Last Sunday April 7th I led the service at Harlow Hill Chapel with the more than able assistance of its 2 worship leaders, Brian Hulme and Fred Thompson. We met to discuss hymns and our various roles in the service. Fred led the opening prayers and I did the children’s talk and we all took part in the dramatised reading based on John 20v19-29; I read the narrator’s part, Brian played the role of Jesus and Fred that of Thomas. I always think that dramatised reading with more than one voice brings the scene to life. Brian led the intercessions and the offering.
Our opening hymn was ‘This joyful Eastertide’ and the hymn after the opening prayers and children’s talk was ‘Alleluia! Alleluia! Give thanks to the risen Lord!’
We then read the psalm of praise, no 150 responsively, before a member of the congregation read from Acts 5v27-32. After which we sang ‘When Easter to the dark world came,’ followed by the dramatised reading.
I then in the sermon discussed the reactions of the disciples to the crucifixion of their Lord Jesus and their confusion over the news that he had been raised to life again, before they had seen for themselves. Mary had come to tell them she had seen the risen Lord, but feeling still vulnerable and in fear of their lives the disciples were hiding behind locked doors when Jesus came among them and greeted them with the words of peace. They were overjoyed to see him for themselves but Jesus did not leave them unequipped for his work, as he breathed the Holy Spirit over them to empower them. Thomas was not with them when Jesus came and much as he longed to believe that Jesus was indeed alive, he could not accept that such a wonderful thing could have happened, unless he had seen it for himself. Some people prefer to grieve a loss alone as Thomas did, but he would have seen the reality of the resurrection earlier had he been with the other disciples. At times of loss we all react differently, but the support we can receive in fellowship with our fellow Christians can enable us to come to terms with our loss, learning to live with it, sooner than when we nurse our loss alone, as that could lead to despair. Thomas was with the other disciples the next time Jesus came and he did not need to touch Jesus to believe that it was indeed his beloved Lord who had been raised from the dead and simply said, ‘My Lord and My God.’ Jesus said that many would believe he was alive, even though they had not seen him with their own eyes. The reading from Acts showed the difference in Peter, who had denied Jesus before, hidden behind locked doors for fear of the same fate as Jesus, now boldly preaching about him; in fact unable to stop spreading the good news even though the authorities had forbidden them to do so; they had to obey God rather than men. Honest doubt is part of a growth in understanding of who Jesus was and recognising that he is alive for us, as we see him in the needs of those around us. We are all on a journey in our faith experience and as my mum always reminded me; ‘God does not have grandchildren but only children!’ We all need to take that step of faith for ourselves and maybe only then can we really meet Jesus for ourselves. We sang ‘Be still for the presence of the Lord’ to lead us into intercessions and our service concluded with the hymn, ‘All for Jesus!’