Second Sunday of Easter 2020

Alleluia! Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

And a Happy Easter to our Orthodox friends who celebrate Easter this Sunday!

Image by Thomas B. from Pixabay

Opening Hymn

Readings

Acts 2:14,22-32 (NLT)

14 Then Peter stepped forward with the eleven other apostles and shouted to the crowd, “Listen carefully, all of you, fellow Jews and residents of Jerusalem! Make no mistake about this…

22 “People of Israel, listen! God publicly endorsed Jesus the Nazarene by doing powerful miracles, wonders, and signs through him, as you well know. 23 But God knew what would happen, and his prearranged plan was carried out when Jesus was betrayed. With the help of lawless Gentiles, you nailed him to a cross and killed him. 24 But God released him from the horrors of death and raised him back to life, for death could not keep him in its grip. 25 King David said this about him:

‘I see that the Lord is always with me.
    I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.
26 No wonder my heart is glad,
    and my tongue shouts his praises!
    My body rests in hope.
27 For you will not leave my soul among the dead
    or allow your Holy One to rot in the grave.
28 You have shown me the way of life,
    and you will fill me with the joy of your presence.’

29 “Dear brothers, think about this! You can be sure that the patriarch David wasn’t referring to himself, for he died and was buried, and his tomb is still here among us. 30 But he was a prophet, and he knew God had promised with an oath that one of David’s own descendants would sit on his throne. 31 David was looking into the future and speaking of the Messiah’s resurrection. He was saying that God would not leave him among the dead or allow his body to rot in the grave.

32 “God raised Jesus from the dead, and we are all witnesses of this.

John 20:19-end (NLT)

19 That Sunday evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! “Peace be with you,” he said. 20 As he spoke, he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side. They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord! 21 Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” 22 Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

24 One of the twelve disciples, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin), was not with the others when Jesus came. 25 They told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he replied, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.”

26 Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked; but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!” 28 “My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed. 29 Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.”

30 The disciples saw Jesus do many other miraculous signs in addition to the ones recorded in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name.

Sermon

Having been the priest at St Paul’s for over 5 years, it will not be fresh information to many that Thomas is one of my favourite disciples. It gave me great joy to be ordained deacon on his feast day – 3rd July – as he has always been one of my spiritual role models.

I simply love Thomas’ honesty. He doesn’t believe what the others have told him and he can’t pretend otherwise. It must have been a very uncomfortable time for him during those eight days, while his friends were full of hope and rejoicing and new possibilities, and he was unable to join them. How easy would it have been to rustle up a bit of socially convenient enthusiasm and attempt to fit in? But Thomas was a person of integrity and needed his questions answered. And he didn’t leave – he stayed and waited and…perhaps…maybe…he hoped.

I rather like the fact that Jesus made a special trip back just for him. If seeing wounds was what it was going to take for his friend to believe, that was what he would get! And the moment Thomas’ doubts were removed, the moment all his questions were answered, there is no reticence or pride to get in the way. Thomas is as single-minded in his faith as he was in his doubt. He utters the punchline of John’s gospel, the conclusion to which the previous 20 chapters have been building: My Lord and my God!

Over my thirty-plus years of following Jesus, I have known my share of questions and doubts. Now, I think that there are two types of these. The first are the doubts, questions and arguments we come up with either to be clever or to avoid facing up to something we know to be true. They are best recognized for what they truly are before they waste too much of your, God’s or anyone else’s time! But the other type are the genuine questions and worries that we simply cannot suppress and which, despite our best efforts to fit in, make our journey of faith a bit bumpy. If you do encounter these sorts of questions or doubts, don’t panic. Be honest like Thomas, stay connected with your friends of faith and wait through the discomfort. God never objects to honest searching and, in time, you will either find the answers you need or realize that the questions don’t trouble you anymore.

One of my favourite quotes comes from Maria Ranier Rilke’s book “Letters to a Young Poet”. He says:

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

Thomas’ story of honest doubt and even more honest faith has encouraged so many people and helped them follow Jesus. Thomas himself is credited with taking the good news of Jesus to India! Sometimes our questions and doubts, honestly offered to God, can be used by God not only to help us grow deeper in faith but to help others who have questions too. But, by the grace of God, may we all be like Thomas in the end, see Jesus and exclaim “My Lord and my God!”

Reflection Hymn

Intercessions

Heavenly Father, we pray for all the places in the world that need your peace:
places where wars continue to threaten the stability of the nations;
and the lack of peace has caused so much destruction;
places where people have to flee their homes, their families destroyed, lives lost.
Lord, bring your peace which passes all understanding.

Give wisdom to world leaders:
to presidents, prime ministers, politicians of all governments,
that they may strive for lasting peace and true justice,
not putting personal ambitions before the needs of their people.
Lord, bring your peace which passes all understanding.

We pray for those who need peace of mind:
those weighed down by the stresses and strains of everyday life,
or who suffer with anxiety, or are oppressed by worry and fear;
for those who find it hard to let go of things and simply trust.
Lord, bring your peace which passes all understanding.

Let me feel the touch of peace,
the touch of life,
the touch of the risen Lord,
beside me, behind me, and before me
all the days of my life.
Amen.

(Prayers thanks to the Roots website https://www.rootsontheweb.com/)

Closing Hymn

Easter Eucharist 2020

Image by Annalise Batista from Pixabay

You may wish to have bells, hooters, party poppers or a saucepan-and-wooden-spoon-drum ready to make a joyful noise when we say the Easter acclamation!

Alleluia! Christ is risen.
He is risen indeed.  Alleluia!

Joining with the Churches Together in Britain and Ireland Sing Resurrection, we will begin our worship with two great Easter hymns…

1 Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia,
our triumphant holy day; alleluia,
who did once upon the cross; alleluia,
suffer to redeem our loss; alleluia!

2 Hymns of praise then let us sing; Alleluia,
unto Christ our heavenly king; alleluia,
who endured the cross and grave; alleluia,
sinners to redeem and save: alleluia!

3 But the pains which he endured; Alleluia,
our salvation have procured; alleluia,
now above the sky he’s King; alleluia,
where the angels ever sing: alleluia!

4 Sing we to our God above, Alleluia!
Praise eternal as his love; Alleluia!
Praise him, all you heavenly host, Alleluia!
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Alleluia!

1 Thine be the glory, risen, conqu’ring Son;
endless is the vict’ry Thou o’er death hast won.
Angels in bright raiment rolled the stone away,
kept the folded grave-clothes where Thy body lay.
Thine be the glory, risen, conqu’ring Son;
endless is the vict’ry Thou o’er death hast won.

2 Lo, Jesus meets us, risen from the tomb.
Lovingly He greets us, scatters fear and gloom;
let His church with gladness hymns of triumph sing,
for the Lord now liveth; death hath lost its sting.

3 No more we doubt Thee, glorious Prince of life!!
Life is nought without Thee; aid us in our strife;
make us more than conqu’rors, through Thy deathless love;
bring us safe through Jordan to Thy home above.

Prayers of Penitence

Our response is:
In your mercy, forgive us.
Lord, hear us and help us.

The priest pronounces God’s forgiveness

The Gloria

Glory to God in the highest,
and peace to his people on earth.
Lord God, heavenly King,
almighty God and Father,
we worship you, we give you thanks,
we praise you for your glory.

Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father,
Lord God, Lamb of God,
you take away the sin of the world:
have mercy on us;
you are seated at the right hand of the Father:
receive our prayer.
For you alone are the Holy One,
you alone are the Lord,
you alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ,
with the Holy Spirit,
in the glory of God the Father.
Amen.

The Collect

Readings

Sermon

The Creed

We stand to proclaim our faith

Let us declare our faith
in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Christ died for our sins
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he was buried;
he was raised to life on the third day
in accordance with the Scriptures;
afterwards he appeared to his followers,
and to all the apostles:
this we have received,
and this we believe.
Amen.

Prayers of Intercession

Our response is:
We pray to the Father.
Hear our prayer.

The Peace

The peace of the Lord be always with you
and also with you.

Eucharistic Prayer

The Lord is here.
God’s Spirit is with us.

Lift up your hearts.
We lift them to the Lord.

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give thanks and praise.

The priest continues praising God and we all respond singing:

Holy, holy, holy Lord,
God of power and might,
heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.

The priest recalls the Last Supper

Jesus Christ is Lord:
Lord, by your cross and resurrection
you have set us free.
You are the Saviour of the world.

The priest continues in prayer

Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer

Breaking of the Bread

We break this bread
to share in the body of Christ.
Though we are many, we are one body,
because we all share in one bread.

Giving of Communion

Alleluia. Christ our passover is sacrificed for us.
Therefore let us keep the feast. Alleluia.

Prayer after Communion

Father of all,
we give you thanks and praise,
that when we were still far off
you met us in your Son and brought us home.
Dying and living, he declared your love,
gave us grace, and opened the gate of glory.
May we who share Christ’s body live his risen life;
we who drink his cup bring life to others;
we whom the Spirit lights give light to the world.
Keep us firm in the hope you have set before us,
so we and all your children shall be free,
and the whole earth live to praise your name;
through Christ our Lord.
Amen.

The Blessing

The Dismissal

Alleluia. Christ is risen.
He is risen indeed. Alleluia.

Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
He has given us new life and hope.
He has raised Jesus from the dead.

God has claimed us as his own.
He has brought us out of darkness.
He has made us light to the world.

Alleluia. Christ is risen.
He is risen indeed. Alleluia.

Early Morning Easter Service 2020

Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

You might want to have a candle, torch or other light ready to illuminate at the right moment in this service.

The Vigil

The Easter fire is lit. There is a prayer and a reading recalling God’s deliverance of God’s people from Egypt. We pause to remember our own journeys with God.

The Service of Light

Christ yesterday and today,
the beginning and the end,
Alpha and Omega,
all time belongs to him,
and all ages;
to him be glory and power,
through every age and for ever.
Amen.

By his holy and glorious wounds
may Christ our Lord guard and keep us.
Amen.

The president lights a candle, you might choose to light a candle or torch at home

May the light of Christ, rising in glory,
banish all darkness from our hearts and minds.

The light of Christ
Thanks be to God.

Alleluia!  Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed. Alleluia!

We sing the Exsultet to the tune of Tell Out My Soul

Sing, choirs of heaven! Let saints and angels sing!
Around God’s throne exult in harmony!
Now Jesus Christ is risen from the grave!
Salute your King in glorious symphony!

Sing, choirs of earth! Behold, your light has come!
The glory of the Lord shines radiantly!
Lift up your hearts, for Christ has conquered death!
The night is past; the day of life is here!

Sing, Church of God! Exult with joy outpoured!
The gospel trumpets tell of victory won!
Your Saviour lives: he’s with you ever more!
Let all God’s people shout the long Amen!

The Lord be with you
and also with you.

Lift up your hearts.
We lift them to the Lord.

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give thanks and praise.

The minister continues praising God and recalling God’s goodness.  At the end we all say
Amen.

Hear the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Matthew.
Glory to you, O Lord.

Matthew 28:1-10 is read

This is the Gospel of the Lord.
Praise to you O, Christ.

God of glory,
by the raising of your Son
you have broken the chains of death and hell:
fill your Church with faith and hope;
for a new day has dawned
and the way to life stands open
in our Saviour Jesus Christ.
Amen.

Renewal of Baptismal Vows

As we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead, we remember that we have died and been buried with him in baptism, so that we may rise with him to a new life within the family of his Church. Now that we have completed our observance of Lent, we renew the promises made at our baptism, affirming our allegiance to Christ, and our rejection of all that is evil.

Therefore I ask these questions:

Do you reject the devil and all rebellion against God?
I reject them.

Do you renounce the deceit and corruption of evil?
I renounce them.

Do you repent of the sins that separate us from God and neighbour?
I repent of them.

Do you turn to Christ as Saviour?
I turn to Christ.

Do you submit to Christ as Lord?
I submit to Christ.

Do you come to Christ
the way, the truth and the life?
I come to Christ.

Sisters and brothers, I ask you to profess the faith of the Church.

Do you believe and trust in God the Father?
I believe in God, the Father almighty
Creator of heaven and earth.

Do you believe and trust in his Son, Jesus Christ?
I believe in Jesus Christ
his only Son, Our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and dead.

Do you believe and trust in the Holy Spirit?
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.  Amen

You are invited to sign yourself with water.

Almighty God, we thank you for our fellowship in the household of faith with all those who have been baptized in your name.  Keep us faithful to our baptism, and so make us ready for that day when the whole creation shall be made perfect in your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ.  Amen.

We continue in prayer

Dismissal

The minister introduces the dismissal

Alleluia. Christ is risen.
He is risen indeed. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
He has given us new life and hope
by raising Jesus from the dead.

God has claimed us as his own.
He has brought us out of darkness.
He has made us light to the world.

Alleluia. Christ is risen.
He is risen indeed. Alleluia.

Go in the peace of Christ. Alleluia, alleluia.
Thanks be to God. Alleluia, alleluia.

Do join us for our Easter Day Eucharist at 10am.

Easter Sunday 2020

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

If you cannot join us on our Facebook live stream of Sunday worship, you can join us in spirit! Why not find hooters or bells or a saucepan-and-spoon drum and join us outside at 10am on Easter Sunday to proclaim “Alleluia, Christ is risen! He is risen indeed, ALLELUIA!”

You might then want to sing two wonderful Easter hymns with Christians across the UK as part of Churches Together “Sing Resurrection”! https://ctbi.org.uk/sing-resurrection/

Alleluia! Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

First Reading: Acts 10:34-43 (NLT)

34 Then Peter replied, “I see very clearly that God shows no favoritism. 35 In every nation he accepts those who fear him and do what is right. 36 This is the message of Good News for the people of Israel—that there is peace with God through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. 37 You know what happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee, after John began preaching his message of baptism. 38 And you know that God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. Then Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.

39 “And we apostles are witnesses of all he did throughout Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a cross, 40 but God raised him to life on the third day. Then God allowed him to appear, 41 not to the general public, but to us whom God had chosen in advance to be his witnesses. We were those who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 And he ordered us to preach everywhere and to testify that Jesus is the one appointed by God to be the judge of all—the living and the dead. 43 He is the one all the prophets testified about, saying that everyone who believes in him will have their sins forgiven through his name.”

Gospel Reading John 20:1-18 (NLT)

Early on Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. She ran and found Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved. She said, “They have taken the Lord’s body out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

Peter and the other disciple started out for the tomb. They were both running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He stooped and looked in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he didn’t go in. Then Simon Peter arrived and went inside. He also noticed the linen wrappings lying there, while the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head was folded up and lying apart from the other wrappings. Then the disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in, and he saw and believed— for until then they still hadn’t understood the Scriptures that said Jesus must rise from the dead. 10 Then they went home.

11 Mary was standing outside the tomb crying, and as she wept, she stooped and looked in. 12 She saw two white-robed angels, one sitting at the head and the other at the foot of the place where the body of Jesus had been lying. 13 “Dear woman, why are you crying?” the angels asked her.

“Because they have taken away my Lord,” she replied, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”

14 She turned to leave and saw someone standing there. It was Jesus, but she didn’t recognize him. 15 “Dear woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who are you looking for?”

She thought he was the gardener. “Sir,” she said, “if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.”

16 “Mary!” Jesus said.

She turned to him and cried out, “Rabboni!” (which is Hebrew for “Teacher”).

17 “Don’t cling to me,” Jesus said, “for I haven’t yet ascended to the Father. But go find my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

18 Mary Magdalene found the disciples and told them, “I have seen the Lord!” Then she gave them his message.

This is the Gospel of the Lord! Praise to you, O Christ!

Noli me Tangere by Titian approx 1541 – now held in the National Gallery

Homily

The image above is of Jesus and Mary Magdalene in the garden, when a distraught Mary realises that the one who addresses her is not the gardener but her risen Lord. Its title means “do not hold on to me” – the words Jesus says to her, as her first impulse is to cling to her friend. It is an image of aching loss, desperate longing, glimmering hope and the joyous love which overcomes death.

During WW2 when bombs rained down on London, the collection of art from the National Gallery was removed from the capital to be keep safe in a Welsh slate mine. But in 1942, the Gallery reopened with just a single “Picture of the Month” on display as a letter to The Times explained: “Because London’s face is scarred and bruised these days, we need more than ever to see beautiful things.” The first picture they chose to display was this one.

Almost 80 years later, in the midst of another national crisis, we too live in a world filled with loss and longing, hope and love. It is not easy to shout our Alleluias when we are scared and confused. Don’t feel guilty if today isn’t a straightforwardly celebratory as it has been in the past – it may be a sign that you are closer to Easter than you think. Those first disciples felt fear and confusion alongside their hope and joy too.

Easter erupted into broken lives, among broken people in a broken country. It did not solve every problem, restore every loss, heal every hurt and right every wrong. But it is a sign and a promise that all these things are held by the God who will, one day, restore all that is lost, heal all that has been hurt and right all that is wrong. This is true. This we can cling to.

The writer of Hebrews says “faith is being sure of what we hope for. It is being sure of what we do not see.” It is in faith we shout our Alleluias. Not in denial of the pain and grief that surrounds us, but because we know that pain and grief are not the end of the story. In Easter, we see the desolation and despair of Good Friday overcome by the life and love of God, and know that all we ever experience is held within that story of hope.

A couple of weeks ago, there was phone video of footage of Brazil in lockdown and an entire city block singing from their balconies. The song they sang was an old Gospel song I used to sing with my grandmother. It is a bit cheesy and oversimple, but its words seem more pertinent than ever to me this Easter and I share them with you now:

And so, because Jesus lives, let us in faith and hope proclaim this truth:

Alleluia! Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Intercessions

In joy and hope we pray.
We pray to the Father.
Hear our prayer.

That our risen Saviour may fill us with the joy of his
glorious and life-giving resurrection,
and in these days of uncertainty and worry
help us to be people of hope,
we pray to the Father.
Hear our prayer.

That isolated and persecuted churches
and those Christians who must isolate during this crisis
may find fresh strength in the good news of Easter
we pray to the Father.
Hear our prayer.

That God may provide for those who lack food,
work, or shelter
we pray to the Father.
Hear our prayer.

That by his power war and famine
may cease through all the world,
and that those fleeing conflict
will be protected and provided for
we pray to the Father.
Hear our prayer.

That he may reveal the light of his presence to the sick,
the weak and the dying,
to comfort and strengthen them,
sustain and protect all those who care for the ill,
and daw near to those who grieve
we pray to the Father.
Hear our prayer.

That he may send the fire of the Holy Spirit upon
his people,
so that we may bear faithful witness to his resurrection,
we pray to the Father.
Hear our prayer.

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