclaim
  17. Lift high the cross
     

 

Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead

Prayer encouragement in the Christian life

Prayer is a plant, the seed of which is sown in the heart of every Christian,

if it is well cultivated and nourished it will produce fruit, but if it is neglected, it will wither and die

God, our Father, open our eyes to see your hand at work in the splendour of creation, in the beauty of Church life. Touched by your hand our world is Holy. Help us to cherish the gifts that surround us, to share your blessings with our brothers and sisters and to experience the joy of life in your presence. We make this prayer through Christ our Lord. Amen

Risen Lord, stand among us and cause us to hear what is written in the Scriptures so that we come to believe that you are the Son of God; and that believing, we may have life in your name. Amen.

God the Holy Spirit, Comforter and Sanctifier. Melt our hearts that we may accept your love. Renew our minds that we may know your truth. Strengthen our wills that we may serve you faithfully. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

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

In joy and hope let us pray to the Father.
That our risen Saviour may fill us with the joy of his glorious and life-giving resurrection.
That isolated and persecuted churches may find fresh strength in the good news of Easter.
That God may grant us humility to be subject to one another in Christian love.
That he may provide for those who lack food, work or shelter.
That by his power war and famine may cease through all the world.
That he may reveal the light of his presence to the sick, the weak and the dying, to comfort and strengthen them.
That, according to his promises, all who have died in the faith of the resurrection may be raised on the last day.
That he may send the fire of the Holy Spirit upon his people, so that we may bear faithful witness to his resurrection.
Heavenly Father, you have delivered us from the power of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of your Son: grant that, as his death has recalled us to life, so his continual presence in us may raise us to eternal joy; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

Additional Material

 

Commentary

The risen Christ appeared to his disciples, gathered together in a locked house. He gave them his peace, helped them to believe, and sent them out into the world. And so we see the earliest church community, in Jerusalem, filled with the joy and peace that comes from faith in the risen Lord and able to believe in him. It is this shared faith which enables a group of very different people to be ‘of one heart and soul’. 

The church today is a broken and divided church. Even Christians apparently find it hard to work, live or worship with those who do it differently! We too often lose sight of what it is that unites us and focus instead on our differences, seeing them not as something to be celebrated, but as an obstacle to love. 

Easter is a time when we can start afresh. This season, let us together remind ourselves of the joy that the resurrection should bring to us, the gift of peace that Jesus gave us, and the faith and mission that we share. John Wesley said, “Join with me in the work of God; and let us go on hand in hand.” What better time than Easter to look to our unity and learn from our diversity? Catrin Harland

Commentary

In the National Gallery in London there is a painting which always makes me feel very queasy. It shows the Disciples gathered around the resurrected Jesus and a man is poking his fingers into a horrible gaping wounded in Jesus’ side. You can almost hear the squelch! The man is Thomas, known to history as Doubting Thomas. Thomas the baddie who called the Resurrection of Jesus into question. Nasty Thomas who wanted to see for himself, rather than believe the word of the other disciples. Thomas who has become a byword for disbelievers. But has Thomas had a bad press? Should we re-examine the evidence on Thomas called the Twin. Let us consider the facts. (weekend spent watching Poirot on TV).

Thomas doesn’t only appear in this crucial episode. He is mentioned on two other occasions, both in the Gospel according to St John, although we infer that he was present on many other occasions. In John 11, Thomas and the other disciples are informed by Jesus that he has knowledge that their very dear friend Lazarus has died. Jesus says “I am glad that I was not there, so you may believe. But let us go to him” Now Jesus and the disciples knew that to go to Bethany, so near to Jerusalem, was to take them into the very most dangerous place. So when Thomas says, “let us also go that we may die with him”, Thomas is declaring himself willing to die with Jesus? Hardly the words of a coward who was afraid to commit! Thomas displays willingness to put himself into the way of danger, and shows himself to be a passionate and committed follower of Jesus.

On the second occasion when Thomas, it is Maundy Thursday. According to John’s Gospel, Jesus is cramming in many profound and beautiful prophecies, trying to teach them all they would need to understand the future without Him. Thomas intervenes after Jesus’ mysterious remark about going somewhere to prepare the way. It is Thomas who objects “Lord, we do not know where you are going – so how can we know the way?” Do you suppose all the other disciples knew what Jesus meant ? Of course not! We must assume that they were puzzled, confused, doubtful and afraid. They were probably all shuffling their feet with embarrassment at not keeping up. Only Thomas, had the courage to say what they were all thinking – that they didn’t know what Jesus meant. Thomas’ question paved the way for Jesus’ wonderful answer- “I am the way, the truth and the Life”.

So we gain a very positive image of Thomas, courageous, very much Jesus’ man, a man of honesty who is willing to sacrifice his pride in order to learn the truth. With this knowledge in mind, we turn back to the story narrated in this morning’s reading from the Gospel. The disciples were in utter disarray, having been shattered by the loss of Jesus in such a horribly brutal demeaning way. The story that Jesus had some how come back to life, had been seen by witnesses was related to Thomas. What must have been his feelings? Perhaps he was angry that their hopes should be raised in such a ridiculous manner? Perhaps Thomas felt joy at the prospect that Jesus had cheated death? He had been present when Lazarus was brought back to life – has something similar happened to Jesus? He does not know. But he is not willing to just go along with the crowd. He has to see for himself.

Eight days later Jesus again appeared to the disciples and this time Thomas was there. Jesus obviously knew what Thomas had said about the need to touch and see the resurrected Jesus for himself, because Jesus immediatly offered him the chance! We can perhaps imagine Jesus’ eyes twinkling as He held out his wounded hands to be inspected.

In an instance, Thomas assured himself that the thing he most wanted to see was true, that the beloved master was back. He was in no doubt as to what the resurrection meant – it meant that Jesus was His Lord and His God! An acclamation which took a leap of faith and courage to make. We of course are comfortable with equating Jesus with God but it was a new concept for the men who had known Jesus as a carpenter turned preacher, teacher and healer.

Jesus does not seem to be annoyed by Thomas’ need to know for himself. The passage is of great help to all who ask the question – was Jesus a ghost? Was He perhaps a product of the imagination of the distraught followers? The proof that Thomas had the courage to ask was offered in the most concrete way. Jesus chided him gently that there would be many who would believe without being given the chance to touch, see and hear Jesus in bodily form. But of course we don’t need to because Thomas asked the question on our behalf.

Doubting Thomas should be renamed Honest Thomas. His inclusion in the ranks of the disciples was part of Jesus’ plan. Without him, vital evidence about the Resurrection would be missing, key questions would have gone unasked, key answers never made. The presence of Thomas reminds us that Christianity demands that we must engage with our minds as well as our hearts, that Jesus is unafraid of close scrutiny and gives us the freedom to question. Ours is a religion for adults with brains, which we are invited to use to think for ourselves. Faith goes badly wrong when its followers are forbidden from independent thought, and history teaches us that frightened rulers often try and control the people by forbidding the asking of difficult questions. Thomas is a helpful reminder that although Jesus is our shepherd, He doesn’t want or expect us to be merely sheep. Joan Crossley

Meditation

Today, the 1st Sunday after Easter is often known as Low Sunday. It marks the end of Easter week—the period called by St. Augustine " Octo dies neophytorum" referred to as 8 days of rebirth or renewal. At one time Easter was so pre-eminent in the life of the Church that some traditions even restricted the time when baptism could take place to this 8 day period between Easter Day and Low Sunday The name Low Sunday indicates a feeling of anti-climax—the sense of getting back to normal after a very lively party. So Easter has happened and now what?—back to the old routine, the humdrum.

But Low Sunday is a Festival Day, a lower Festival than Easter (sometimes called High Sunday to demonstrate its significance as the high point of the Christian Year) but a Festival nevertheless. Anti-climax is the antithesis of what is really meant.

For the Christian the Resurrection story means that things are not going to be the same again. It is not back to the old routine it is forward to the start of a new one. Life is not going to be the same.

Of course it is natural for us to have doubts. We can identify with Thomas—doubting Thomas, the one who could not believe this incredible story that his friends had told him. This Man whom they had all believed in, had sworn to follow to the end of time, was dead, crucified on a cross like any common criminal- no better than a common thief.

Thomas knew he was dead , he had seen he was dead. It was the end. What was to happen to them all now? They were finished, the leader they had put so much trust in had been executed. Thomas simply could not believe these gibberish stories that his friends were saying—Jesus not dead, but alive! Impossible. No wonder he simply could not believe them.

There are times when I could hold my hand up and say that I would have identified with Thomas, would probably have reacted like him, demanding proof that Jesus was alive. History has dealt unkindly with Thomas yet it is a very human story and we should take care not to condemn him without thinking how we would have reacted.

So Jesus comes, understands Thomas' difficulty and gives him an opportunity to believe at the same time uttering some difficult words as a clarion call to his followers. "Because you have seen me you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen yet have believed."

The message is not an easy one- we know that the Christian way means sacrifices. Yet this is where the whole concept of forgiveness comes alive. For those who have doubts, for those who have lost their faith, and for those who have never believed, Hope remains. Not some faint or fragile expectation which is not really believed but a living all forgiving love. As we read in 1 John "God is light—in him there is no darkness at all ……if we walk in the light, as he is in the light we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus, His son purifies us from all sin".

"In Him there is no darkness at all" When I was a small boy I often stayed with my grandparents during the holidays. They lived in a two up two down terraced cottage, with no electricity. Light was provided downstairs by gas mantels but upstairs they didn't work so I took either a torch or a candle to bed The torch wasn't so bad because it could be switched off and then on again, but when I had only the candle and blew it out, on a saucer on the bedside chair, the room was in pitch darkness- the light couldn't be put on again. The room had to remain like that until the brightness of the new day lit the room once more.

I invariably think of those times when I read passages of scripture referring to Jesus as the light of the world or in this case that " God is light". It is only when we are without light that we realise its true significance. Light is something we take for granted. We simply assume that when we flick on the electricity switch the light will come on. It never occurs to us to think that it won't until the day comes when it fuses or worse there is a general power cut and we have to wait, unable to do anything except perhaps fumble for a candle or a torch.

Perhaps our Christian faith is sometimes a little like that. Taken for granted when it is there yet when it goes out we need the reassurance that it can be rekindled again. The lamp in our hearts and in our lives can be lit again. When the light dies as it can from time to time with the buffeting we face in daily living Jesus is there waiting to light the pathway for us again, and again and again.

What a wonderful feeling isn't it. As we celebrate the Easter season once again, let us hope that the spirit of Jesus can be brought back into our lives—the spirit of love, of hope lighting into all the dark corners of our lives. There is no need to wait until the morning like that small boy in the darkness of his bedroom,—there is something we can do.

There's an old Wesleyan Methodist hymn which has these words "There's a light upon the mountains and the day is at the spring when our eyes shall see the beauty and the glory of the King"

These words are not difficult to resonate with—light is such an easy metaphor to conjure with. Darkness corresponds with evil and menace, those things that frighten us. Light corresponds with beauty and goodness, those things which give us joy and happiness.

With Jesus bringing the glory of God into our grasp, the light of the world is ours. There is no darkness at all. With the end of the night, there can also be the end of doubt.

The joy of Easter, the message of the risen Christ, is ours, today, tomorrow and for the rest of eternity. The empty cross is proof if we need it of the mystery of the Resurrection. The darkness of Holy Week has been abolished by the light and joy of Easter. "Christ is alive let Christians sing, His cross stands empty to the sky"

There are some wonderful Easter hymns with words which stir us to the very core of our being. If you have access to a hymn-book do take the time to reflect on them, see how the writers have used so many different ways of praising God in the joy of Easter. After all this is the whole purpose of the Christian story—God revealing himself to mankind through the gift of his son Jesus and then offering him as a sacrifice on the cross so that by His very resurrection we too can have that new life and the new relationship with our Father in heaven.

"God is light—in Him there is no darkness at all"

So this is the new beginning. For us there need be no doubt—the promise of God is secure, forever. John Bassill

 

Meditation

One of the famous landmarks of London are the Houses of Parliament and one of the most prominent features is the tall clock tower called “Big Ben.’ 

The name comes from the great bell weighing nearly 14 tons. The bell was hung in the tower in 1858 and strikes the musical note ‘E.’ It is the most broadcast bell in the world. We can hear it at the start of ‘News at Ten’, and it is broadcast on the radio to countries all over the world. The 7 metre [23 foot] diameter clock faces have been seen in countless film, such as ‘The 39 Steps’, as Robert Powell hung to one of the hands of the clock. “Big Ben” is probably named after Sir Benjamin Hall, a big and heavy man who was Parliament’s Commissioner of Works. 

During the Second World War when most of Europe was occupied by the Nazis, the broadcast of the ringing of the bell helped give people hope of freedom. And so, when people across the world hear the ringing of ‘Big Ben’, or see pictures of the tower, they see it as a sign or symbol of many things - hope, freedom, and our political system of democracy with a parliament. 

Less well known are the four bells of Liverpool’s RC Cathedral which are called Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. They are a reminder that we, too, are called to live and “ring out” or broadcast the Good News of the Gospel. 

On a Sunday when we remember the proclamation of the risen Christ, perhaps we can ask what people might “see” and “hear” from us. What messages do we proclaim by our words and deeds. When people meet me what do they see of God from the way I live, from the way I do things, and from my attitude? 

Let us pray 
Loving Lord, we need the power of your Spirit in our lives to build on what is good, and to help change what needs to be changed. We pray that we may be faithful in responding to your call to grow as the people you have called us to be, that we may ring out your praises through the way we live each day. Amen.