Second Sunday of Easter

Sunday 19 April 2020
Second Sunday of Easter : Low Sunday

Introduction and Welcome
Good morning – to everyone who has access to this service and who is sharing in it, wherever you are. I was delighted to hear last week that our “virtual congregation” includes a lady in Canada.
I trust that within the limitations of our current situation, you have had a reasonably good week.
I have deliberately used the word “reasonably” because for every one of us – the current but necessary restrictions on our living are not ideal, as we are unable
to spend time in person with family and friends
to go to our favourite places
to attend clubs and access support facilities which form an important part of the normal rhythm of our lives
to experience the personal fellowship of worship as we meet together in community – being with others – sharing with others – praying and praising with others.
In the hope that it gives you a degree of continuity and familiarity during this time of “lock-down”, I am using the basic style of service which is the norm in Glenburn Parish Church.
I have included the web- addresses for sung versions of each of the hymns today

Welcome to worship – as we continue our journey though this new Season of Easter which began last week, as we celebrated the Resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday

Call to Worship
Not in the holy place of the sanctuary
but in the sacred place of our homes
Not in the company of other friends
but alone or with loved ones who share our homes
Not in the familiar sights and sounds of public worship
but in peaceful and contemplative quiet
Not really alone
but always held in the presence and the embrace of the Risen Christ
Let us worship God

Praise
Our first hymn is titled “The Resurrection Hymn”

Resurrection hymn

See what a morning, gloriously bright – with the dawning of hope in Jerusalem;
Folded the grave-clothes – tomb filled with light,
as the angels announce Christ is risen!
See God’s salvation plan – wrought in love,
borne in pain – paid in sacrifice – fulfilled in Christ, the Man – for He lives,
Christ is risen from the dead !

See Mary weeping: ‘Where is He laid?’ – as in sorrow she turns from the empty tomb;
hears a voice speaking, calling her name:
It’s the Master, the Lord raised to life again!
The voice that spans the years – speaking life – stirring hope – bringing peace to us,
will sound till He appears – for He lives
Christ is risen from the dead !

One with the Father, Ancient of Days,
through the Spirit – who clothes faith with certainty,
Honour and blessing – glory and praise
to the King crowned with power and authority!
and we are raised with Him,
Death is dead – love has won – Christ has conquered;
and we shall reign with Him – for He lives
Christ is risen from the dead!

Prayers of Approach, Confession & Lord’s Prayer
Let us pray

Sovereign God
Christ is risen – he is risen indeed !

We praise you that the resurrection of Jesus was not a discreet event in its own right
unconnected to anything which had gone before; or
unconnected to anything which was yet to happen
but it was part of your divine plan
begun in the story of creation
continuing in the history of your people
shown in the life, teaching, death and resurrection of your Son
and yet to be completed – in your time – when Christ returns in glory

As we go forward on our Easter journey
from the day of Resurrection
towards the day when the promise of the coming of God’s Spirit was fulfilled
we continue to praise you that the message of Easter is a message of triumph
that death is not the end – but is followed by new beginnings
that your love will always be stronger than any force against working it
that your plans can never be defeated
and in your plans – there is a place and a role for each of us

Father God
when the focus of our world so quickly turns away from the emotions, the promises and the challenges of Holy Week and Easter
forgive us when we are swept along and let go of the treasures of these past days of devotion
when we allow the concerns of the moment to take precedence over the things of eternity
forgive us for losing our focus
when we become down-hearted – when our faith falters – when we draw back from you
forgive us for allowing our vision to become narrow and our trust to become limited

Patient God
as you forgive us — we ask that you would help us always
to look to you and to put our trust in you
to have such vision that we might see the direction in which you are leading us
to have the commitment to stay close to you – moment by moment and step by step
as we walk in walk in faith – and live in your service

These prayers we bring in Jesus’ name and we continue to pray in his words – as we say

Our Father, who art in Heaven: hallowed be Thy namethy kingdom come : thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day, our daily bread and forgive us our debts : as we forgive our debtors
and lead us not into temptation : but deliver us from evil
For Thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory : for ever.
AMEN

Scripture Reading : 1 Peter 1 : verses 3 to 9 (The Message)
3-5 What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have him, this Father of our Master Jesus! Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—and the future starts now! God is keeping careful watch over us and the future. The Day is coming when you’ll have it all—life healed and whole.
6-7 I know how great this makes you feel, even though you have to put up with every kind of aggravation in the meantime. Pure gold put in the fire comes out of it proved pure; genuine faith put through this suffering comes out proved genuine. When Jesus wraps this all up, it’s your faith, not your gold, that God will have on display as evidence of his victory.
8-9 You never saw him, yet you love him. You still don’t see him, yet you trust him—with laughter and singing. Because you kept on believing, you’ll get what you’re looking forward to: total salvation. AMEN

Praise
Our next hymn is well loved – “When I survey the wondrous cross”

When I survey the wondrous cross
on which the prince of Glory died
my richest gain I count but loss
and pour contempt on all my pride

Forbid it Lord, that I should boast
save in the death of Christ my God
all the vain things that charm me most
I sacrifice them to his blood

See from his head, his hands, his feet
sorrow and love flow mingled down
did e’er such love and sorrow meet
or thorns compose so rich a crown ?

Were the whole realm of nature mine
that were an offering far too small
love so amazing, so divine
demands my soul, my life, my all


Scripture Reading : John 20 : verses 19 to 31 (NIV)
19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’
20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
21 Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’
22 And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.
23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.’
24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came.
25 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.’
26 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!’
27 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.’
28 Thomas said to him, ‘My Lord and my God!’
29 Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’
30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book.
31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
AMEN
Thanks be to God for his Word – shared among us today

REFLECTION
The Sunday immediately following Easter is traditionally known as Low Sunday, perhaps because the numbers of people attending worship tend to be considerably lower than on Easter Sunday – or perhaps it is so named due to the contrast of mood compared with the celebrations of Easter on the preceding Sunday.

Whatever the historical reasons behind the name given to this Sunday – it is certainly the case that many folk would say that it is not only “Low Sunday” — but that we are currently in a time of “Low Everyday”

And that is clearly because of the necessary restrictions which have dramatically affected all our lives over recent weeks – the continuation of which for a further period of three weeks, our governments have now announced.

The first of our two Scripture readings today was from a letter which Peter sent to encourage groups of Christians in various places – people who were considered to be outsiders from society and who were suffering from persecution for their faith.

Please, please be assured that I am not suggesting that the Coronavirus pandemic is in any sense a persecution for our faith – or a judgement of God.
Quite the opposite – it is because of God’s action at Easter – in raising his Son from death – that our faith in the Good News of Jesus Christ gives us hope – hope which will sustain us in the present – through these days and weeks of uncertainty and concern.

It is also a hope which is not only for the present – but which has a long term dimension – that is the assurance of a life beyond this life.
Peter refers to it as inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – “a brand-new life and everything to live for, including a future in heaven—and the future starts now! God is keeping careful watch over us and the future. The Day is coming when you’ll have it all—life healed and whole”.

Peter is saying to the Christians that although they didn’t witness the resurrection of Jesus and even now they can’t see him in the flesh – nonetheless they know him and can put their trust in him.

That is a powerful message for us today – as we face difficulties, uncertainties and timescales that we never anticipated — but still we are sustained as we can rejoice in the resurrection of our Lord – whom we have never seen – but whom we love and in whom we trust.

The disciple Thomas is the one whom we refer to as Doubting Thomas – because he refused to believe that his colleagues has seen the Risen Jesus – unless he himself had the physical proof of being able to see and touch the wounds of Jesus’ crucifixion
A week later, Jesus returned to his disciples and Thomas was with them. Jesus offered him the opportunity of the form of proof which he desired – as a result of which Thomas offered his confession of faith and belief in his statement “My Lord and my God”.
Jesus replied in telling Thomas that ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’

For all of us – personal experience is an important factor in acceptance of things which stretch our understanding or belief.
The message of Peter to the dispersed Christians was that
“Though you have not seen him, you love him – and even though you do not see him now
you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy
for you are receiving the goal of your faith – the salvation of your souls”

These words resonate clearly with the words of Jesus – the words which are for us today – that
“blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

In these days – where there is so much uncertainty about so many issues
though you have not seen – believe and be blessed
hold tightly to the hope of Easter
for it is not only about life after death – about eternal life
it is about the new life which God gives us in the present

The chorus of our closing hymn is a strong and positive statement of faith – may it be true in each of our lives
Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.
because He lives, all fear is gone.
because I know He holds the future,
and life is worth the living just because He lives.

AMEN

Prayer of Thanksgiving and Intercession
Let us pray

God of promise
thank you that throughout all of time
you have made promises to your people and you have always fulfilled them
thank you for the promises which are for us
promises of Easter
promises which support us in our living today and in the days to come
promises which are stored for us beyond the experiences of this life thank you too for the promises which you have made about prayer – that our prayers will be heard and that you will answer them – in accordance with your divine purposes

So hear us Lord as we pray for other people – thinking especially about the situations people are in during these challenging times
we pray for people who are ill and are in the unstinting care of medical staff of all duties and skills
we pray for people who live in the security and love of residential care
we pray for people who live alone – whose days are long in solitude and quiet
we pray for people who work in the wide range of medical services and give selflessly and sacrificially of their time and expertise
we pray for people involved in research for effective tests and vaccines – as they push science to new limits
we pray for people whose work is committed to ensuring that those in residential care and those who live in the community are well nourished, well cared for and supported in their needs
Lord – hear our prayer we pray for people whose work is to “keep the country running” and to maintain “society” people working in food production – warehousing – transport and distribution — retail people working in the emergency and community based services people working in new ways to enhance the supplies and meet the needs for PPE in the caring services people who carry the heavy burden of decision making for the good of all people who give selflessly in charitable work and fundraising

Lord – hear our prayer we pray for people for whom the necessary and important routines of their lives are disrupted or suspended – and they don’t fully understand why – people who are young and others who are older we pray for people for whom life is drawing to a close – and for those who love them – who at a distance – simply have to watch and wait – often overcome with feelings of helplessness and guilt

Lord – hear our prayer there are many others Lord – who need our prayers but although we maybe haven’t mentioned them we believe that you know them and their needs so for them too – for us and for all whom we love we pray that you would be with each and every person at their point of need

Lord – hear our prayer

This and all our prayers we offer in Jesus’ name
AMEN


Praise
Our closing hymn is “Because He Lives”

God sent His son, they called Him Jesus
He came to love, heal, and forgive.
He lived and died to buy my pardon,
an empty grave is there to prove my Saviour lives.
Chorus: Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.
because He lives, all fear is gone.
because I know He holds the future,
and life is worth the living just because He lives.
How sweet to hold a newborn baby,
and feel the pride and joy he gives.
but greater still the calm assurance,
this child can face uncertain days because He lives.
Chorus

And then one day I’ll cross that river,
I’ll fight life’s final war with pain.
and then as death gives way to victory,
I’ll see the lights of glory and I’ll know He reigns.
Chorus

Blessing
Into God’s loving care and protection
we commit ourselves and all those for whom we have prayed
may the blessing of Almighty God
Father, Son and Holy Spirit
be with us all – now and always
AMEN