Reflection for Sunday 19 April

Here is a reflection for Sunday by Martin Frost, one of our Ministry Team.

I hope you find it interesting and useful.

We will be meeting for online ‘Zoom’ worship on Sunday at 11.00 (BST/WET). If you’d like to join us please email me on 

newarkcongregational@virginmedia.com

and I’ll send you access instructions.

Mark

Stilling verse:

Ps 34:4 I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.

Take a few moments to just acknowledge all that is going on for you at the moment but turn your attention to God. This morning He is wanting to have time with you and is waiting for you simply to turn to Him. Place all your concerns at the foot of the cross and leave them there so you can focus on God.

Let us pray:

Father, we thank you this morning for the ability to come to you and spend time with you.  Whatever is going on you are worthy of our time and we want to spend these moments with you. Wherever we are there will be other Christians drawing close to you and wanting to spend time giving you the praise you deserve, we want to join with them in worshipping and praising you for who you are. Help us to focus on you, draw near to us and speak to us this morning. Amen

This Sunday in some traditions is called Renewal Sunday. In the Bible, about 8 days after Easter we come across the story of Thomas. For him it was an experience that would reaffirm his faith. With all the challenges to hearing God and listening to what He is saying at the moment, I wanted us to come together and reaffirm who we are going to listen to and what we are going to believe.

In the face of everything that is happening will we trust God for what he has said?

Let us say together the prayer Jesus taught his disciples, reminding us of God’s promises.

Our Father in heaven,
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.

The Reading for Today

John 20:19-31 New International Version (NIV)

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), 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.

 

It must have been really hard for the disciples on that first Sunday, their whole world must have been turned upside down. Whatever they had expected from Jesus must have been knocked as he was taken and hung on the cross. Then there were the reports that he had come back from the dead. I’m sure they suffered from ‘fake news’ just in the same way we feel we suffer these days.

Thomas has had a hard press, being labelled ‘doubting’ Thomas but I think this is unfair. He had not had the experience of the others on that first Easter Sunday.

When the women returned from the tomb the other disciples weren’t willing to believe them, Peter and John had to go and see for themselves, to see and to touch. It was only then they believed what they said.

It is good that the disciples had listened to what Jesus had said, ‘to love one another’, and perhaps for now this was to stay together. They were fearful and had shut themselves away.  Isn’t it a good thing that when we lock ourselves up because of fear that Jesus is still able to come in without us unlocking our hearts? He is able to reach us where we are. Jesus’ reaction to them is also reassuring, they had deserted him on the cross but his first words to them was ‘Peace’, he was not there to condemn or rebuke. Even when we get overwhelmed by the world and forget to turn to God His first reaction to us is ‘Peace’. For those gathered Jesus then showed his hands as reassurance that he was who he said. I am reminded that we are now the hands and feet of Jesus and at this time of fear the challenge it is for us to reach out and reassure others of what Jesus has said. Jesus again reminds them that he brings them peace. My sins are forgiven – peace; The slavery to sin is broken – peace; My life is settled for eternity – peace; and perhaps more importantly at this time, My Saviour takes my fears and cares – peace.

Thomas was not present. We aren’t told why but he is not criticised for not being there. Many criticise Thomas because it is reported that he will not believe until he has seen the wounds. He has ignored the testimony of numerous trusted people. But perhaps there is another reading, perhaps Thomas was so shocked by the tragedy of the crucifixion that he had lost hope. Thomas hadn’t abandoned his faith because he still wanted to be with the disciples, he just couldn’t understand what had happened and how God had let it happen. At least Thomas was being honest and real about his feelings. There are times when we become overwhelmed by the many situations we find ourselves in. At the moment, trying to live in isolation or with social distancing. This has been a challenge for all of us to some extent.

A week later the disciples were together again, and Thomas was there. They still had the doors locked, so even knowing Jesus was raised they were afraid of their situation. Even though we know that Jesus is alive doesn’t mean we can’t get fearful of our situation either. It’s remarkable that Jesus repeated Thomas’ words and told him to place his fingers in His wounds. He knew his fears and needs and addressed them directly. When we turn to Jesus and express our concerns, he is able to do the same for us. When we focus on what Jesus has done for us, we can build faith and receive Grace from God.

Through this honest journey Thomas moves to a place, perhaps, even beyond the other disciples. He has gone from questioning his faith, in the face of everything that is going on, to declare something remarkable at that time for a Jew. In the face of hopelessness, he now acknowledges Jesus as his Lord and God. Perhaps he is the first to see Jesus as more than just fully human. Jesus, to us, should be more than just a kind person who helps. Jesus is God incarnate who has done so much for us. The passage says that in seeing this Thomas then believes (it doesn’t say seen and touched which is interesting, perhaps he didn’t need to touch the wounds).

We may not be able to see his wounds but in seeing what Jesus has done for us brings with it a special blessing. Jesus tells Thomas to stop doubting and believe, it is an instruction, a choice we make, in the face of everything that is going on to put our focus on Jesus and to trust and believe.

Reflection Music

Have a listen to this song or, if you can’t listen to it, read through the words and reflect especially on the chorus.

You Say – Lauren Daigle https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oZvKJl1kK8g

I keep fighting voices in my mind that say I’m not enough
Every single lie that tells me I will never measure up
Am I more than just the sum of every high and every low?
Remind me once again just who I am, because I need to know, ooh oh

You say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing
You say I am strong when I think I am weak
And You say I am held when I am falling short
And when I don’t belong, oh, You say I am Yours
And I believe (I), oh, I believe (I)
What You say of me (I)
I believe

The only thing that matters now is everything You think of me
In You I find my worth, in You I find my identity, ooh oh

You say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing
You say I am strong when I think I am weak
And You say I am held when I am falling short
When I don’t belong, oh, You say I am Yours
And I believe (I), oh, I believe (I)
What You say of me (I)
Oh, I believe

Taking all I have and now I’m layin’ it at Your feet
You’ll have every failure God, You’ll have every victory, ooh oh

You say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing
You say I am strong when I think I am weak
You say I am held when I am falling short
When I don’t belong, oh, You say I am Yours
And I believe (I), oh, I believe (I)
What You say of me (I)
I believe

Oh, I believe (I), yes, I believe (I)
What You say of me (I)
I believe (oh)

Final Prayer

Jesus, when the world seems to be getting too much and we struggle to remind ourselves of who you are, give us the grace to be able to refocus and, like Thomas, be able to acknowledge that you are Lord – the one in charge – and our God – who has the ability to do everything. We pray for our situations, and the lives of those around us that you will enter into their hearts with the reassuring words of peace. We pray for those who are working hard to look after us, those working in the NHS, those working for the emergency services and for our friends and family that they may have your peace. Not a peace reliant on their own strength but on what you have done and continue to promise to do for them. Father we pray for those in our fellowship who are struggling with ill health and ask that you will bring them your peace. We pray for families who are living in much closer proximity than normal and ask you for your peace. And we pray for ourselves, that when we struggle with our circumstances, we can turn to you, remind ourselves of what you have done for us and after receiving your grace, choose to believe.

Let us finish with the grace.

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ,

and the love of God,

and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit

be with us all,

now and forevermore.

Amen

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