Sunday Worship 16 April 2023

Order of Service

Below you will find the Order of Service, prayers, hymns and sermon for today’s service.   You can either simply read this or you can
 

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Sunday Worship from the United Reformed Church
for Sunday 16 April

 
Today’s service is led by the Revd Jayne Taylor
 

Call To Worship
 
Alleluia! Christ is Risen!     He is Risen indeed! Alleluia!
 
One:         Rejoice, heavenly powers!   Sing, choirs of angels! 
Exult, all creation around God’s throne! Jesus, our King, is risen! 
Sound the trumpet of salvation!
 
Many:      Rejoice, heavenly powers! Sing, choirs of angels!
 
One:         Rejoice, O Earth, in shining splendour, radiant in the   brightness 
of our King! Jesus has conquered! Glory fills you! Darkness vanishes for ever!
 
Many:      Rejoice, heavenly powers!  Sing, choirs of angels!
 
One:         Rejoice, O holy Church! Exult in glory! The risen Saviour shines 
upon you! Let this place resound with joy,  as we sing, echoing the mighty song  of all God’s people!
 
Hymn    The Day of Resurrection
St. John of Damascus (675-754)  Translator: J. M. Neale sung by the OCP Session Choir
 
The day of resurrection!
Earth, spread the news abroad;
the Paschal feast of gladness,
the Paschal feast of God.
From death to life eternal,
from earth to Heaven’s height,
our Saviour Christ has brought us,
the glorious Lord of Light.
 
Our hearts be free from evil,
that we may see aright
the Saviour resurrected
in His eternal light;
and hear His message plainly,
delivered calm and clear;
“Rejoice with me in triumph,
be glad and do not fear.”

 

Now let the heavens be joyful!
and let earth the song begin!
Let the whole world keep high triumph,
and all that is therein!
Let all things in creation
their notes in gladness blend,
for Christ the Lord is risen,
our joy that hath no end.
 
Introduction
 
Hello. My name is Jayne Taylor and I am the minister serving the Exeter group of United Reformed Churches.

Prayers of Adoration and Confession
 
Risen Lord,  the glory of your resurrection reaches out to the world and to every human being. In your life you shared with us all that it means to be human. You died our death, but you rose from death and changed the world, enabling us to see that your love encompasses the whole of humanity.
 
Risen Lord, we come to worship you and stand in awe of the power that made this happen. You have conquered sin and death for us and now we are released to achieve our full potential, to be children of our Heavenly God. Now we know that nothing can ever daunt us because you are with us forever.
 
Forgiving Lord, despite everything that Easter means to us we still sometimes doubt You. We are frail creatures, easily distracted. You know our shortcomings and our failures, our doubts and our fears. Forgive us the many ways we have taken you for granted, or failed to follow in your footsteps. Forgive us and enable us, like Thomas, to say ‘My Lord and my God’. Amen.
 
St 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.
  
1 Peter 1:3-9
 
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.  In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.  Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
 
Hymn    Christ Has Risen While Earth Slumbers
John L. Bell (b.1949) and Graham Maule (b.1958) Words © WGRG, Iona Community, Glasgow www.wgrg.co.uk Sung by the Grosse Pointe Memorial Church (Michigan) Memorial Choir
 

Christ has risen while earth slumbers, Christ has risen where hope died,
as he said and as he promised, as we doubted and denied.
Let the moon embrace the blessing; let the sun sustain the cheer;
let the world confirm the rumour. Christ is risen, God is here!
 
Christ has risen for the people whom he loved and died to save;
Christ has risen for the women bringing flowers to grace his grave.
Christ has risen for disciples huddled in an upstairs room.
He whose word inspired creation is not silenced by the tomb.

 

Christ has risen, and for ever lives to challenge, and to change
all whose lives are messed or mangled, all who find religion strange.
Christ is risen.  Christ is present, making us what he has been –
evidence of transformation in which God is known and seen.
 
Address
 
I travelled to India a few years ago, courtesy of the Council for World Mission, and when there I discovered that the number of people identifying themselves as Christian in the country amounted to almost 2.5% of the population. That doesn’t sound very many but in a country of around 1.4 billion people that means that there are more Christians in India than there are in the UK. During my stay I travelled to Kerala, on the southwest side of the country, and in that region almost a quarter of the population profess to be Christian,  That’s because the church there is old, one of the oldest Christian churches in the world, and there is a tradition among the Christian people of Kerala that Thomas the Apostle landed on the Kerala coast in 52 A.D. and preached the Gospel there. He organized Christian communities in several places and established seven churches in Kerala.  It is said that he was later martyred in Mylapore, Chennai, in 72 A.D.

Today the so-called ‘Mar Thoma’ Church, Mar Thoma is Aramaic for Saint Thomas, has sister churches around the world. There is a Mar Thoma Church in Bristol, for example. Whether or not the founder of this church was the Thomas the Apostle is not clear. Certainly, the church can trace its history back to the first century, so it is possible.
 
But whether or not Thomas did travel to India, I believe that it’s entirely in character with the man that we see presented to us in the Gospels. Poor Thomas has had a bad press through the ages being given the nickname of ‘doubting Thomas.’ But I believe that’s unfair. Consider this. We’re told that the disciples have locked themselves away in a house on the first Easter Day in fear of the authorities. They thought they had backed the wrong guy. They’ve seen Jesus strung up among criminals, publically shamed and killed, and now everything is going belly-up.  Their so-called Messiah is dead and it’s usual in these situations for the people to be out to get his supporters.
 
But Thomas is not there. Thomas is the one not hiding inside the locked room. Thomas is the only disciple willing to stand up for himself in the outside world. Thomas is the kind of person, I would argue, who would not fear travelling as far as India to spread the Gospel.  So, Jesus appears to the rest of them and when Thomas eventually stops by a week later they tell him that they’ve seen their dead friend brought back to life.
 
I ask you, what would you do in Thomas’ situation? Would you take what they say at face value, or would you ask for some proof that they haven’t just got cabin fever? What you need to remember is that they had they had seen this all before. Jesus was not the first person to claim to be the promised Messiah.
 
In Acts chapter 5 we read about two others; someone called Theudas, who had over 400 followers, we’re told, and another called Judas the Galilean. Both had met with untimely deaths and afterwards their followers had been persecuted and had scattered, not to be heard of again. Messiahs, real Messiahs, do not die, not according to the scriptures that they had read anyway. The Messiah will come and free his people, they thought; a new king David to defeat the Romans.
 
We don’t know much about Thomas, but what we do know comes from the story of the raising of Lazarus in John chapter 11.  When Jesus decides to visit his dead friend two days after being called by his sisters, the disciples are opposed to him going. They remind Jesus that during his last trip to Judea people had tried to stone him. They wanted to keep Jesus safe…and alive.  Yet Thomas is the one that supports Jesus. He even encourages the others to join him at the risk of their own lives:“Let us also go, that we may die with Him” he says. Thomas, apparently, was not afraid of the authorities, or of dying with Jesus.
 
Ok back to Easter day and Thomas is not convinced by the disciples’ story. Why doesn’t he just take their word for it? Could it be that he doesn’t believe them because they’re still locked up in a room out of fear? Jesus then appears again and gives Thomas the proof that he’s asked for, at which point Thomas declares; “My Lord and my God!”Thomas is the first disciple to declare that the Risen Jesus is God!  Our reading ends with Jesus saying: ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’
 
This is not a rebuke to Thomas; after all the rest of them didn’t believe without first seeing Jesus either.  In fact, in all of the Easter Gospel, accounts no one believes without seeing. Three times Jesus is recorded to have appeared to various people on Easter day, and none of these recognized him or believed it was him until he revealed himself to them. Thomas was not the exception. He was the rule. He reacted the same way everyone else did when human eyewitnesses shared the news of Jesus’ resurrection.  With this understanding, the blessing of Jesus takes on new meaning and becomes powerfully relevant to us today. When it comes to belief in an invisible God, scepticism is a natural response. Yet we have the evidence of witnesses to the event. These are people who were absolutely bereft on Easter Day; dejected, fearful, yet now convinced that Jesus was the Messiah they had thought he was.
 
Hymn    When Easter To the Dark World Came
W H Hamilton (1886 – 1958)  Sung by Gareth Moore of the Isle of Man Methodist Church and used with his kind permission.
 

When Easter to the dark world came,
fair flowers glowed like scarlet flame:
 
at Eastertide, at Eastertide,
O glad was the world at Eastertide.
 
When Mary in the garden walked,
and with her risen Master talked:
 
When John and Peter in their gloom
met angels at the empty tomb:
 
When ten disciples met in fear,
then ‘Peace’ said Jesus, ‘I am here.’
 
When Thomas’ heart was hurt and grieved,
then Jesus’ wounds his doubts relived:
 
And friend to friend in wonder said:
‘The Lord is risen from the dead!’
 
This Eastertide with joyful voice
We’ll sing: ‘The Lord is King! Rejoice!’


Affirmation of Faith
 
As followers of Jesus Christ, living in this world—which some seek to control, but which others view with despair—we declare with joy and trust: 
our world belongs to God!
 
From the beginning, through all the crises of our times, until His Kingdom fully comes, God keeps covenant forever. 
Our world belongs to God!
 
We rejoice in the goodness of God, renounce the works of darkness, and dedicate ourselves to holy living, for 
our world belongs to God!
 
As committed disciples, called to faithful obedience, and set free for joyful praise, we offer our hearts and lives to do God’s work in his world, for 
our world belongs to God!
 
With tempered impatience,  eager to see injustice ended, we expect the Day of the Lord. And we are confident that the light which shines in the present darkness will fill the earth when Christ appears for 
our world belongs to God!
 
Intercessory Prayers
 
Loving God, for the precious gift of life that you have given to us, we give you thanks.
 
For the enduring presence of your love in this world, we give you thanks.
 
For the knowledge that you are with us, and the realisation that the Church is yours, not ours, we give you thanks.
 
On this day, we hear the message that we must strive to be the people that you intended us to be.
On this day, we journey in hope as we trust in your promise.
 
We are conscious that we share in the life of the world.
 
We are conscious of the presence of those who are near to us, and of those from whom we are apart.
 
Whether near, or far, embrace us all in your love.
Lord, we are conscious of others, whose life and work is woven into the fabric of our society, and upon whom we depend. Those who serve us, especially at this time. And we pray for them:
For delivery drivers and postal workers, 
For refuse collectors and cleaners, 
For shop workers and care workers,
 
Protect them and keep them safe.
For nurses and doctors, 
For scientists and surgeons, 
For midwives and ambulance drivers,
 
Protect them and watch over them.
For those who govern on our behalf. 
For those who make decisions that impact upon us all. 
For all who shape our common life,
 
Protect them and increase their wisdom and understanding.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
 
And grant us faith to journey into the days and indeed weeks to come, through the wilderness of despair and anguish and hurt into the dawning realisation of new life, new hope and a new dawn.
 
As we are assured of the presence of the crucified and risen Christ. May we be more like him in all we are and all we do. Amen.
 
Hymn    You Shall Go Out With Joy
Steffi Geiser Rubin © 1975 Lillenas Publishing Co sung by the Rev’d Graham Kirk-Sprigs and used with his kind permission.
 
You shall go out with joy
and be let forth with peace;
the mountains and the hills
will break forth before you;
there’ll be shouts of joy;
and all the trees of the fields
will clap, will clap their hands.
 
Blessing
 
May God, the creator of all life, 
Jesus Christ, the giver of eternal life, 
and the Holy Spirit, the power in each and every life, 
bless each one of us, this day and every day. Amen.

 
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