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Worship, Prayer and Bible Study Resources

Easter 2 'Low Sunday' Year C, Colour = White or Gold

Opening Verse

The resurrection

 

Collect Prayer
First Reading:
Second Reading:
Gospel Reading
Commentary:
Meditation:
Hymns for this week
Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead :

Easter 2 'Low Sunday'

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.

 

Opening Verse of Scripture    Psalm 118:1

Give Thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.
 

Collect Prayer for the Day—Before we read we pray

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, 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. Common Worship

Risen Christ, for whom no 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.

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.

First Bible Reading   Acts 5:27-32

Having brought the apostles, they made them appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. "We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name," he said. "Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man's blood." Peter and the other apostles replied: "We must obey God rather than men! The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead--whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Saviour that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel. We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him. (This is the Word of the Lord-Thanks be to God)

Second Reading  Revelation Chapter 1:4-8

John, To the seven churches in the province of Asia: Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits [1] before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father--to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen. Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen. "I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty."

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 Prayer

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.


Commentary

thomas by Caravaggio

 

Archbishop of Canterbury - Human failure is overcome by God's love


The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams says that the whole weight human failure cannot extinguish the creative love of God. In his Easter sermon he said that conflict and failure are part of the human condition, but that Jesus' death and Resurrection turns that on its head:
 

"We share one human story in which we are all caught up in one sad tangle of selfishness and fear and so on. But God has entered that human story; he has lived a life of divine and unconditional life in a human life of flesh and blood."

He recalled a visit to the Solomon Islands in 2004 when one of the leaders caught up in the islands' recent civil war took public responsibility for failure:

"He said 'I want you to bless us; I need to say in public that we were responsible as well as the people on the islands…' Here was a politician representing a community that had suffered greatly and inflicted great suffering as well saying 'We were all wrong. We needed healing and forgiveness…' And it was as if for the first time you could see the bare bones of what reconciliation means."

The lesson, he says, can be learnt in other conflicts when people learn to listen to stories other than their own:

"…going forward requires us all to learn a measure of openness to discovering things about ourselves we did not know, seeing ourselves through the eyes of another. What they see may be fair or unfair, but it is a reality that has been driving someone's reactions and decisions. We'd better listen, hateful and humiliating though it may be for some of us."

In Northern Ireland, he said, progress towards reconciliation had made it possible for people to start to hear each other's histories; this meant that they needn't be bound by the past:

"Everyone in this history made decisions, some shockingly evil, some tragic, some foolish [but] those decisions and the sufferings that came from them don't have the power to tell you what decisions you have to make today."

The Easter story, he says, provides comfort and encouragement:

"If we can accept the unwelcome picture of us and our world that Good Friday offers, we are in the strangest way, set free to hear what Easter says. Give up the struggle to be innocent and the hope that God will proclaim that you were right and everyone else wrong. Simply ask for whatever healing it is that you need, whatever grace and hope you need to be free, then step towards your neighbour; Easter reveals a God who is ready to give you that grace and to walk with you."

"When in our world we are faced with the terrible deadlocks of mutual hatred and suspicion, with rival stories of suffering and atrocity, we have to pray for this resurrection message to be heard."
 

Just as children in families are all too often pigeon-holed as “the clever one”, “the pretty one”, the “stubborn one,” so Christians have tended to categorise the historical characters of the Bible. And once those images are fixed, it is hard to dislodge them. Thomas the Twin has been dismissed as a doubter, one who calls into question the Resurrection and who refuses to accept it as a fact from hearing the accounts told by his fellow disciples. He insists that he will only believe such an incredible tale when he has proof. The little we know about Thomas suggests that he was deeply committed to Jesus’ cause. It is he who rallies the disciples when Jesus proposes to lead them to Lazarus’ tomb, straight into the hands of the Lord’s enemies. Thomas says “Let us all go, that we may die with Him!”. Clearly Thomas is a man of courage as well as commitment. Thomas shows himself to be honest in admitting to finding some of Jesus’ saying difficult to understand. There is no evidence that Jesus resented Thomas asking questions and wanting matters made clear. Jesus’ followers were a mixed bunch, with very different personalities. Jesus chose them, as He chooses us, for complementary gifts and talents, quirks and failings. Jesus did not want those that love Him to suspend their God-given intelligence. Joan Crossley

Meditation

The experience of Resurrection results not simply in a good feeling but in the transformation or renewal of our life and action. Resurrection is not just about some future day after we die. It is also about the world today--the world of objects, people, creation, and beauty; the world that experiences both sin and evil as well as justice and peace; the world with all its struggles and its possibilities. If we believe in Resurrection then we should expect to see some signs of it. Community is formed. Fear is dispelled. Reconciliation becomes real. The work of justice and peace takes place. Society is transformed. There is a new heaven and a new earth.

Today's scriptures give us some of these signs:

John receives a call to write down the message and share it.
A growing community gathers in Solomon's portico.
Signs and wonders occur in the early church.
Thomas and later a great number of people come to faith.
Many are healed.
"Bad spirits" are driven out.
The message is "Do not be afraid," and "Peace be with you."
Spirit is given for the forgiveness of sin.

What signs and wonders do we see today?
What signs of faith?
What signs of faith expressed in deeds?
What signs of the forgiveness of sin?
What signs of the forgiveness of social sin?
What signs of reconciliation between peoples and nations?
What signs of work for justice and peace?

 

Hymns

  1. Jesus lives, Tune St Albinus
  2. Search me O God, Maori Tune
  3. Now the green blade riseth, Tune Noel Nouvelet
  4. Jesus stand among us,Tune Caswall
  5. Alleluia, Alleluia, Tune Ode to Joy (See words below)

Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead

representation of prayer as seed growing

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.

Through every minute of this day, be with me, Lord!
Through every day of all this week, be with me, Lord!
Through every week of all this year, be with me, Lord!
So shall the days and weeks and years
be threaded on a golden cord.
And all draw on with sweet accord into thy fullness, Lord, that so, when time is past,
By grace I may, at last, Be with thee, Lord.
John Oxenham

Risen Christ, whose absence leaves us paralysed, but whose presence is overwhelming: breathe on us abundant life; that where we cannot see, we may have courage to believe that we may be raised with you. Amen (Janet Morley)

Dear Lord, you know that we are fearful – make us brave! You know that we are weak – give us your strength! You know that we are unfaithful – make us true. Amen

Faithful God, strength of all those 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.

Increase your grace, in us, O Lord, that we may fear your Name beyond which nothing is more holy; that we may love you, beyond whom nothing is more loveable; that we may glorify you beyond whom nothing is more worthy of praise, and that we may long for you beyond whom nothing is more desirable; and grant that thus fearing, loving, glorifying and longing we may see you, face to face; through Christ our Lord. Amen Desiderius Erasmus, 1466-1536

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

Commentary

This week sees the beginning of a very unusual series in our lectionary - there are no Old Testament lessons, only three readings from the New Testament, and this week's trio deal in some way with faith.

One of last Sunday's newspapers carried the interesting statistic that 49% of young people do not believe in Jesus Christ. That poses an interesting question about belief. If it is being suggested that Jesus Christ did not exist, such a notion is foolish. There is more evidence, and not just from the gospels that He did than, for example, the suggestion that Julius Caesar visited Britain, where the only account is his own. We are prone to accept easily all sorts of incredible facts (Did you know that penguins all fall over backwards when a plane flies overhead?) with minimal evidence so we need have no fear of seeming foolish if we believe in Jesus in that sense.

What is a more difficult question of belief is to consider the nature of His life and work, and especially His resurrection for which there is no direct proof, or rather because of the unusual nature of the event we require something different by way of proof. All the gospel writers do their best to give this reassurance. Luke with his stories, including the well known account of the road to Emmaus. And John's account emphasises that Jesus' body is still recognisably the same body, and is susceptible to touch by Thomas, but that it is at the same time different insofar as He seems to be able to come and go at will untrammeled by normal earthly limitations.

It is comforting perhaps to notice that Jesus did not condemn Thomas for wanting proof. That means, I believe, that we do not have to worry ourselves sick because we find that from time to time we doubt. Doubt is part of the human condition which Jesus recognised and accepted.

Thomas' response "My Lord and My God" represents a supreme statement of faith - and is one of the very few times in the gospels when Jesus is referred to as "God". And what Thomas recognised is that in Jesus we have one "picture" of God, the crucified God, vulnerable, involved, self giving and present in our difficulties and pain.

But Jesus was aware that Thomas had a privileged place, and that we who come after must find faith without being able to touch and see and hear Jesus as he could. But we are not left entirely without aids to our faith. It would have been easy enough for the powers of the day to have killed off Christianity by finding the body - but they did not, and they were in no position to counter the claims made by Peter and the other disciples. Then there is the change of attitude in the disciples themselves. We look forward now to the rejoicing at Pentecost, and what bigger contrast could there be between the bold approach to the crowds in Jerusalem and the "disciples together behind locked doors for fear of the Jews"?

The episode recorded in the Acts carries on that story. Not only have Peter and John put aside their fear, they are bold enough to beard the very group who were responsible for Jesus' crucifixion in their Council. And again, as far as the record shows the Council could do little about it. Whatever happened on that first Easter Day had the most profound and lasting effect on that small group. And on it went. The tenor of John's words in that first chapter of Revelation is incredible! Reflect that he was writing to small, vulnerable, tiny, divided, tempted congregations set as minute islands in the sea of the vast powerful Roman empire.

God's eternity, His presence in the Spirit with his churches, His victory over death and evil through the resurrection of Jesus, His absolute authority over all earthly powers, the promise that Jesus' followers will share in His reign, and the assurance that the final outcome is not in doubt, all this is powerfully affirmed.

And the rest is as they say history. No-one is suggesting that faith in Jesus is without difficulties, but the whole story of the beginning and growth of Christ's church until today cannot be easily explained away. It is far more likely that there was a resurrection! And it is to that faith we are called and committed, and can believe with confidence because there is powerful evidence to support us. John Stubbs

Meditation


As we get older, we tend to know what we think and stick to it! This is a good thing, if certainty is based on wisdom and experience. It is a bad thing if certainty is based on prejudice and a jumble of lazily acquired beliefs. The example of Thomas reminds us of the importance of thinking for ourselves and for reappraising familiar ideas. In this week, we could set ourselves the challenge of asking “why do I think that? Why do I believe that?” The issue you are thinking about could be on a wide scale to do with politics, social affairs, race. Or it could be to do with long-held views on a person or people. Set yourself the test. You may find, like Thomas, that your mind is changed and your life improved.
 

Prayer

Risen Lord Jesus, you come to us in the most surprising - and the most ordinary - ways. Just when we begin to forget or doubt you, when we begin to live our lives as if you don't matter, you come - speaking to us, feeding us, encouraging us. You never forget us or fail us. Without you we are weak and fail often but with you we are strong. May we be made deeply aware of your presence this day.

Come into our hearts Lord Jesus, show us the sin which lies there. Come and judge us, for your judgement is the same as your love and we have nothing to fear. As you remind us of pour sin, so you will forgive. Heal us and give us the confidence to begin all over again, witnesses to your power and grace in the world. In the strength of your grace we pray "Come Lord Jesus, Come".

(A prayer from WYS Books No.6)
O God, Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier, we thank you that we may be together to hear your word of life and hope. We are all equal before you. You know our lives in their deepest recesses. You have not forgotten us; you love us, and again and again you fill the empty hands which we stretch out toward you. Through the suffering and death of your Son Jesus Christ, you took our darkness and fear upon yourself in order that we might know light and joy. Amen.

Lord, remind us that we must "be" the church if we are to "be the church" in mission. Help us to continue to grow in the likeness of Christ by the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit. Only by continued growth in him can we be released for mission to the lost, the poor, the broken. We would be instruments, O God, of extending the ministry of Jesus and his kingdom for your good pleasure. To serve you all our days is our hearts' fervent desire. Amen.

Sermon on Doubt by Rev Charles Royden
Sermon on Doubt 2 by Rev Charles Royden
Sermon on Doubt 3 by Rev Dr Joan Crossley

Hymnn

1 Alleluia, Alleluia!
hearts to heaven and voices raise:
sing to God a hymn of gladness,
sing to God a hymn of praise.
he, who on the Cross a victim,
for the world's salvation bled,
Jesus Christ, the King of glory,
now is risen from the dead.

2 Now the iron bars are broken,
Christ from death to life is born,
glorious life, and life immortal,
on this holy Easter morn.
Christ triumphed, and we conquer
by his mighty enterprise:
We with him to life eternal
by His resurrection rise.

3 Christ is risen, Christ, the first-fruits
of the holy harvest field,
which will all its full abundance
at his second coming yield;
then the golden ears of harvest
will their heads before him wave,
ripened by his glorious sunshine,
from the furrows of the grave.

3 Christ is risen, we are risen!
shed upon us heavenly grace,
rain and dew and gleams of glory
from the brightness of thy face;
that with hearts in heaven dwelling,
here on earth may fruitful be,
and by angel-hands be gathered,
and be ever, Lord, with thee.

4 Alleluia, Alleluia!
glory be to God on high;
Alleluia! to the Saviour
who has won the victory;
Alleluia! to the Spirit,
fount of love and sanctity:
Alleluia, Alleluia!
to the Triune Majesty.

Christopher Wordsworth (1807-1885)
8 7 8 7 D

Tune Ode to Joy