7th April 2024 10.30am – 2nd Sunday of Easter – Eucharist

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The Readings

Acts 4.32-35

Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.

John 20.19-31

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’

But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.’

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.


Scripture Quotations are from: New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

The Sermon
By Kath, Reader at St Mary's.

In terms of the church’s calendar I think it would be fair to describe Easter and the lead up to it as the most dramatic part of its year. In our journey through Lent, where we think about the culmination of Jesus’ ministry and in some of our services, where we re-enactment the final days of his earthly life and his death, we can feel deeply moved by what we hear and see. But I wonder, because we have become so familiar with these stories, whether we truly take in the absolute horror of Jesus’ death and the fear and desolation felt by his disciples and those who loved him, when he was gone. Unlike us, they didn’t know what was to happen next.

Our Gospel story today is about the man we’ve all come to know as “doubting Thomas”, a title that is still used to describe someone who doesn’t want to accept what they’ve been told. In some ways it’s a bit sad that that is all we remember him for because like the other disciples he went on to have his own courageous ministry in the world. Imagine how we would feel if we were referred to as something like, confused Kath or unsure Ursula or wavering Wilf, (apologies to any Ursulas, Wilfs or other Kaths out there), as though that summed up the entirety of who we are. I’m sure we all have ideas of how we’d like to be thought of; kind, compassionate, wise, knowledgeable and so on but I doubt whether “doubting” would be on the list.

Knowing what we do, it might be easy to think critically of Thomas and some people have done, but that would probably be unfair. Like the other disciples and close followers of Jesus, Thomas had been through a real rollercoaster of experiences and emotions in a relatively short space of time. Like them he had left his old life behind and put his faith and trust in this amazing, charismatic man and witnessed him preaching, teaching and performing miracles which touched the lives of thousands of people. Just imagine being part of all that. And then he sees everything dramatically fall apart as Jesus, in whom he has invested everything, is condemned and humiliated and cruelly put to death. Thomas himself would be known as one of his disciples and therefore a likely target of those who had persecuted Jesus. His situation would have been both devastating and terrifying.

In the days after Jesus’ death, the remaining disciples are having to meet in secret, not knowing what to do next. And then, Jesus appears among them and invites them to see and touch his wounds. Unfortunately Thomas was not with them on that occasion and when they tell him, he refuses to believe. Of course it’s impossible for us to know his reasons but maybe, having gone through all that he has, perhaps he didn’t dare to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead, however much he would have wanted to. Can we really blame him?

There are all sorts of reasons why people have doubts about their faith or even lose it altogether. My own dear dad had always been a believer but towards the end of his life I remember having a conversation with him about faith. When I said I believed he said “I’m not sure I do anymore”. He’d been going through the distressing symptoms and treatment of a terminal illness, but it wasn’t that which was destroying his faith. It was seeing the terrible things that were happening to others, especially to children and not understanding why God didn’t intervene. I know that is the case for many people who struggle to believe or who have given up on God. “Why didn’t he show up when I most needed him?” is the question. All I can say is, it’s a very hard one to know how to respond to.

I recently watched a documentary in which the filming was done entirely by frontline Ukrainian soldiers wearing bodycams. It showed how they lived in dugouts, how they fought, how some of them got injured and sadly how some died. The footage wasn’t as sanitised as our news programs routinely are. Towards the end of it, a soldier was walking through a war ravaged landscape. I can’t remember his exact words but they were something like “If God exists, he’s forgotten Ukraine “. Given what he and many like him have seen and suffered it would be hard to blame them for doubting. But in the same documentary there were other soldiers who were just as battle hardened who gathered to pray every time before they set out to fight. They knew as well as anyone else that they were likely to be injured or killed but their faith in God was undiminished.

I’m pretty sure that through our own experiences we understand that belief in God is not a guarantee that we won’t suffer. If that were so then "belief” would likely be more about self interest rather than trust in God; a sort of divine insurance policy that it would be “sensible” to have. But as people of faith we share the same ups and downs, trials and tragedies, joys, sorrows, losses and gains as everyone else and we will probably all have at least moments of doubt. In a way I felt relieved and encouraged when I read what Bert Ghezzi says in “The Times Book of Saints”. "We feel great kinship for the apostle Thomas because, like him, most of us curiously combine faith and doubt.”

I would say that there is nothing wrong with doubting. Indeed I would say it’s advisable or even essential in all areas of life if we are not to be taken advantage of. It’s part of discerning who and what we can trust and believe in. Going back to Thomas’s story, when he finally sees the risen Jesus for himself, it’s very telling how Jesus treats him. He doesn’t berate or shame or guilt trip him for having doubts. He simply and gently reassures him. “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side” and asks Thomas if he believes because of what he has seen.

Finally Jesus has a message for all of us too. “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe”. Just like Thomas, we are not cast aside for our moments of doubt.


The Prayers
Prepared by Veronica.

In the power of the Spirit and in union with Christ, let us pray to the Father.

Oh God, as we continue to celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord, your Son, we give you thanks that
you gave Him to live among us and to be sacrificed for us, then to rise again and be seen by his
disciples, so that they might tell the world of his wondrous works. Help us to live according to his life
and words.
Lord. In your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

We pray for the world, especially for all who are living with war. We pray especially for the people of
Ukraine and Gaza, and also for all people living with global warming and climate change. May the
wealthier parts of the world give generously to those in need, and welcome to cooler parts of the
world those fleeing hotter weather. May we also do whatever we can not to contribute to further
global warming, and help to conserve all the good things with which you have provided us.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

We pray that the coming elections will give us government and local government that will really
endeavour to produce a fairer and more just society, and work for peace and justice throughout the
world. Move the hearts of all who are called to high office that they may really work for the good of
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

We pray for our partnership of churches, St Mary’s, St Mark’s and St John’s, that we may grow ever
closer in our witness to our communities.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

We pray for all who are ill at this time, asking your blessing upon them and those who care for them.
Help those who are recovering to be restored to full health, and be with those who are reaching the
end of their lives, in the faith of Christ who died for us.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

We pray for all who have died recently or many years ago, whom we still remember fondly. We
entrust them all to your unfailing love.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Rejoicing in the fellowship of Mary, Mark, John and all your saints, we commend ourselves and all
your creation to your unfailing love.

Merciful Father,
Accept these prayers for the sake of your only Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ.


Common Worship: Times and Seasons, material from which is used here is copyright (c) 2010 The Archbishops' Council