Doubting Thomas

Worship on the Lord’s Day
10:00 am     16 April 2023    2nd Sunday of Easter
Online & Onsite (Mixed Presence) Gathering as a Worshipping Community
Led by the Rev Brad Childs     Children’s time: Vivian Houg
Music director: Binu Kapadia     Vocalist: Lynn Vaughan
Elder: Jane de Caen

We gather to worship God

Music prelude

L: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
P: and also with you.

Lighting of the Christ candle
Welcome and announcements
Silent preparation for worship

Call to Worship
L: God, our Shepherd, offers us abundant life.
P: God, you are with us!
L: God, our Shepherd, leads us by still waters.
P: God, restore our souls!
L: God, our Shepherd, walks with us through every dark valley.
P: God, we will not be afraid! God, our Shepherd, we praise for your goodness and mercy with us every day.

Opening praise: Everlasting God

Prayers of forgiveness and rest

God our Maker, we come giving thanks for all the wonder in your creation, the great theatre of your glory.

We praise you for the detailed perfection revealed in a baby’s tiny fingers, for the wisdom and growth that comes with age, for the strength to serve you, for your glory seen in flowers greeting the spring,and in each rock face worn by wind and water.

These details lift our hearts to praise you.

So let the details of the story the Risen Christ lift our hearts this day, that we too may discover him in our midst, making all things new with the springtime of your Spirit.

God our Redeemer, in raising Jesus from the dead, you showed us your power to defeat all that brings fear and sorrow to our lives.

Yet when things go wrong, we confess we are sometimes uncertain how to find him.

Like Thomas, we are unsure if we can trust the promise of resurrection. Help us Lord. Help our unbelief.

Lord in this time we pause. We turn our attention to you and we ask you to show us peace.

Show us those people we struggle to forgive. Led us together and help us to mend.

Lord if we want forgiveness then we must forgive.

Lord even for those we wish not to forgive, we still seek to be forgiving.

For those who do not deserve it, we pray, and for strength. Lord for all those we can bear, with your help – We forgive those who hurt us.

Forgive us when we struggle with doubt about your presence with us.

Breathe your Spirit upon us and bring us the peace Christ promised.

Response: I will trust in the Lord

Assurance of God’s forgiveness

Friends, the risen Christ is in our midst, speaking words of peace and forgiveness to us this day. Do not doubt these gifts are for you. And do not reject sharing that peace with others. Be at peace with yourself and with all God’s children. Amen

We listen for the voice of God

Children’s time

Gradual: Jesus loves me (373)

Story: This is Gabriel: Making Sense of School by Hartley Steiner.

Vivian Houg talked with the children about this book, which provides a look into the challenges children with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) face in the classroom. This easy-to-read and beautifully illustrated picture book gives teachers, parents, and students a better understanding of all seven senses, how they are each affected at school (or church), and what kinds of accommodations are necessary to help children with SPD become learning sensations!

Note: The prevalence of sensory processing issues is reported to be around 1 in 20 to 1 in 6.25 children in the US general population (Ahn et al., 2004; Ben-Sasson et al., 2009), and a more recent study in Finland found the prevalence of sensory abnormalities to be around 8.3% in an epidemiological population of 8-year-old children (Jussila et al., 2020).

Prayer: Creator God, thank you for making our wonderful bodies and all of our senses that tell us about the world. And help us to know that we are all a little bit like Gabriel sometimes and it’s important to pay attention to the needs of our body so that we can focus on you now,

The Lord’s Prayer (535 or 469)

Transition music

Song: Thine be the glory (258)

Today’s Message

Scripture readings: I Peter 1:3-9 and John 20: 19-31 (NRSV)

Response: Alleluia, alleluia, give thanks to the Risen Lord

Message: ”Doubting Thomas”

September 15th; Nuremberg; 1935… Adolf Hitler had just managed to push new anti-Semitic laws through the German legal system. At his urging the parliament passes a series of new restrictions that strip Jews of official citizenship. Doctors, layers, teachers, musicians, writers, actors and other professional (influential people) are expelled from the country or flee. Remaining Jewish children are disallowed from public school and other Jews (or suspected Jews) made to carry official papers stamped with the letter J for Jude – Jew.

As far as the average German citizens were concerned however Hitler was a kind of savior. Most people were almost totally unaware as to the severity of what Hitler intended to do. For them, he was simply a great political leader. He brought about amazing social change, started welfare programs, and gave property and companies to families in need.

But the Judenrien project was well underway. By this point about 100-thousand Jews are estimated to have been murdered. Thousands were moved into work camps. Just days after the laws had passed the Gestapo had rounded up another eighteen-thousand Polish Jews and packed them onto freight trains. Soon the only Jews left in Germany were held up in Berlin and Cologne (Ko-Ln). In towns and villages all over, no signs remained that the Jews had ever even existed there. The towns and villages of Germany were just as Hitler had wanted them. They were Judenrien (Jew Emptied). Only here and there were there small indications of a previous Jewish presence.

One such piece of proof was found just days after the war officially ended. On a cellar wall in Cologne, where a few Jewish families had sought refuge and safe hiding, there bore the hint of a Jewish presence. Before being arrested, deported or worse yet killed, someone cowering in this cold basement; hiding in fear scratched a poem onto the wall. It read:

I believe.

I believe in the sun even when it is not shining.

I believe in love even when feeling it not.

I believe in God even when God is silent.[1]

If we had only the first three Gospels, the only thing we would know about Jesus’ friend the apostle Thomas: would be his name. The Gospel of John is the only place we find him speaking. Very unfortunately however, out of three times he speaks in John’s Gospel most of us are generally only aware of the reading read from here today. Rarely do we think of the time that Thomas asked Jesus how be could follow him into the kingdom (John 14).

And most of us, when thinking of Thomas would never think of the time that Thomas courageously tried to convince the other disciples that they needed to go to Bethany to comfort Mary and Martha after Lazarus had died (as Thomas notes, he believed the disciples should go  – even if it meant death for all of them!). And so… most of us, when we hear the name “Thomas” only think of that terrible phrase “doubting Thomas”.

It’s sad really. From what we’re told in the Bible Thomas may well be the only brave person among the disciples. There they were sitting in that remote back ally room; huddled together on the floor, confused, defeated and crushed. There they were feeling ashamed, not knowing what to do or who to trust; scared to death with the door locked (cowering like scared children hiding under the covers in the dark). To tell the truth, at this point in history, that probably just where they should have been because at this point the disciples were little more than a group of failures (all of them). Yes, Peter was the one who denied Jesus three times just after he promised he’d never do so. But he wasn’t alone. Not one disciple (not even John) stayed in Gethsemane. They all ran in fear hoping to save their own necks.

And then, suddenly, astonishingly, quietly, (three days later) there he was, right there, before their very eyes. Jesus was just standing there… Alive! He should have been angry. He should have been disappointed. He should have told them what it felt like to be hanging there on the cross and to look out and see his friends sneaking away; afraid and to ashamed to even look at him as he died. But no… there Jesus was, not with angels, trumpets, or legions, but calmly and quietly. And with him he brought no hint of anger. No accusations, no trouble or turmoil… no righteous indignation; no justice! Instead he brought only words. But what powerful words he brought. And no doubt those first words of Jesus were a relief and a great gift in the ears of the people that betrayed him. Jesus said, “Peace be with you”.

In Greek the word that John tells us Jesus used is eirēnē (I-Rain-A). It means: exempt from anger, harmony, safety, salvation and is used in one case in the Bible to describe the final state of an upright and righteous man after his death. In short… when Jesus says, Peace be with you… he also says, “I Forgive you”.

But that is not where our story ends. When Jesus appeared to the disciple huddled together in that locked room not everyone was there. Thomas wasn’t there! Maybe he was out running errands, maybe he was moving on with his life, and maybe just maybe… like he told Jesus earlier in the book of John, he really was willing to die for the gospel (and so he was out in public; fully visible and willing to be caught).

Whatever the case, we may never truly know. But what we do know is that when the other disciples told Thomas about the unbelievable and impossible thing that had just happened Thomas responds with the same caution and the same common since we all would have. He said, “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 it.” Understandably what Thomas wanted was nothing more than the same experience the other disciples had. Thomas wasn’t there. He didn’t get to hear Jesus’ voice. He heard only silence.

At this point in the story, Thomas… is… us. Thomas is the one that heard the message “Jesus is risen” second hand. He heard an amazing story but he hadn’t yet seen Jesus with his own eyes. All Thomas wanted was to see Jesus face to face. All he wanted was to hear the voice of God. Thomas wanted the same thing every single one of us wants. His story is the story of every human being alive today.

What’s interesting for me though, is that Thomas does get to see the face of God. Thomas does eventually see his face; he does hear his voice. Jesus does appear again to the disciples and Thomas is there for it this time. And even though he says he won’t believe until he can put his finger into Jesus’ wounds, it turns out that when push came to shove… he didn’t do it. In verse 27, when Jesus says to Thomas “Put your finger here” Thomas doesn’t do it. We have no scripture that says “and then Thomas put his finger in the wound”. In fact, we have just the opposite. What we have is what Jesus says in verse 29 which suggests that Thomas had no need to. Thomas emphatically proclaimed “My Lord and my God!” And in response Jesus tells him, “Because you have SEEN ME, you have believed”. And that’s all it took. Just seeing his face; just hearing his voice, just hearing those words “Peace (I-Rain-A) be with you”… “I forgive you”.

And it is at this point in the story that Jesus speaks directly to John’s first readers; years after Jesus had left. It’s here that Jesus speaks directly to us present in this church here today. Jesus says “Because you have seen me, you have believed; but blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Well that is us. We are those that have heard the good news (have not seen his face or heard his voice) and yet still believed. We are those people that Jesus called “Blessed”. We are the ones that have not seen the face of the risen Lord. Because we are the people that know… that like courage or honesty, grace, kindness, or love that faith cannot be proven and yet these things we believe in nonetheless if not most of all. We are the people that are called to believe in the promises of God even when he is hidden from us; even when he is silent. We are the ones (that like Thomas) can proclaim even in the darkest of times, “My Lord and my God!”

Whatever it is you face in your life: fears, anxieties, sin, failures, uncertainty, or shame. Whatever makes you hide your light away… whatever it is that makes you lock yourself off from the world around you. Whatever you lock in or out… whatever it is that your heart simply cannot manage on its own. Whatever it is that like the disciples, you try to hide from the world; whatever disappointment you lock behind those doors; whatever doubts churn in your minds, whatever sins trouble your consciences, whatever pain and worry bind you, whatever walls you put up or doors you have securely locked; whatever it is that overwhelms you this morning… know this:

At the center of the gospel is the proclamation that Jesus Christ has come looking for us – even behind those locked doors. And when he comes he comes not with anger not with reminders of our failing but in the quite and the calm. He has come to us and says (“I-Rain-A”) “Peace be with you.”… “I forgive you… you are free”.

“Peace be with you” You that have Not Seen and Yet Believed! Because like the poet that scratched his words into that wall on Cologne (Ko-Ln), Germany… we can all proclaim in faith:

I believe

I believe in the sun even when it is not shining.

I believe in love even when feeling it not.

I believe in God even when God is silent.  Amen & Thanks be to God.

Song: Come to us, beloved Stranger (262)

We respond to serve God

Reflection on giving: Giver of every good and perfect gift, in Christ we see the power of sacrifice, and trust the hope of resurrection he offers. Receive our gifts given in gratitude for all we have received in him.  Bless all that we give so that his healing work in the world may continue.

Prayer of gratitude and for others and ourselves

God of new Life, the Risen Christ spoke words of peace to his friends.

Thank you for strengthening our faith and offering us that peace as we live in you day by day.

We are grateful that you give us courage to face our fears and struggles, patience to endure moments when the way ahead is not clear, and resilience to meet changing realities.

Make us a source of peace and resilience for Christ’s sake.

Loving God, we pray for the many places of brokenness in our world.

We think especially of those weighed down by economic pressures, and people still recovering from the effects of the pandemic.

We pray for people and communities at odds over policies and opinions, and those who feel their concerns are going unheard.

We pray for the earth itself under the impact of human activity and for those working to protect its future.

Grant the earth and all its peoples your gifts of hope and healing.

Faithful God, we pray for those who struggle with their experience of the church.

Open them to your love and grace so that any pain the church has caused will be healed.

Guide us with your Spirit of wisdom to know how to live out our faith in ways that create pathways for others to find you, not barriers.

We pray for our congregation, for The Presbyterian Church in Canada, and for the Church of Jesus Christ in every country and culture.

In these days of challenge and criticism for churches, strengthen our trust in you and our concern for others.

Give us ears to hear the correction we need in any challenge, with hearts opened by the grace of the Risen Christ.

We also pray for ourselves, our family and friends, our community and country.

We lay before you in silence all the people and concerns on our hearts and minds today.

(Silence for 15 seconds)

We are grateful that we can place all our worries and our hopes into your hands,

O God, knowing that you will hear us and respond. Amen.

Song: Amazing grace, my chains are gone

Sending out with God’s blessing

Now may the God of our hope fill us all with the joy and peace that comes from belief, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit forever. Amen. (Romans 15:13)

Response: He is Lord

Music postlude


Numbers in brackets after a song/hymn indicate that it is from the 1997 Book of Praise of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. Those and other songs are being used in accordance with the specifications of Dayspring’s licensing with One Licence (3095377) and CLC (A735555).

The Rev. Brad Childs retains the copyright (© 2023) on all original material in this service. As far as Brad Childs is aware, all of the material that has not been attributed to others is his own creation or is in the public domain. Unacknowledged use of copyrighted material is unintentional and will be corrected immediately upon notification being received.

[1] From the Book Nightmare in History by By Miriam Chaikin

Posted in Recent Sermons.