Third Sunday after Easter 2021
Wait on the Lord. Be of good courage and he shall strengthen your heart.
Almighty God, ever living and ever loving, whose power girdles the earth and whose care reaches out to each one, who in love raised up his Son Jesus Christ our Lord from the dead, we gladly adore you and reverently join in worship. Be pleased to continue your love to us and to keep us safe in your charge all the days of our life.
Heavenly Father, it is with shame that we confess that we have repaid that love with disobedience and that kindness with ingratitude. Though we know we are protected by your care we have been anxious and afraid. So often we speak in haste and act in anger. We reject the commands of conscience while indulging our selfish desires. Help us to repent and to know that your grace is great enough to blot out all our sins.
Merciful God whose support we need, whose help reaches out to us at all times, be with us when we turn aside from your will. Recall us to your service. Strengthen our faith and give us a proper sense of duty. Take hold of us and use us to bring the light of your love into the world. To this end most wise and loving Father help us to see in the life and teaching of our Lord the royal road to heaven and make us ever willing to accept his guidance and follow obediently in his steps.
This we ask through Jesus Christ who has taught us when we pray to say – Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be your name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in 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, forever. Amen
St John 20:24-31
A thought for today
Thanks to what happened in the upper room on that first Easter Sunday Thomas will forever be known as Doubting Thomas. For reasons that are not explained Thomas was not with the others when Jesus first appeared to them. It is not really surprising that he found it difficult to believe what he was told.
It is perhaps harsh to label him for evermore as Doubting Thomas. Would we have been any different were we to have been in his shoes? The accepted human view is that death is the end of life in this world and we must remember that at the time there was no thought of any kind of life after death. Such a belief was not part of Jewish thinking.
At any rate Thomas had his doubts resolved when Jesus came again to the upper Room the following week. It is clear that what Thomas had done did not affect his relationship with the others for when they went back to Galilee Thomas was with them. His name is amongst those who went fishing with Peter that night when Jesus came again on the shore as dawn broke.
After this we hear no more about Thomas, but there are two ancient books which claim to tell of his adventures for Christ. One in the Gospel of Thomas and the other is the Acts of Thomas. Neither found their way into the canon of the New Testament for good reasons, though they do claim to shed light on Thomas’ movements.
After Pentecost the early church began to think of reaching out beyond Judaism. As always seemed to be the case it was Peter who acted first when he converted the Roman centurion at Caesarea. Soon afterwards Philip went south to Ethiopia and Barnabas to Antioch. After his conversion on the road to Damascus Saul, who became Paul, spent three year in Arabia before joining Barnabas in Antioch, from where they began the outreach into Asia and Europe.
According to legend Andrew went to Russia and then Greece, Mark to Egypt and Thomas journeyed east, first to Persia and then on to India. After what is said to have been an effective ministry there he died in what was Madras where he is supposed to be buried.
What is more certain is that when the Portuguese arrived in South India they found a Christian community which claimed its foundation by Thomas. It is said that this is the reason that the Portuguese were able to establish churches in South India, especially in Kerala and Goa.
The driving force behind this expansion was the power of the Holy Spirit. Thanks to its inspiration the Church spread to Spain in the west, Russia in the north, Ethiopia and Egypt in the south and India in the east, all in the lifetime of the apostles.
Perhaps what we lack today is a similar trust in the power of the Spirit. There is an old story about a visit to the local school by the minister to put the pupils through their catechism. This would have been around 200 years ago. The teacher had arranged for the class to say the Apostles Creed. Each pupil was given a statement and all wen well until it came to “I believe in the Holy Ghost” when there was silence. Eventually one boy rather timidly put up his hand and said to the minister, “Please sir, the boy who believes in the Holy ghost is absent”. When it comes to faith in the Spirit too many in the Church today are absent.
We dare not forget that it was the moving power of the Spirit that drove the apostles out into the world, leading Thomas on his arduous journey to the east. That same power can take us forward today.
George Mathieson was the minister of Innellan 160 years ago. He is remembered now for his great hymn, “O love that wilt not let me go”. What is not so widely known nowadays is that he never had good sight and from the age of 18 he was blind. Yet in his hymn he sets out clearly the claim God has on us and gives the assurance that the promise given in the rainbow to Noah still holds good. It is remarkable that despite his blindness he can still talk of the light that follows all his ways and can trace that rainbow he could not see.
His faith sustained him just as faith sustained Thomas and the rest and faith will sustain us for the living of these days, for the promise of God is never vain.
A closing prayer
Almighty and gracious God, it is with glad and grateful hearts that we praise and thank you for all your goodness. We bless you for your work of creation which brought forth this wonderful world in which we live and for which we are now responsible. May we show our gratitude by taking proper care of it. We give thanks for those who in the past proclaimed the Word, the prophets, apostles and all who have ministered to God’s people down through the ages. We rejoice in the glorious gift of your Son who revealed in his living the true nature of the father as the God of love and in his dying and rising again to newness of life has held out to us the promise of eternal life. All praise and thanks be unto you now and always.
In these difficult times enable the Church to be an effective instrument of the Gospel. Enable her to reach out to touch the hearts of all people, always trusting in the power of the Holy Spirit.
We pray for the nation seeking your blessing upon us all and especially upon our Queen and her family in their time of mourning. Strengthen us in the continuing fight against the virus. Prevent us from undue risk as we begin to enjoy greater freedom from restriction. We remember before you the sick and the suffering, the poor and the homeless and hungry, the lonely and the anxious. Be with them and fill them with hope. Bless all who seek to care for them and improve their lot.
Into your hands we commend the dying and all who mourn. May they all know that they are enveloped by the peace that only you can give; a peace which passes all our understanding.
Now unto the King, eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory forever.
And now may the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God and of His Son Jesus Christ our Lord; and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with us all, now and evermore.