SERVICE AT HOME FOR SUNDAY 24th April 2022. We thank the person who has prepared this service for us.

Psalm 150
1 Praise the Lord.
Praise God in his sanctuary;
    praise him in his mighty heavens.
2 Praise him for his acts of power;
    praise him for his surpassing greatness.
3 Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
    praise him with the harp and lyre,
4 praise him with timbrel and dancing,
    praise him with the strings and pipe,
5 praise him with the clash of cymbals,
    praise him with resounding cymbals.
6 Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord.

Hymn StF 148: Come, let us with our Lord arise

Prayer
Lord, You are the alpha and omega, the beginning and the end. We praise You that You were there before the beginning of creation and when this vast universe is no more You will be here. We praise You that You understand all things and You understand us better than we understand ourselves. You are sovereign and we worship You as You rule in righteousness with grace and love. We praise You for Your glory which radiates through all creation and for the glimpses of Your presence wherever we look. We bring praise that from the time of creation You included us in Your plan to be Your people, to care for all that You have made and to care for all that is the work of Your hand and to proclaim Your love to all Your people.
We do confess that we have not been as You would have us be. The disciples spoke out before those whom were hostile to them, we have been timid and silent. We have preferred to blend in with our friends and neighbours and not stand out as being different as we speak up for Jesus. Our values are hardly seen as being different from those who know not Christ Jesus. We cry, Lord, lord with our voices but our hearts remain but lukewarm. Our attitudes and lifestyles do not mark us out as being Christians. We have allowed our society to write our agenda and we find ourselves unable to truly be the Body of Christ in this world.
We do know that You are wonderful and full of grace and love. We do thank You that you accept us as we are regardless of our failings. You are always ready to forgive our sins, all those things that have to our shame.
We thank You, Loving Father, for all that You have given us for all that new have and all, that we are is a gift from you. Above all we thank You for the gift of Your Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ Who was obedient to You and died so that we may live.
Father, accept our work, our prayers, our worship. Accept us as we are and bring us safe at last to Your Heavenly Kingdom. We ask this in the an through the Name of Jesus. AMEN

Reading: Acts 5: 17 32
17 Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. 18 They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. 19 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. 20 “Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people all about this new life.”
21 At daybreak they entered the temple courts, as they had been told, and began to teach the people.
When the high priest and his associates arrived, they called together the Sanhedrin—the full assembly of the elders of Israel—and sent to the jail for the apostles. 22 But on arriving at the jail, the officers did not find them there. So they went back and reported, 23 “We found the jail securely locked, with the guards standing at the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside.” 24 On hearing this report, the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests were at a loss, wondering what this might lead to.
25 Then someone came and said, “Look! The men you put in jail are standing in the temple courts teaching the people.” 26 At that, the captain went with his officers and brought the apostles. They did not use force, because they feared that the people would stone them.
27 The apostles were brought in and made to appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. 28 “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.”
29 Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings! 30 The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead—whom you killed by hanging him on a cross.31 God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Saviour that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins. 32 We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”

Reading: John 20: 19 – 31
19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus[a]), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”
But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe[b] that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Hymn StF 321 How sweet the Name of Jesus sounds

Sermon
Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Luke 6: 43a

In the 1950’s a young American evangelist by the name of Revd Dr William Franklin Graham junior came to England planning a Crusade for Christ and holding meetings in huge arenas – mainly football stadiums.
Questions were asked in Parliament as some feared that allowing this man into the country and holding such meetings would cause civil unrest and may result in outbreaks of violence on the streets. Civil powers were put on the alert after it was decided to allow Billy Graham and his team to come to England.
On the day before the first Crusade Meeting in London there was a meeting in Billy Graham’s hotel room as, at that point, hardly any tickets for the event had been taken up. What did Billy Graham, his wife, Ruth, and the team do?
They prayed. They knew that they had been called by God. That God had cleared the way for the team to come to England and that the arenas for the meetings had been booked.
After they prayed they acted in faith. That first Crusade meeting in London found Billy Graham preaching the Gospel to over 27,000 men, women and children from all walks of life and all ages. As the weeks went on more and more people heard the Good News of Jesus in plain, simple language and responded by committing their lives to Christ at these meetings.
There were, of course, those who opposed such meetings. There were those of the Church who rejected Billy Graham’s calling and effort because, they said, ‘it was all hype’. In truth Billy Graham was achieving for Christ what these ‘Church people’ had failed to do and there was an amount of jealousy that such leaders were being bypassed.
There were also those who were in opposition because if the nation turned to Christ and followed Him their lucrative schemes would be wrecked. We know these as the ones who deprave humanity in so many ways and lead society into a spiral of sin and selfishness that will engulf those who follow that road.
It was the same for the early Church of Christ. There was a number of religious leaders who would lose prestige, power and position if the Gospel of Jesus was to be preached and to the people.
The solution they came up with was simple. Arrest the disciples and lock them away. Job done!
There was one flaw in their plan. They had not considered where God was in all this. They had thought only of themselves, at no time had they even dared to believe that all was part of God’s plan for the redemption of His people.
What a shock it must have been for the Sadducees to find the very ones they had had arrested to locked up the next morning were free, the cells were empty, and the disciples had not fled but were in the Temple courtyard preaching the Good News.
Much has not changed over the centuries. In 2020 Revd Franklin Graham, the son of Billy Graham, was asked to preach in several venues in this country. Again, there were moves to prevent him from entering the country. This failed.
Many of the venues that were booked were then targeted with suggestions that Franklin Graham was not preaching a message that would be conducive to the good of society. Many venues cancelled the bookings.
In fact, Franklin is Bible based and preaches nothing that is at odds with the Holy Word that God has given to His people. The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, of which Franklin is president, took to the courts of the land and sued each of the venues and in each case won considerable damages.
No human plan can thwart the plans of God. As Peter is recorded as telling the religious bigots of his day; “We must obey God rather than human beings”.
Billy Graham and Franklin are not the only ones to have faced such opposition. St Francis of Assisi was banned from preaching the Gospel in church buildings because he preached nothing that was at variance with God’s Word but was a variance with the attitudes and life styles of the bishops and religious elite of the day.
Martin Luther recognised that the ways of the Church at that time were not in accordance with the ways of God and dared to say so publicly in writings and sermons. His refusal to renounce all of his writings at the demand of Pope Leo X in 1520 and the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V at the Diet of Worms in 1521 resulted in his  excommunication by the pope and condemnation as an  outlaw by the Holy Roman Emperor.
John Wesley was an ordained priest of the Anglican Church but was banned from preaching in church buildings because he, too, held that the Holy Bible is the only source of divinely revealed knowledge. Wesley’s preaching challenged the religious leaders and brought about a change in the mood of this nation. His preaching touched the hearts and minds of the individual who could and would believe that Jesus is the Son of God and is our Saviour.
Our faith, our belief, in Jesus is a personal faith. We cannot get someone else to ‘stand in’ for us. We either believe and have faith in Christ or we reject Jesus and all that He has done for us.
Sometimes we will find it is easier to believe when we are witnesses to the events. If we are witnesses to just some of the overall event but not to its climax we may find much hard to believe.
So it was with Thomas. Personally, I have to say that I have always liked Thomas. His attitudes are very much akin to mine.
Thomas had seen the events of that first Easter – Jesus celebrating the Passover with His disciples; Jesus words that one of them would betray Him; Jesus arrested, interrogated, flogged, mocked and finally sentenced to death on a rough wooden cross.
Thomas was probably there at the Crucifixion. He may have seen the nails being hammered into the hands and feet of our Lord, his Lord. He may have been there when the spear pierced Jesus’ side and seen the water and the blood flow.
Thomas may have witnessed the body of Jesus being taken down from the cross and laid in the tomb, the stone rolled across to block the entrance.
In all probability Thomas had witnessed all this. Could there be any wonder then that he found it hard to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead; that Jesus is alive and has appeared to the faithful even in rooms with locked doors?
The one locked door that Jesus finds hard to penetrate is the cold, locked heart of humanity which does not allow Him access. It is the words of Thomas, centuries later: “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
Jesus did appear to Thomas and invited Thomas to inspect the wounds to His body. This was no dream or conjuring trick. This was the Risen Jesus Who died and was raised to life for each one of us. Thomas was able to touch the nail holes, to put his hand into the wound in Jesus side.
Thomas’ response was to accept all that he had been told as being true. His words to Jesus are words of faith, “My Lord and my God!”
We may not have the privilege of physically seeing our Risen lord but we can invite Him to appear in the locked rooms of our hearts. We may have doubts and times of disbelief.
Let us then turn to God’s Holy Word and read the first hand experiences of others. Let us dwell on those words and inwardly digest them allowing the truth to warm our hearts so that we may have faith; so that we will believe; so that we can be confident and cry with Thomas, “My Lord and my God!” AMEN

Hymn StF 342 All hail the power of Jesu’s Name

Prayers of Intercession
Having met with the risen Christ, the disciples are convinced of the resurrection of Jesus. We, too, can meet our Risen Lord when we open our hearts and minds to receive Him. Let us pray:
Father, we thank You for the gifts of sight and insight and ask that You be there in all our looking. Help, us to always see with eyes of faith, love and honesty.
Open our eyes, Lord, to see things as You see them.
We pray for the leaders of Your Church, for those You call to be ordained as Minister of Word and Sacrament. Theirs is a demanding ministry of love and we are called to support their work both physically and prayerfully.
Open our eyes, Lord, to see things as You see them.
Father, we pray for the gifts of discernment and integrity among all who govern, advise and lead. Clear away all self-centred ambition to free our leaders to serve.
Open our eyes, Lord, to see things as You see them.
When we meet with family, friends, neighbours and colleagues be there with us and remind us of our calling to love one another.
Open our eyes, Lord, to see things as You see them.
Loving god, we pray for those eyes are moist with tears or tense with pain. For those who show no outward sign but inwardly are in turmoil and hurting. Give to them the sense of Your reassuring love which will bring us all through the darkest of days.
Open our eyes, Lord, to see things as You see them.
Father, Your Son, our Saviour, Jesus is the first fruit of the new and eternal life to which we are called. Help us to walk in Your way, to cast aside the ever present depravity of the society in which we live and be true to our calling, Your Holy Word and to Jesus.
Open our eyes, Lord, to see things as You see them.
Loving God, we bring our prayers in the Name of the One Who opens eyes and hearts and minds in His love; the One Who taught us when we pray to say:

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be Your name,
Your Kingdom come,
Your will be done,
    on earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from the evil one
For the Kingdom, the Power and the Glory are Yours
now and forever. Amen

Hymn StF 313 Thine be the Glory
Let us pray:
O God,
you raised up Jesus Christ
as your faithful witness and the first-born of the dead.
By your Holy Spirit, help us to witness to him
so that those who have not yet seen
may come to believe in Him
Who is, and Was, and is to come.
Amen.

Blessing:
May the blessing of Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with us, with those we love and pray for and those we should love and pray for, this day and forever.
Amen

Let us go in peace to love and serve our Lord.
In the Name of Christ Amen