Holy Communion for 11th April - second Sunday of Easter
This is a spoken, self-standing service. You can read it alone, aloud or silently, as you wish. If there is someone with you where you are, you might like for one of you to be the leader, with others reading the responses in bold type. It is a good idea to sit quietly for few moments to settle your mind before you start, and you might like to light a candle to help you focus.
Prayer of preparation. Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hidden: cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Penitence. Christ our Passover lamb has been sacrificed for us. Let us therefore rejoice by putting away all malice and evil and confessing our sins with a sincere and true heart. Pause for reflection Lord our God, in our sin we have avoided your call. Our love for you is like a morning cloud, like the dew that goes away early. Have mercy on us, deliver us from judgment, bind up our wounds and revive us, in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
May the almighty and merciful Lord grant us pardon and forgiveness of all our sins, tine for amendment of life and the grace and strength of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The Collect:T Risen Christ, for whom no door is locked, no entrance barred, open the doors of our hearts that we make seek the good of others and walk in the joyful road of sacrifice and peace, to the praise of God the Father. Amen.
New Testament reading: 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.
Gospel reading: John 20.19-end. 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. Reflection. I have a soft spot for Thomas. He is no one’s fool. Told by the other disciples that Jesus was risen, he was not prepared to take their word for it but wanted to see evidence for himself. Sometimes people read this passage as suggesting that Thomas was alone in his scepticism but, if we look carefully, we see the other disciples also needed physical evidence before they believed.
Earlier in chapter 20 of his Gospel John says Peter and the beloved disciple, following up on Mary Magdalene’s report, found the tomb was empty. But they did not twig that Jesus was risen: they just went home. After that, Mary Magdalene met the risen Jesus at the tomb and, as Jesus instructed her, told the disciples she had seen the Lord. It seems they did not believe her either, because it was only after Jesus showed them the wounds of his crucifixion that they believed. John tells us: “he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.” The Greek word “ouv” which is translated as “then” means “therefore”, or “accordingly”, or “as a result”. Clearly, the disciples, like Thomas, believed only after seeing the physical evidence. Which is why what Jesus says about those who believe without seeing the physical evidence is so significant. An overwhelming sense of new and enhanced life runs through these readings. The risen Jesus was the first person whose death did not end his life. The disciples encountered him as a physical body, but one with a wholly new nature. Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit into the disciples. Remember that, in Genesis chapter 2, God breathed life into the man he had made from dust. And the disciples’ lives were utterly transformed. They were effectively in hiding in a locked room, perhaps fearful of being rounded up by the Romans as accessories of the man who had just been crucified for sedition. But soon after, as we learn in the reading from Acts, they became leaders of a large and thriving community. (I am sorry to keep moaning about the English translation, but the Greek word “plethos”, which is here translated as “whole group,” implies a large number of people. Our English word “plethora” comes from the same root.) They did not have an easy run: Acts tells us they met with continuous resistance from the religious establishment. But, with the help of God, they kept going and built a thriving movement of believers, all the while continuing to take a full part in their religious community and attending worship in the Temple. (It is worth noting that, for the disciples and the early church in Jerusalem, following the way of Christ did not require them to abandon their Jewish faith. The separation between Judaism and Christianity came much later.) That new, invigorated life is there for us too. Jesus blesses us for choosing to follow his way. That way is no cushy number: it may involve difficult choices. Like all disciples, we may sometimes need to argue against the prevailing “wisdom” of our times. Our circumstances, our habits, or our emotions may sometimes lock us into a mental “room”, where we shelter fearfully from what threatens us. But no locked door can keep out the risen Christ, who is always ready to breathe new life into us.
The Creed. Let us declare our faith in God. We believe in God the Father, from whom every family in earth and heaven is named. We believe in God the Son, who lives in our hearts through faith, and fills us with his love. We believe in God the Holy Spirit, who strengthens us with power from on high. We believe in one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Intercessions Say your own prayers for people who need God’s comfort, for all who suffer in any way, and for yourself. You can use these prayers if you like. God of love, whose compassion never fails; we bring before you the griefs and perils of peoples and nations; the necessities of the homeless; the helplessness of the aged and weak; the sighings of prisoners; the pains of the sick and injured; the sorrow of the bereaved. Comfort and relieve them, O merciful Father, according to their needs, for the sake of your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
Almighty God, by your mercy do not let our minds be cast down by any troubles of this life, let no hurtful temptation have dominion over them, let no darkness of unbelief hold them captive. But, illuminated by the light of your face shining on us, may we always walk securely on the sure ground of the true faith. Amen.
The Lord’s Prayer. Our Father, which art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, in earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation; But deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, The power, and the glory, For ever and ever. Amen.
Act of Contrition. I love you, Jesus, my love above all things, and I repent with my whole heart of having offended you. Never permit me to separate myself from you again, grant that I may love you always, and then do with me what you will. Act of Spiritual Reception. O loving God, in union with Christian people throughout the world and across the centuries gathered to make Eucharist, hearing your holy Word and receiving the Precious Body and Blood of your dear Son, I offer you praise and thanksgiving. Even though I am exiled from tasting the Bread of Heaven and drinking the Cup of Life I pray that you will unite me with all the baptised and with your Son who gave his life for us. Come Lord Jesus, dwell in me and send your Holy Spirit that I may be filled with your presence. Jesus, as the hem of your garment, touched in faith, healed the woman who could not touch your body, so may the soul of your servant be healed, for though I cannot receive you in the sacrament I can, through this offering of my prayer, receive you in my heart; grant this for Christ’s sake. Amen.
O Lord and heavenly Father, we your humble servants entirely desire your fatherly goodness mercifully to accept this our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving; most humbly beseeching you to grant, that by the merits and death of your Son Jesus Christ, and through faith in his blood, we and all your whole Church may obtain remission of our sins, and all other benefits of his passion. Amen.
Conclusion May Christ, who out of defeat brings new hope and a new future, fill us with his new life. And may the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit be among us and remain with us, now and forever. Amen.