Virtual Services

Easter 2 – 19th April 2020

Welcome

A very warm welcome to our online service today. As we continue in this period of being unable to meet together as we normally would, let us remember that wherever we are God is with us – God never changes and he is still worthy of our praise and worship. Whilst we may not be able to worship as the church gathered we can still worship as the church scattered. I was very moved last week when for our Easter service Ali lit a candle for every family in the church directory – reminding us all that we are all lights for Him in whatever situation He has placed us.

So I invite you to say this simple prayer as we start out time of worship together.

Worship

A Gathering Prayer

Lord, this is your world and we are your people
As your people we come to worship you this morning
To praise you for your love and thank you for all you did through the death and resurrection of your Son.
We come by the power of your spirit to give you our praise because you are worthy.
Amen

Although we could not celebrate Easter together last week we could and can still celebrate that Jesus defeated sin and death. We are indeed people of the Risen King and have reason to rejoice. The Stuart Townend song has been on my mind all week and if you wish to listen the link is below.

Come, people of the risen King,
Who delight to bring Him praise.
Come, all and tune your hearts to sing
To the Morning Star of grace.
From the shifting shadows of the earth
We will lift our eyes to Him,
Where steady arms of mercy reach
To gather children in.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Let every tongue rejoice!
One heart, one voice, O Church of Christ, rejoice!

Come, those whose joy is morning sun
And those weeping through the night.
Come, those who tell of battles won,
And those struggling in the fight.
For His perfect love will never change,
And His mercies never cease,
But follow us through all our days
With the certain hope of peace.

Come, young and old from every land,
Men and women of the faith.
Come, those with full or empty hands,
Find the riches of His grace.
Over all the world, His people sing,
Shore to shore we hear them call
The Truth that cries through every age;
‘Our God is all in all’.

Keith Getty, Kristyn Getty and Stuart Townend Copyright © 2007 Thankyou Music (Adm. by CapitolCMGPublishing.com excl. UK & Europe, adm. by Integrity Music, part of the David C Cook family, songs@integritymusic.com)

Word

Our reading today is taken from John chapter 20 – the very well known passage where Jesus appears to his disciples in an upstairs room following his resurrection. As you read or listen to this passage try and picture how the disciples must have been feeling – their friend and teacher, their Messiah, had been brutally executed and buried and yet some of the women, Peter and the two who had journeyed to Emmaus all claimed to have seen him alive. What would have been going through their minds?

Jesus appears to his disciples
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.’

Jesus appears to Thomas
24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus[a]), 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.’

The purpose of John’s gospel
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[b] that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

John 20
19-31

Before we read or heard the passage I suggested you imagine what might have been going through the minds of the disciples and what their feelings or emotions might have been. Whilst preparing this talk I looked up online some of the paintings that have been created about this momentous event and, with very few exceptions, the expression on the disciples faces is one of intense concentration or adoration. And yet I am sure that if we had been present the reaction would have been one of shock, amazement and even fear that Jesus had suddenly appeared in the room.

We had read that the door had been locked – because the disciples were scared about what the authorities were going to do about a missing body. Even though the women had reported that they had seen Jesus, as had some of the other disciples, it was almost impossible to believe – the disciples didn’t really understand at that point what had happened – all they did know was that the world that they knew had changed – everything they accepted and knew to be true had been turned on its head. And emotionally I think they would have been completely wrung out – they had seen their dear friend betrayed by one of their own, brutally executed and buried and were grieving when they were given news he was alive. And now their feelings must have been a mixture of elation, joy, doubt, anxiety, fear and confusion.

And it is into this mixture of feelings that Jesus suddenly appears in the room with them. Not like some ethereal glowing creature that is pictured in some of the images I looked at, but as the man they had spent three years living with, working alongside and learning from. Jesus could have said all kinds of things – reminded them of what he had told them about returning after three days etc – but he didn’t. His first words are ‘Peace be with you’.

At a superficial level this could be seen as just a greeting – it was after all the standard greeting when entering a home and peace, or shalom, is still used today in the Jewish world as a greeting and a blessing. Shalom aleichem or Peace be unto you, is the title of a song that is still used worldwide in many Jewish homes on a Friday evening at the start of the Shabbat ritual (and you can find this on Youtube if you’re interested).
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j-wAAtCvPnQ

Jesus, the Prince of Peace, greets his friends, who he must know would be in utter turmoil, with this simple Shalom aleichem greeting – but it is more than that – it is a reminder of his final words to them at the last supper. In John 14 verse 27 it is recorded that Jesus promised his disciples his peace – “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid”.

So what is this peace? Shalom is actually multi-dimensional and means much more than the English ‘hello’. On one level it can mean peace between two different bodies or peace between nations but it also means a just relationship between people and classes and an end to oppression i.e. social justice. But shalom also refers to spiritual peace the psychological and emotional peace that comes from knowing God and being known by God. God’s peace transcends earthly matters, knowledge and understanding. And it is a gift – one of the gifts of the holy spirit. It is knowing that when the world seems crazy, when situations are difficult, when we are anxious or afraid that God’s peace can calm our hearts and minds.

But this does not mean that we should shy away from the fact that there are indeed many things to cause anxiety and fear – and particularly at this present time when we are dealing with an unseen enemy that is causing and will continue to cause so much hardship and sorrow. As Bishop Pete pointed out last week in his Easter sermon, when the women were told ‘Do not be afraid’ it was not to tell them off but to assure them that he understood why they were frightened, he understood the grounds for their fear. But as the Bishop went on to point out, the resurrection of Jesus meant they did not need to be afraid any more because he was with them and had overcome sin and death.

And God continues to say to us today that whilst there are indeed things to cause us alarm, fear and anxiety, or when things seem to overwhelm us and the future is uncertain, then he will be with us. It is not that life will not throw difficulties at us but that God will be with us; he understands the reasons for anxiety and fear, but He promises that His presence and His peace will always be there to comfort us.

C S Lewis said that ‘Life with God is not immunity from difficulties, but peace in difficulties’.
The disciples were locked in the upstairs room ‘for fear of the Jews’, and we too may be locked in our homes for fear of the people outside, but that doesn’t stop the risen Jesus from coming among us We may find it hard to believe that he’s with us, especially in times like these; but so did the disciples – especially Thomas!

So let me conclude with the verses that Paul wrote in his closing comments to the Philippians “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”

Shalom aleichem

So what does peace mean for you? Is there a particular place where you feel most ‘at peace’?

With the current lockdown restrictions are there ways you can share the peace and love of God with others?

You may like to listen to the song below by Laura Storey called ‘Perfect Peace’ and use this time to tell God what you are most anxious about today.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6kj8pzDLcc8

Witness

Prayers of Intercession

Holy God, as we are restricted in what we can do
and must worship in households rather than in church buildings,
help us to remember that the church is not closed –
for church is people not buildings.
We pray for all with whom we normally worship Sunday by Sunday…
God in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

Holy God, we pray for those in authority as they grapple with the unexpected.
Guide those who are giving the world’s leaders knowledge and expertise in these times.
Give wisdom and courage to all in leadership,
and when this is all over may humankind emerge strengthened.
God in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Holy God, as we hear and see the news
and exchange thoughts on social media,
help us to remember all those less fortunate than ourselves, among them:
those who are lonely,
those who are angry,
those who are distressed,
those who are at their wits end,
those who cannot get the help they need…
God in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Holy God, we remember all those who are working to keep things going:
those working in the NHS and those around it helping to keep things working,
those keeping our streets clean and collecting our rubbish,
those harvesting, delivering and selling the food in our shops,
those keeping us secure and our utilities functioning,
those looking after the children of key workers,
those helping to care for the elderly and vulnerable,
clergy of all religions seeking to minister in difficult times…
God in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Holy God, we remember those who have died,
whether from Covid-19 or from other causes.
We pray for their families and friends
especially as they arrange funerals so different from what they expected.
We pray that they and we may come at the last to find peace in your presence.
God in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

© ROOTS for Churches Ltd (www.rootsontheweb.com) 2002-2020.Reproduced with permission.

Community

The community of S17 has drawn together during these unusual times in a very special way. This is reflected in the great work of the S17 COVID-19 Community Support group.

The group aims to support those in the community who may be in need and to provide a support network to the S17 community at this time.

“If there are needy people in our community let’s ensure we help them out with things like bringing shopping to their door.”

The Wardens of All Saints Totley have been producing regular newsletters with helpful links, thoughts and resources. The latest of these is here.

We have also started to add resources for the younger members of our church, to add to this virtual service. They can be found here, and here.

Blessing and Dismissal

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. (2 Thessalonians 3:16)
And may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all evermore. Amen