On Sunday April 23rd our minister Rev Christine Gillespie led the special Woman’s Day Service at Wesley Chapel. Worship began as we sang, ‘Thine be the glory’ before Christine led the prayers and the Lord’s Prayer. Before the readings we sang, ‘Father in heaven grant us your children.’ As it was a special service Jenny from Starbeck Chapel read ‘1 Timothy 2.1-8, which gives instructions for worship. John 20.19-31 was also read by Catherine describing Jesus’ appearing to the disciples after his resurrection. We sang ‘When Easter to the dark world came’ before Christine preached.
Thomas was not there when Jesus appeared to the disciples. He was not there at the right time. Those who were present in the right place and at the right time had the Easter experience. Mary Magdalene went to grieve at the tomb and when she was there she found the tomb opened and the stone rolled away so was able to run and fetch John and Peter. John looked and he believed and he and Peter returned home. Mary remained to see the angels and listen to the announcements that he has risen. As Mary was still there she encountered whom she thought was the gardener, but when he addressed her as Mary she knew it was the risen Lord Jesus. As Mary was the first there, she was the first witness to the resurrection. The testimony of women was not considered valuable in the Middle East and yet here in the gospel, their testimony was valued.
The disciples were in a locked room, afraid and in grief, so were puzzled when they heard the testimonies of Mary, Peter and John. Suddenly Jesus was there with them, so it all made sense for them. Jesus wished them peace and breathed the Holy Spirit over them. It was an amazing experience for the disciples present but Thomas was not there. Thomas was sceptical and angry and needed concrete proof before he would believe it. Thomas was given a second chance when Jesus came and asked him to touch him and believe. Then Thomas recognised Jesus and said, ‘My Lord and My God!’ His deep grief was replaced by Joy, faith and understanding.
If we continue to read we remember how Jesus appeared to different disciples and later ascended to heaven. That was not the end of the story as they were empowered at Pentecost to witness no longer afraid so that 3000 people joined the church.
Even today it is important to be there at the right time. Where are we? How are we to be in the right place at the right time to hear Christ speaking? Jesus shared the last supper, took, broke bread and instructed them the disciples to do that in remembrance of him. He washed his disciples’ feet. Do we understand what we have to do? Jesus set the example and we are to do the same. We are in worship to pray and be in fellowship and communion with people, as Christianity is not a solitary religion. The disciples spoke to crowds at the synagogue. Paul described believers with different Spiritual gifts as forming the Body of Christ.
Ordering worship where they meet in fellowship is where they feel God is alive. If we are absent from worship we find other things to take its place. Do we come in expectation to receive from worship? We meet in fellowship as we serve one another. Schools and hospitals have a Christian foundation. Christians founded prison visiting, the MHA; Methodist Homes for the Aged and many churches support food banks and the homeless. Where we serve others we find accidentally we meet with Jesus. Where should we go? Mary had come to grieve her loss of her Lord and Jesus appeared to her when he was not expected. Jesus gave Thomas a second chance and gives us second chances. Jesus gave the promise; ‘Seek and ye shall find.’ Jesus comes to us to give us fullness of life. The locked doors behind which the disciples felt bereft are not enough to stop Jesus coming to them.
We sang, ‘Where can we find you, Jesus our master’ before Christine led the prayers of intercession. Worship concluded when we sang, ‘Christ is alive let Christians sing.’