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Leytonstone United Free Church Sunday 19th aPril 2020

Something to reflect on as we begin to worship ...

Welcome:

Dear siblings,

welcome to our fifth week of worshiping together whilst we are apart. I pray that amongst all the strangeness of Holy Week you were able to listen afresh to the story of a God who loves you so much that he sent Jesus to earth. I hope you were able to find space to be still, to give thanks and to discover moments of hope and joy in your homes.

Today we will share communion together. Whilst we are scattered, we can be confident that we are united in Christ, as we follow in his commands to remember him. If you can gather some bread and wine (cracker & juice or any alternative is fine) then as you follow through this order of service, we will share it together.

I trust this finds you well. Please do get in touch, my number is 07538 213855 or email minister@leytonstoneunitedfree.co.uk

Grace and peace

Gemma

Let us pray:

We are the people of God.

Risen Lord, as we gather today,

Scattered by COVID19 and yet united by you,

may we see you and hear you,

may we feel you and touch you,

may we know your presence with us now.

Amen.

Let us sing together ...

Let us pray:

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. Amen.

Let us sing:

Let us share in the Lord’s Prayer:

Our Father, who art in heaven,

hallowed be thy name;

thy kingdom come;

thy will be done;

on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our trespasses,

as we forgive those who 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.

Bible Reading:

John 20:19-31 taken from The Message Translation says:

To Believe

19-20 Later on that day, the disciples had gathered together, but, fearful of the Jews, had locked all the doors in the house. Jesus entered, stood among them, and said, “Peace to you.” Then he showed them his hands and side.

20-21 The disciples, seeing the Master with their own eyes, were exuberant. Jesus repeated his greeting: “Peace to you. Just as the Father sent me, I send you.”

22-23 Then he took a deep breath and breathed into them. “Receive the Holy Spirit,” he said. “If you forgive someone’s sins, they’re gone for good. If you don’t forgive sins, what are you going to do with them?”

24-25 But Thomas, sometimes called the Twin, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples told him, “We saw the Master.”

But he said, “Unless I see the nail holes in his hands, put my finger in the nail holes, and stick my hand in his side, I won’t believe it.”

26 Eight days later, his disciples were again in the room. This time Thomas was with them. Jesus came through the locked doors, stood among them, and said, “Peace to you.”

27 Then he focused his attention on Thomas. “Take your finger and examine my hands. Take your hand and stick it in my side. Don’t be unbelieving. Believe.”

28 Thomas said, “My Master! My God!”

29 Jesus said, “So, you believe because you’ve seen with your own eyes. Even better blessings are in store for those who believe without seeing.”

30-31 Jesus provided far more God-revealing signs than are written down in this book. These are written down so you will believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and in the act of believing, have real and eternal life in the way he personally revealed it.

Reflection:

What do you see in the image above?

The picture is known as the Café Wall Illusion, named as such because it was discovered on a café wall by Richard Gregory in 1979. The gray lines appear to be slanted, but if you cover up the black and white tiles, you'll see that the lines are actually straight. For this illusion to work properly, the tiles have to be offset by half a tile, and the gray lines have to be in place.

The effect works because of the way neurons interact in the brain. Your retinas dim and brighten different parts of the gray lines because of the way the tiles are positioned. When there's a brightness contrast between two tiles (like a black tile on top of a white tile), your neurons interpret these changes as small wedges — making the lines appear slanted.

The resurrection stories in John’s Gospel often centre on a particular character. It is as if John is saying: if you want to understand what this event means, look closely at what it meant for this individual (e.g. Mary Magdalene at the tomb). Here we see the disciples’ encounter with the risen Jesus through the lens of Thomas’ unique experience of being left out of the group, and then being included when Jesus speaks directly to him.

Optical illusions work because our brains easily miss things when we’re not expecting to see them. Thomas was absolutely convinced that Jesus was dead, and despite what he had seen Jesus do before his logic reverted to the dead not coming back to life! Even when his friends had all told him that they had seen Jesus, Thomas refused to believe. In verse 20, Jesus shows them his hands and his side, and in verse 27 he says to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands.’ It is only when they all see the continuity between the one who suffered and the risen one that they know that they are not seeing a ghost or a vision. The wounds are evidence for Thomas to see that this is Jesus and Thomas utters one of the most profound of the early creeds: ‘My Lord and my God!’ (v.28).

Part of the life Jesus invites us into is one where our blind spots are gently revealed, so that we can appreciate more of who God is. Has God ever surprised you in the way he surprised Thomas? If not, is it possible that you are missing seeing God because you don’t expect to see God?

The passage doesn’t tell us whether Thomas actually touched Jesus, this has sat with me for many years, I wonder how the exchange felt in the room? It is clear though that Jesus gave him complete permission, offering himself up to enable Thomas to move forward in his discipleship journey. As humans many of us are wired for touch, right now many of us are missing positive touch, the hug of a friend, the feeling of cash being put into your hand, the nudge of a family member as they walk past you. There is little doubting the importance of touch in human experience, yet the pandemic we find ourselves in has changed all of this. As we look to a day when we come out of isolation and social distancing how might we be able to reclaim the positive nature of touch? Not just for our own sake but for the sake of those in our community.

Jesus said to the disciples, ‘Peace be with you’. The spirit of peace is a gift that enables the disciples to go out and be witnesses. This encounter leaves peace not only with Thomas though, but rather with the disciples. Yet it is not the quiet peace of the status quo, of life as normal, this is rather a disruptive and yet reassuring peace that comes because he is risen from the dead. It is the beginning of something new. Jesus breathes on his disciples and says, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’. The word for ‘breathed’ here picks up an echo of Genesis 2:7 and Ezekiel 37:9; it is a breath that brings divine life, new creation, a spiritual presence that only the resurrection has released into the community of disciples. With it comes new authority and responsibility to be God’s agents in the continuing work of forgiveness and redemption. The arc of this story then reaches from the first century right out to us in the twenty-first century: ‘These are written so that you may come to believe…and that through believing you may have life in his name.’

Are there people you have ‘lost touch’ with - either in general, or due to the current restrictions? Why not seek to renew a connection with someone this week; call and say, ‘Peace be with you’, write them a note, drop them an email.

Let us sing:

Communion:

Colossians 2.9–15 says:

For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. 11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by cancelling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

We are invited to come together around the Lord’s table even, as we are scattered. We are one body. We belong to the household of Christ, siblings who live out the death and resurrection of Jesus through our daily faith. The family of the reborn and the reconciled, who inhabit a universe of unending grace.

Remembering the death and resurrection of the one who is our life and our meaning, we come first to die to all that is not of you.

Jesus commands us to love God with all our heart and soul, mind and

strength.

Silence to consider the reality of our living.

Often, we have not kept this commandment;

forgive our godlessness Lord, we pray that God will light the fire of his love in our hearts.

Jesus commands us to love our neighbours in the same way that we

love ourselves.

Silence, again to think about what we have been.

Often, we can be selfish and hard-hearted.

Forgive us,

and pray that God’s grace will melt and warm our hearts.

The Lord has promised that if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

We desire this grace and cleansing.

Without it there is no hope for us.

Our Lord has warned that those who ask for forgiveness themselves must also practise forgiveness.

Are we prepared to be generous and forgiving to those who have hurt us and to let go of all bitterness?

We will need God’s help.

Jesus is our peace.

He has reconciled those who were divided through his body on the cross. He came and preached peace to everyone, far and near, because it is through him that we all can come to the Father in the one Spirit.

Luke 22.14–20 says:

14-16 When it was time, he sat down, all the apostles with him, and said, “You’ve no idea how much I have looked forward to eating this Passover meal with you before I enter my time of suffering. It’s the last one I’ll eat until we all eat it together in the kingdom of God.”

17-18 Taking the cup, he blessed it, then said, “Take this and pass it among you. As for me, I’ll not drink wine again until the kingdom of God arrives.”

19 Taking bread, he blessed it, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, given for you. Eat it in my memory.”

20 He did the same with the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant written in my blood, blood poured out for you.”

Before Jesus broke the bread, before he poured the wine,

he gave thanks to you, Lord God, King of the universe,

giver of every good thing,

of food and drink, of companionship and love,

of all that gives us strength and delight.

Like him we bless you for your generosity.

Breaking the bread,

Jesus spoke about the destruction of his own body,

the result of human cruelty, indifference and envy.

Remembering his courage and integrity,

his willingness to die for the grace he proclaimed,

we bless you for our redemption, won at such cost.

Sharing the bread,

Jesus promises to be with us always,

and we acknowledge and delight in his presence here now.

We bless you for his spirit binding us together

in a new and hope-filled humanity.

Fill us again, Lord, and empower us

to live together in the peace and truth of the gospel.

The bread is broken and shared, and then the wine is shared.

As we turn to the days ahead:

Go with us Lord,

so that we can love in all sincerity,

clinging to what is good in your world.

May we be devoted to one another as siblings,

honouring each other above ourselves;

may we be joyful in hope,

patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

May we share with God’s people who are in need

and practise hospitality, even more in these difficult days.

Go with us good Lord,

and live in us the life of the Kingdom.

Let us share the grace together:

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all, now and forevermore.
Amen.

Something to reflect on as we end our worship:

Credits:

Created with images by Allie Smith - "Hi. Hello there. Yo." • Josh Boot - "untitled image" • Alex Woods - "Countryside man" • Om Prakash Sethia - "Pray for happiness of others" • Matt Botsford - "Hands High, Heart abandoned" • Skye Studios - "Having a blast with the RED Raven so far. Counting down the days until our next video shoot! Thanks for checking out our photos please give us a follow on Instagram @skyestudiosmedia and subscribe to our YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCzkRfcDCpFjVivcsVI0zVJw" • 🇨🇭 Claudio Schwarz | @purzlbaum - "untitled image" • Kate Macate - "https://creativemarket.com/KateMacate/shop/templates" • Sara Dubler - "Dinner for 6" • Kate Remmer - "I took this photo on the fly and made my husband hold the bread. There’s something about this picture....can’t put my finger on it. It’s a very honest and giving picture. I hope you enjoy it. x" • Maja Petric - "If you decide to use this photo for a cool project, do let me know :) I would love to see it in action. Thanks! Anyway these are my favorite grapes to eat ;)" • Jon Tyson - "untitled image" • Masaaki Komori - "untitled image"