Second Sunday of Easter
You are Holy
For the joys and for the sorrows
Lockdown Faith Stories with Alistair and Toby
Bible reading John 20:19-31
Sermon by Liz
I first wrote this reflection a year ago when we were just going into lockdown.
I thought it would be helpful to now reflect on all that has happened last year – as we are (hopefully) coming out of lockdown and things have changed over the year.
Please take time to consider how your feelings may have changed, how you may have been challenged and responded over the past year.
As we are still all at home, I would like to present today’s talk in a different way than I would usually do.
I would like us to consider the reading and take time, in our own homes, to reflect a little more deeply than we would normally be able to do in a service.
Today’s reading is a scenario of the disciples, having gone through all that they have in the last week, locked in room and afraid to go out.
Place yourself in the scene for a few minutes. Read the passage again. What is your first reaction? A year ago it would not have been quite so possible to imagine being in lockdown – are any of you nervous or concerned about going out again after an extended time indoors?
Does any of their fear resonate for you, does it ask any questions of you, does it help you?
Obviously, we are in a different situation today but you may be feeling quite anxious at the moment, with all that is still changing around you.
You may have had some doubts over the last year as to where God has been during this time.
You may be feeling held by God and full of hope and faith for the future, knowing those days are passing.
You may be thanking and praising all that God has done for us in his Son. “The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord”. They knew the message of the Cross was real.
It may be you have a mixture of all these emotions, that can change each day. That is usual in an uncertain time of change.
It may be you experiencing none these feelings.
Wherever and whatever you feel this message has a lot to say to us.
Go back to the reading:
How does it feel when Christ enters the room and says:
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.”
The disciples knew at this point that Jesus was with them. They rejoiced when they had seen him enter the room and now, He is preparing them for the future.
I am sure they would not have fully understood what that would mean for them. To see Jesus then would have been enough for them. They were delighted and amazed -stay with that amazement for a few moments.
There was, however, one disciple who was not there when Jesus first appeared – Thomas. I wonder if we identify with him at all. He could not believe until he, too, had seen Jesus.
Thomas had a cautious approach to believing in the resurrection.
As N T Wright says in his commentary Thomas had earlier complained that Jesus had not made things clear enough Chap 14:5, and then he was the one who happened to be somewhere elsewhere when it was all happening with Jesus returning. He was not going to be taken in at all by what the others were telling him – he wanted see for himself.
His need to see Jesus, Wright says, is an encouragement to those who come later. We are, he says, all blessed when, without having seen the risen Lord for ourselves, we nevertheless believe.
Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed. (v29)
Jesus, has by his death and resurrection brought life and light to the world. The resurrection points to the healing and restoring of the world. As Wright goes on to say – the resurrection is not only new creation it is new creation. We are never going to be the same.
Whether we feel it or not, whether we are afraid or not, whether we feel full of hope and faith, or not – we are blessed as we believe that Jesus is here with us, and will continue to be with us , as we journey through these uncertain days.
Just because we cannot see Jesus, or we may not hear from him, or feel his presence does not mean He is has left us in any situation we face, or have been facing in the last year, his spirit is still with us. As we look back over our lives, and specifically the last year, particularly when we had doubts, we can often see where God was working, lifting us up, bringing us the right people to help. His love is unchanging, we just need to believe.
The disciples had been very afraid and uncertain in that locked room but became great witnesses and spread the message of Jesus far and wide. It would be extremely challenging for them, often violent and ultimately would lead to their deaths. They believed and were sent, in the same we are today.
What stories have you got to share of God with you, and in you, during the last year? How do you respond to the reading? Is there a new way we can go out from here and bear witness to how God has held us during this time?
We can respond in different ways:
Pray– spend time with Him in a quiet place and pray, look around you (how Spring is opening things up (creation wise) and how people are now starting to come out and mix again (albeit slowly). What areas come to mind for you to pray about –personal, local or global. Take any concerns to him, thank Him for all he has done, ask for him to show you afresh what he is calling you to do.
Look at all that is going on around you now – where can you see God at work – in your lives, locally and globally. In all the pain and uncertainty of the last year can we see signs of God at work, and how. Pray for Him to show you areas that need his healing touch and pray for that.
Read the Bible – refresh your soul with his Word and thank him for all he has done.
Worship – find a way of listening to sacred music, songs, hymns or whatever lifts your spirit and worship Him for all He has done.
Thomas had his doubts, it is natural, we too have our doubts from time to time. If we acknowledge and tackle those doubts and pray to Him for his will for us, we can be stronger in our understanding of God and how He is working in our lives.
We thank you for all you have done for us, for sending your Son to die, for his resurrection and for filling us with your spirit.
Forgive us for the times when we doubt you, for not taking time to know your will in our lives and for wanting to do things and solve things our way.
We pray that during this week we will know you afresh through prayer, your word, and through worship and to share your love with those around us by praying for them and by acts of kindness.
We ask this in your name.
Profession of faith
hallowed be your name;
your kingdom come;
your will be done;
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins,
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power
and the glory are yours
now and for ever. Amen.
Man of Sorrows
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