Sunday Service: 19th April 2020

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Sunday Service: 19th April 2020

Script Sunday – 19 April 2020 Easter 2

Reading John 20

The Call to Worship from the Psalm for today Psalm 16.

          I am always aware of the Lord’s presence

          he is near, and nothing can shake me

          I am thankful and glad

          and I feel completely secure

          You protect me from the power of death

          and you will not abandon me.

Boys and girls, I don’t think you will know which saint this is by this picture, but I am going to give you a few clues as to his identity.

  1. He is a famous disciple of Jesus, but not a fisherman.
  2. He was the first disciple to visit India.
  3. He is most famous for his doubts rather than his faith.
  4. He may have visited Sri Lanka and a famous school is named at Mount Lavinia is named after him.
  5. He is St Thomas and we will hear the key part of his story in our reading today.
  6. St Thomas became so famous he has an entire island named after him and here is a picture of St Thomas it lies in the Caribbean Sea.

At this point in our service we normally share The Peace. If you listen carefully to the bible reading from John’s gospel today you will realise that when Jesus enters the house to visit the disciples on two different Sunday’s, his opening words are the same.

Jesus says, “Peace be with you.”     Boys and girls, we cannot run up the aisle today sharing the peace with our members at St Andrew’s but we can sign the peace even if we are on our own. Remember peace in sign language is PEACE. We make a sign of peace now.

Let us bless the children. Let us pray,

Living God, bless your children in the north and south, east and west in every family and in all countries. We ask for you to keep children safe from harm and the C-19 virus this day and this year. Amen. 

Our reading today is being read throughout the world church on this Sunday.   It is from John Chapter 20 verses 19-29.

Jesus Appears to the Disciples

19 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

Jesus and Thomas

24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin[a]), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”  This is the word of God.

Sermon

St Thomas has a label and it is simply not fair.

Poor man he gets a hard time across the board over centuries!  While other disciples were constantly failing to ‘get it’ and made frequent mistakes, think of Peter in particular, it is Thomas who is left with the nickname ‘Doubting Thomas.’  Our verses focus on the figure of Thomas. A tension is created after Thomas’ strong statement that he wants evidence. I will not believe, ‘Unless I see…’ This tension is allowed to sit unresolved for a week in the biblical account. 

But is to doubt such a bad thing? Surely if we think about it the opposite of faith is not doubt but certainty. And certainty without evidence is not scientific nor helpful. Certainty can lead humans into some very dangerous places:

  •  Churches saying they do not need to close to help fight Covid-19
  •  Presidents who believe they know more than medical or scientific experts.

Faith and doubt are more related than we often acknowledge. When talk about faith we call Abraham the key person of faith in the Old Testament. Why? because he took a risk, left certainty for uncertainty by responding to God’s call and that iswhy we respect him today.

Thomas is not a someone who lacked gumption nor faith. He travels farthest of all the early apostles and his impact is hugely significant in India and Sri Lanka right to this day.

Even in the gospel, which records the doubting story it is preceded with this comment from John 11 verse 16.

When Lazarus had died, the apostles do not wish to go back to Judea, where some Jews had attempted to stone Jesus. Yet confidently Thomas says: “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

Thomas has the confidence to ask the difficult questions, the courage to risk his life and he is willing to travel outwith his comfort zone.

I am very happy that we have this story about doubt and that we face it the week after Easter every year in the Christian calendar. It reminds us that doubt and faith are related and when we have doubts, we should express them openly.   Whether you are attracted or challenged by Thomas, he will always be there. We need not avoid him nor be overly concerned with our own phases of doubt, which are part of a healthy faith journey. If you don’t accept that reread Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. 

Thomas wanted evidence, not hearsay and when given it offers Jesus the strongest affirmation of faith in the whole New Testament, “My Lord and my God.” He then puts his own life on the line by taking the good news to far off lands, where both he and his Lord are remembered fondly to this very day. Thanks be to God. Amen

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