Online Sunday Service – Sunday 19th April 2020 – Sunday after Easter

19.4.20 – Online Service

Sunday after Easter

Good morning folks,

How are things going with the ‘isolating’ ? Are you managing to get though all those jobs you had planned to do while in isolation? If you are anything like me, you will have made plans with good intention but time seems so slip away and another week has flown by before we know it. Oh well, there is always tomorrow! Perhaps you are feeling anxious and that is quite understandable. Worrying about families, concerned for loved ones who may live far away, or the anxiety of being enclosed for so long – and the term ‘lockdown’ isn’t helpful either.

Perhaps remembering the words of Matthew when he said “..who of you by worrying can add a single hour to their life..?” (Matt 6:27) might give us some comfort.

Calming exercises can go along way to bringing a serenity and a peace – and then follow that with Prayer, is a proven combination for reducing stress. It takes time and practice to master but I can assure it that works, it certainly does for me. Why not give it a try?

I suppose it is easy to be skeptical – there’s a lot of uncertainty and doubt about – indeed our Readings for today both talk of doubt and disbelief.

But before all that – let us join together in a Prayer

PRAYER

Lord – you are the God who so loved the world that you created the world and all that is good..

You are the God who so loved the world that you sent your only son – for us……

Lord, your love for us brings wonder into our hearts as we see the beauty of your creation all around us.

We see the bonnie hills – the new lambs, the daffodils, new growth, new life.

Lord, your love for us brings a smile to our faces as we share the joy of being alive.

Lord, your love for us brings us joy as we remember the new life and hope that is ours through the Resurrection of our Saviour Jesus.

We worship you, O God of love – and we praise you above everything –

We join with our friends and family this day, to hear your word to us…….. and we ask that it enters our hearts and our minds – and so helps us to LIVE our faith – rather than mere words or religious rhetoric……..

We need your guidance, O Lord, and we pray that you will support us as we try to improve our lives – try to live as a good example of your children .. so that we might draw others to believe in the risen Christ – and so be HIS light, shining in a dark world.

Forgive us when our faith falters, forgive us our cynicism – our need for hard evidence before we believe…… draw close to us as we come cautiously to you – for fear that your amazing power might be too much for us to comprehend.

But Lord, we know that we must sadden and disappoint you at times – and we know that our lives are not as you would wish them to be – so be with us now as we sit for a few moments in silence – looking back over the past week or so – remembering the things we ought not to have thought, said or done – the people we may have thoughtlessly hurt – and bring them before you with a humble heart.. – Lord hear us, in the peace of our silence….

….. a short time of silence………

Lord, forgive us………. heal us, cleanse, refresh, renew us – strengthen our faith in times of doubt – grant us your mercy and your grace – for we ask it in Jesus’ name.

Lord we know that you hear us when we pray in faith – so hear us now as we pray together – the prayer which brings us together as one family – the family prayer – the Lord’s prayer ~

Our Father.. Who art in heaven.. Hallowed be thy name.. Thy 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. Lead us not into temptation.. but deliver us from evil .. For thine is the kingdom.. The power and the glory forever…. Amen.

This morning we have 2 readings –

In our first Reading – we hear about the Queen of Sheba who was fabulously wealthy – and had heard all about the amazing wealth of King Solomon – and had come to see it for herself –

And in our New Testament reading – we hear how Jesus had appeared to the disciples – giving them hope and encouragement – but Thomas, who had separated himself from them, hadn’t seen Jesus – and wasn’t too keen to believe it could be true – until he saw Him for himself

Let us read God’s word together –

Reading 1 – 1st Kings 10 : 1 – 7

Visit of the Queen of Sheba

Now when the Queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the Lord, she came to test him with hard questions. She came to Jerusalem with a very great retinue, with camels bearing spices, and very much gold, and precious stones; and when she came to Solomon, she told him all that was on her mind. And Solomon answered all her questions; there was nothing hidden from the King which he could not explain to her. And when the Queen of Sheba had seen all the wisdom of Solomon, the house that he had built, the food of his table, the seating of his officials, and the attendance of his servants, their clothing, his cupbearers, and his burnt offerings which he offered at the house of the Lord, there was no more spirit in her.

And she said to the King, “The report was true which I heard in my own land of your affairs and of your wisdom, but I did not believe the reports until I came and my own eyes had seen it; and behold, the half was not told me; your wisdom and prosperity are far greater than the stories I have heard.”

Reading 2 – John 20 : 19 – 31

Jesus Appears to the Disciples

 19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the the disciples had locked themselves away in fear of their lives. Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” 22 And 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; if you do not forgive the sins of any, they are not forgiven.”

Jesus and Thomas

24 Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came to them in the room. 25 So the other disciples went to see him and told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the marks of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

26 Eight days later, his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. The doors were shut, but 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; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing.” 28 Thomas saw His wounds and touched him there and cried out “O My Lord and my God!”

29 Jesus said to him, “Do you believe now you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”

The Purpose of This Book

30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life and life eternal, in His name.”

Amen.

This is the Word of the Lord – Thanks be to God.

SERMON

How are you with practical jokes or ‘wind up’s’ as they’re called nowadays ?

You know – where people think it’s highly amusing to spin you a line about something – apparently in all honesty – and you take it in – assuming that they’re telling you the truth – only to find that it’s all nonsense and not true at all – and your apparent gullibility causes great hilarity – and all at your expense.

Not everyone’s idea of good fun…

Perhaps that’s because we like to take people at face value – giving them benefit of the doubt – assuming that they are telling the truth – why would they not be ?   Or maybe we’re just a bit gullible !!

But then – there are those who are not so easy to have the wool pulled over their eyes – they are guarded, cautious, careful – and maybe that’s not a bad thing either – and I suppose that’s just the way some people are.

That’s the way the Queen of Sheba was – as we heard in our Old Testament reading.

She wouldn’t believe the great wisdom and wealth of King Solomon – until she saw it for herself………

That’s how Thomas was too – “aye – I’ll believe it when I see it for myself !” was his motto……… and when we think about it – can we really blame him ? – after all –how do you think you or I would react in a similar circumstance ??

Perhaps Thomas is not so very different from many of us.

Imagine the scene – here we have 10 of his friends – the other disciples – excluding Thomas and of course, Judas, who had all seen the risen Jesus for themselves

He had come to them while they were in a locked room – as we saw in our reading from John’s Gospel.

And there they were – trying to convince Thomas that – as unbelievable as it might seem – it really WAS true – Jesus HAD risen from the grave!

But Thomas wouldn’t take their word for it!

He needed to see it for himself before he would believe it.

So not only was he a doubter – he was stubborn too !

Do you get the feeling that from this passage – that we’re not getting a particularly flattering picture of ‘doubting Thomas’ ?

But you know – I believe that poor old Thomas has had a bad press over these many years – and, I believe, unfairly too.

He is mentioned in all four gospels – as well as the book of Acts. But what do we remember him for ? His doubt.

But there was a lot more to Thomas than that – aye, but what?

Well – he was one of the very first 12 disciples which Jesus ‘sent out’ to drive out evil spirits and “heal every disease and sickness”.

But do we remember him for that?

When Jesus had said earlier that He must to go to Jerusalem and there to meet his death – who was it that said to the rest of the disciples – “let us also go, that we may die with him?” – yes, it was Thomas.

But do we remember him for that ?

When Jesus was explaining that He was to go to the Father to prepare a place for each one of us – who was it that said “but Lord, we don’t know where you are going – so how can we know the way ?” – yes it was Thomas again – but how many of us remember him for that ?

 

And after Jesus had ascended to the Father- and the disciples drew lots to see who was to replace Judas in their number – who was there, a part of that major decision – yes – Thomas – but do we remember him for that ?   No.

If I were to ask you to think of one word which springs to mind when I say the name Thomas – for most of you it would probably something like – “doubt” or “doubter”.

And that’s a shame – for all his faithfull discipleship – we remember Thomas for his very human trait – we remember him for doing and saying things which many of us are guilty of too.

We remember Thomas for his uncertainty – his disbelief – his doubt – yet who among us – can say that we have never had a moment of doubt ?

Who among us can honestly say that – like Thomas – our faith has never received a knock – a shake – when things seem at their very worst ?

Who – like the father who witnessed Jesus heal his demon possessed son – hasn’t at some time or another said – “Lord I believe – help me in my unbelief!” ?

Thomas was only being honest – perhaps others had their own doubts too, but kept it to themselves.

Perhaps for Thomas the thought of his beloved Jesus returning was – quite literally – just ‘too good to be true !

Just as we too might feel when thinking of a loved one lost…….

‘No it can’t be true – oh how I wish that it were – but no – it’s just not possible !’ – and we shut ourselves off – we shut ourselves out – from others who care about us – and we grieve in private – behind closed doors……

King George the 5th once said “if I have to suffer – let me be like a well bred animal, and let me go and suffer alone” – and that’s what many of us do – grieve in private – that’s just what Thomas did.

“My dear one is gone” – he must have thought – “my dear sweet, precious Jesus – dead !” And we can imagine the waves of grief overcoming him as he sat alone in his sorrow.

An understandable – yet, sorry sight – just like many of us – when we lose a loved one.

But Jesus doesn’t leave us in our despair – he comes to us – as he came to Thomas – and blessed him – so He blesses us with his comfort and his care.

Thomas couldn’t believe it – who among us would ? – how could we ? – yet there he was – standing right beside Thomas in his desolation – just as He stands beside us – if we have the eyes to see him and the open-ness to feel his presence.

But of course – Thomas wasn’t the only disciple who doubted the Resurrection of Jesus.

Last Sunday – at our Easter service we heard that when the Mary’s had found the empty tomb – they ran and told the disciples and we are told – “they did not believe the women – for their words seemed to them, like nonsense!”.. And they ran to see for themselves…… And then they believed !

I remember seeing a poster many years ago which simply said – “Jesus – just because you can’t see him – doesn’t mean He’s not there !”

Perhaps our cynical and world-weary outlook on life has made us more like the Queen of Sheba – or Thomas than we’d care to admit.

Seeing is believing” or so the saying goes – and when they saw with their own eyes – they believed.

Now you see you believe” Jesus had said to Thomas – “and blessed are those who have not seen me – and yet, believe”.

And it was then – that Thomas knew – it was then that the believed that the Resurrection was true -Jesus had risen – just as he said he would !!

It was then that he saw the light and the truth and the way ahead – it was then that he said “my Lord and my God!!”.

*

So what was it that turned Thomas around ? What had turned his unbelief – into a firm belief ??

It was the presence of Jesus – it was when he saw the extent to which his body had been injured.

It was when he saw, experienced Jesus for himself.

And that’s true for us too – we may not see Jesus in the physical sense – but it’s when we experience Jesus – when we feel His presence – see His presence in the world – in our lives – that we can truly believe.

And it’s when we feel it for ourselves – experience it for ourselves that we will want to tell others that wonderful Good News – that Jesus came, died and rose again – so that we, you and I and all who trust Him, might have eternal life.

“Be still and feel the presence of the Lord…”

It’s then that we will be able to say for ourselves that Jesus really isto echo the words of Thomas – “my Lord and my God”!

*

You know – if you have the eyes to see him, the open-ness to feel him – He is here with us right now as we share this time together He’s with you every day – right where you are.

Please don’t ever doubt it – this is no practical joke – no ‘wind up’ – it’s the greatest truth you will ever hear – and you can know it for yourself, if you have the faith to believe – truly believe.

Knowing Jesus for yourself – there really is no greater thing.

And that’s something that you can believe !!

And in Jesus’ precious name.

Amen.

And may God bless this preaching of His Holy Word – and may all the Glory and the Praise – be his.

Let us pray ~

 Living God,

We give you our thanks for the many blessing that you freely give to us each day – so many that we take them for granted.

Family, friends, a roof over our head and food on our plate – and so, so much more.

We really are so grateful but rarely take the time to say a simple ‘thank you Lord’ –

Lord forgive us –

Lord, in your mercy – hear our prayer.

But Lord we know that there are many in this world who are not so blessed as we are –

And we bring them to you in our prayers –

We pray for all those who find faith difficult or impossible —those beset by doubt, troubled by questions to which they can find no answer, unable to take the leap of faith, yet seeking, searching and thirsting for truth.

Lord, in your mercy,……………….hear our prayer.

We think of those for whom events in the world at large seem to deny your love —those confronted by natural disaster, sickened by war and violence, perplexed by sickness, suffering and disease, bewildered by the apparent victory in so many places of evil over good.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We pray also for those confirmed in their unbelief, unwilling to consider further the claims of the Gospel, unmoved and unchallenged by the love of Christ.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Living God,

break through the barriers of doubt and unbelief. Open the hearts and minds of all who are troubled and confused, and all who are closed to your presence.

Meet with those who find it hard to meet with you, and lead them to a living, life-giving faith.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Today we pray for our world and all who suffer from man’s inhumanity to their fellow man – those caught up in wars and violence – pain and suffering – death and destruction – through the evil and violent actions of others…… and pray for an end to their suffering…….

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We pray for those who are suffering ill health – physical and emotional pain – and ask that your healing presence be upon them………….. We pray too for those of our own families – and those we know need a prayer at this time.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer

So draw close to us now as we sit together – in silence – for a few moments – each with our own thoughts – each with our own prayers – for those we know and love – be with us listening Lord – and hear our silent prayers……………..

……a short time of silence……

 Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer –

for we pray in and through the name of our dear sweet Jesus.

Amen.

‘THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK’

Our theme for today has, of course, been the uncertainty and doubt – something we all experience at some time or another. But here is a story which, I hope, will give us food for thought.

This is a story about a man called Callum, who had the misfortune to get caught in a serious flood. The water was rising all around him and was soon up to his knees. He climbed the staircase to the first floor but still the water rose. It wasn’t long before the water was up to his waist and he looked out of the window to see what was happening to his neighbours.

A boat was passing and the occupant shouted, “Hey, Callum! Quick, climb aboard my boat and I will take you to safety.”

Callum smiled and replied, “Thank you very much, but I have had a word with God and he will take care of me.” Soon the boat was out of sight.

The flood would not stop and the water continued to climb. Callum was forced onto the roof of his home and he surveyed the rising water below him.

Just then, a helicopter flew over and a man used his microphone to tell Callum that worse was yet to come. He threw a rope down to Callum and cried, “Quick Callum, climb up while you still have a chance!” Nevertheless, Callum had been a good man all his life and placed his faith in the Lord, so he declined the offer. “You don’t have to worry about me,” he shouted.

And the waters rose and rose until finally it was all over. Callum was taken from this earth.

As already mentioned, Callum was a good man, so naturally he was taken to the pearly gates to meet St. Peter.

On entering heaven he was taken and introduced to God who welcomed him with open arms. But, Callum was not content and asked God, “I am confused my Lord. I have been a devout follower my entire life, and never once have I strayed from your chosen path. I believe I was too young to die now. I prayed to you and asked you to save me, but my faith let me down. How could you have been so cruel?”

And the Lord replied, “What do you mean I let you down? I sent you a boat to save you, and a helicopter as well – but you sent them away! Where is your faith in me?

Callum dropped his head, smiled and said “O Lord my God, why did I ever doubt you?”

A tear fell from Callums’ eye as the Lord said – “You are forgiven my son, enter now into the Kingdom of God.”

God is all around us, with us every minute of everyday – but do we see Hm?

Mmmmmm – food for thought for us all.

May the Love, Grace and Peace of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with you, your family, friends, all you know and love, and ought to love.

This day and every day.

Amen.

Take care, God Bless and keep safe.