Sunday 19th April - Peace by with you
Our service for 19th April for you to follow at home is below, it has already been distributed to our usual congregation by email or a printed copy through their door.
Opening words: Peace by with you
We are the people of God.
Risen Lord, as we gather today,
may we see you and hear you,
may we feel you and touch you,
may we know your presence with us now. Amen.
Hymns - all numbers quoted are from Mission Praise and music can be found on youtube by clicking on the links supplied.
50 Be still https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZugvUQ4m90U
796 You shall go out with joy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YxHEJN2AIh8
795 You laid aside https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nk_XCWh1UkU
806 Beauty for brokenness https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3kVHKuldZyw
Let there be peace on earth https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0_DxNpW1kHQ
1 Peter 1.3-9
Few Christians living in the developed world can ever have experienced an Easter like this one. At the same time, however, this Easter gives us an opportunity to identify a little more closely with the doubts and fears felt by the first disciples, and with their experience of resurrection depicted in this week’s Gospel reading.
Like the disciples, we are hiding away behind locked doors for fear of the potential danger posed by the people outside. As for them, so for us, the everyday interactions, which we too easily take for granted, are currently denied us, and the mundane but reliable routines of work and school, appointments and activities, shopping and socialising are no longer available. For the disciples, contact with the people outside carries the risk of injury or even death by mob violence; for us, such contact may lead to severe or even fatal illness.
Many of us have had to cancel plans and projects, or at the very least put them on hold. Eagerly awaited parties and holidays, matches and performances have been postponed at best, abandoned at worst. We may justifiably feel disappointed, depressed, devastated; and these emotions are pretty much what the disciples were feeling, too. We should not feel guilty about them.
But Easter came anyway…Just like Jesus…He came and broke into the disciples hidden rooms. We may be locked in our homes for fear of the people outside, but that doesn’t stop the risen Jesus from coming among us (see Matthew 18.20; 28.20). We may find it hard to believe that he’s with us, especially in times like these; but so did the disciples – especially Thomas!
The marks of Jesus’ wounds proved to Thomas that the Jesus who appeared to the disciples in their doubt and fear was the same Jesus who had been nailed to the cross. That same Jesus, who was willing to die to show us the height and breadth and depth of God’s love, is willing to be with us in our times of doubt and fear. Jesus’ suffering and death are not the end of his story, and they are not the end of ours either.
‘Peace be with you’ is an exhortation shared on several occasions throughout the Gospels, usually when there is great news about to be shared. This is not the quiet peace of the status quo, of life as normal; this is the disruptive yet reassuring peace that comes because Jesus is risen from the dead. It is the beginning of something new.
This also comes near the end of the Gospel where John shares the reasoning behind writing his account. The arc of this narrative then reaches from the first century right out to us: ‘These are written so that you may come to believe…and that through believing you may have life in his name.’ The purpose of this story pushes ever outwards, bringing life to the world through our response.
Thomas was unable to take someone’s word for the resurrection, but needed to touch and interact with Jesus in order to believe and declare, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Falling on his feet he worshipped His Lord and Saviour – let us too realise that Jesus stands in our presence, let us fall on our feet and worship Him as our Lord and Saviour.
In embracing Christ for themselves, the disciples were then able to go and share that invitation with others as we see in our readings from Acts and Peter We are invited to receive the embrace of Jesus for ourselves - what are we doing to help others receive and respond to that same invitation?
Heavenly Father, we pray for all the places in the world that need your peace: places where the ongoing pandemic threatens the stability of nations; places where war and violence continues to cause so much pain and destruction; places where homes, livelihoods and families have been destroyed, and lives lost.
Give wisdom to world leaders - to presidents and prime ministers, to politicians of all persuasions - that they may strive for lasting peace and true justice, not putting personal ambitions before the needs of their people, especially in this time of global crisis.
We pray for those who need peace of mind: those weighed down by the stresses and strains of life, or who suffer with anxiety, or are oppressed by worry and fear in the difficult times; for those who find it hard to let go of things and simply trust in you. Amen.
A personal prayer
Let me feel the touch of peace and life, the touch of the risen Lord, beside me, behind me, and before me all the days of my life. Amen