Week Commencing Sunday 18th October

Week Commencing Sunday 18th October 2020

Call to Worship

‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!’ Luke 24:5, 6

‘God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact’ Acts 2:32

Hymn

See what a morning, gloriously bright
With the dawning of hope in Jerusalem;
Folded the grave-clothes
Tomb filled with light,
As the angels announce Christ is risen!
See God’s salvation plan, wrought in love,
Borne in pain, paid in sacrifice,
Fulfilled in Christ, the Man, for He lives,
Christ is risen from the dead!

See Mary weeping: ‘Where is He laid?
As in sorrow she turns from the empty tomb;
Hears a voice speaking, calling her name:
It’s the Master, the Lord raised to life again!
The voice that spans the years,
Speaking life, stirring hope,
Bringing peace to us,
Will sound till He appears,
For He lives, Christ is risen from the dead!

One with the Father, Ancient of Days,
Through the Spirit
Who clothes faith with certainty,
Honour and blessing, glory and praise
To the King crowned
With power and authority!
And we are raised with Him,
Death is dead, love has won
Christ has conquered;
And we shall reign with Him,
For He lives, Christ is risen from the dead!

Stuart Townend & Keith Getty

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6xM-fpXayUg

Opening Prayer

Lord Jesus, our risen Saviour, we rejoice in your mighty victory over sin and death: you are the Prince of Life; you are alive for evermore. Help us to know your presence in our worship, and to receive your power in our lives; until we rise to live with you for ever. Amen

Reading. John 20:24-31

2024 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), 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 that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Hymn

Lord Jesus Christ, You have come to us
You are one with Us, Mary’s son.
Cleansing Our Souls from All Their Sin
Pouring Your love and goodness in

Jesus our love for you we sing,
Living Lord.

Lord Jesus Christ now and every day
Teach us how to pray, Son of God.
You have commanded us to do
This in remembrance Lord of You

Into our lives, Your power breaks through,
Living Lord.

Lord Jesus Christ, I would come to you
Live my life for You, Son of God.
All Your commands I know are true,
Your many gifts will make me new,

Into my life, Your power breaks through,
Living Lord.

Patrick Appleford

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ekVLG-p8Xsc

Sermon. ‘Doubting Thomas’

I read Tim LaHaye’s ‘Spirit Controlled Temperament’ when I was younger and reading it made me realise that not everyone has the same temperament. Here are some of the things LaHaye writes about the melancholy temperament:

‘Mr Melancholy is often referred to as the ‘black, or dark temperament’. Actually he is the richest of all the temperaments, for he is analytical, self-sacrificing, gifted, perfectionist type, with a very sensitive emotional nature. No one gets more enjoyment from the fine arts than the melancholy’.

‘By nature he is prone to be an introvert, but since his feelings predominate he is given over to a variety of moods. Sometimes his moods will lift him to heights of ecstasy that cause him to act more extroverted. However, at other times he will be gloomy and depressed, and during these periods he is definitely withdrawn and can be quite antagonistic.’

‘He is emotionally responsive but, unlike Mr Sanguine, is motivated to reflective thinking through his emotions.’

LaHaye lists strengths and weaknesses of the different temperament types in some detail.

The melancholy weaknesses include:

‘The inclination to self –examination which paralyses his will and energy. He is always dissecting himself, and his own mental conditions.’

‘Melancholies usually drift into morbid mental conditions. They are concerned not only about their spiritual state; they are also unduly concerned about their physical condition…no other type can so easily become a hypochondriac. Everything that touches a melancholic is of prime importance to him…’

‘This self- centred trait in Mr Melancholy, if not corrected, can actually ruin his entire life. Combined with his sensitive nature, his self-centredness makes it very easy for him to be offended or insulted. He is prone to be suspicious.’

‘Because of his perfectionist and analytical traits, Mr Melancholy is prone to be pessimistic. He not only can see the ultimate end of a project, but what is more real to him, all of the problems that will be encountered. Many times these problems, in his mind, far outweigh the good accomplished in the whole endeavour.’

Well LaHaye has more to say about the strengths and weaknesses of the melancholy temperament type. Indeed each of the four basic types- melancholy, sanguine, choleric and phlegmatic are described in an enlightening way. No one is exempt. And while people may have a mix of the temperament types, it is usual that one type predominates in an individual.

However the premise of the book is that the Holy Spirit can work in us to refine us for the better- especially in our temperamental weaknesses. We are not naturalists (people who believe that Nature is all there is and so believe we are ‘determined’ by our nature- by our temperament- or nurture. [See also Update 14/6/20. Jesus’ authority over Nature]). We are Christians who realise that we, along with all people, have been made in God’s image. He created each human being with a spirit that can choose to rise above natural or circumstantial tendencies that would otherwise get the better of us (Cf. Gen. 4:6, 7. Mt. 26:41, Lk.23:46). Further, we believers can invite the Holy Spirit to strengthen and help us make those choices that are right and glorify God.

Thomas was called by Jesus to be one of his disciples. It’s probable that he was a man of few words. When we compare him with the enthusiastic Peter, who spoke a lot, we realise that they have very different temperaments. The few times Thomas’ words are recorded in John’s Gospel reveal a man with a melancholy temperament:

In John 11:16 we read that Jesus heard that his friend Lazarus had become sick so he says ‘let us go to him’ (15), but the disciples do not wish to go back to Judea. They remembered that Judea was the place where some Jews had attempted to stone Jesus. But Jesus will go there nonetheless. And in verse 16 we have Thomas’s first reported words ‘’Let us also go, that we may die with him.’’

Thomas was convinced that Jesus would never leave Judea alive. But we see Thomas’ love for Jesus. His words are full of hopelessness- ‘let us also go that we may die with him’- but at the same time he is loyal to his Lord, and still follows him.

The next time Thomas speaks is when Jesus and His disciples are in the upper room where the last Passover had just been celebrated. Jesus had instituted the Lord’s Supper. The Lord then explained to them that he was going away to prepare a heavenly home for his followers, and that one day they would join him there. Jesus says ‘You know the way to the place where I am going.’ Thomas reacts by saying, "Lord we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?" (John 14:5).

Thomas’s response revealed his keen desire to be with Jesus. Again we see the love he has for Jesus. But he had to know where the Lord was going and, at the same time, how he himself could also get there.

At that point Jesus says ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me…’

The Lord had already explained He was going to the Father, and now He makes it clear He is the only Way to the Father. Indeed He himself is ‘the Way’. This will become clearer to the disciples much later, after Jesus’ resurrection, when they realise that Jesus death was an atoning sacrifice for their sins and ours. In this sense only Jesus is The Way: We only enter into a living relationship with the Father through Him, and we only enter into Heaven through Him- through His dying in our place to bring us a forgiveness and redemption we could not achieve for ourselves. Only Jesus is the Way.

But Thomas’ question here is more than just an attempt at seeking clarification from Jesus. This is more than questioning. Jesus had already explained how Thomas would get to be where Jesus was going. Jesus had already said If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am’ (3). Underlying Thomas’s statement here is what has been described as a ‘melancholy candour’. Thomas does not trust what Jesus has just said about His returning for them. He does not trust what Jesus says about taking them to the place where He is going. Thomas does not have a high enough conception of the Lord to trust that He, as we would say- can take care of everything.

The next 7 days include Jesus betrayal, his arrest, his trial, his crucifixion and burial. All of the disciples had deserted Jesus. All their faith and trust had fallen into deep doubt. They thought it was all over on Good Friday.

But on that first Easter Sunday, three days later, as Jesus Himself had promised, He was raised from the dead and He appeared to His disciples. He said to them ‘Peace be with you’, and He showed them His hands and His side. They were of course overjoyed.

But Thomas was not with them when Jesus came.

It is highly improbable that Thomas had good reason for not being with the other disciples when Jesus appeared to them, and so he missed the blessing. It is a challenge to all of us. Hebrews 10:25 says ‘Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing.’ To grow as Christians includes making sure we regularly attend Church services. These are part of God’s means of grace for us. I understand in these present days the highly vulnerable do have good reason to be absent but ordinarily we should get into the habit of regular attendance. Otherwise the very sermon that we carelessly missed may have contained an important truth that would have specifically encouraged us in our walk with God. The meeting together for prayer we sacrificed for some lesser activity, could have been the time where God’s Spirit would have filled us afresh. The fact is we are less prone to unbelief when we make time for meeting with the Lord through corporate prayer and receiving teaching of His Word. We will rarely be left like Thomas, shut out in the cold chill of unbelief, while others are warmed and filled.

Unbelief is more the product of the heart rather than the head. William Law reflecting on the constant moaning of the Israelites in the desert, and their constant criticisms of Moses, wrote this ‘Reason always follows the state of the heart; and where your heart is, that is your reason. If your heart is full of sentiments (by which he means a heart that is worshipping God, expressing love for God, thankful and so on…); if your heart is full of sentiments, of penitence and of faith, your reason will take part with your heart; but if your heart is shut up in death and dryness, your reason will delight in nothing but dry objections and speculations.’

Where is your heart? If it is in love with God, you will want to please Him, obey Him. You will want more of Him and His word. You will want to meet him in fellowship with our brothers and sisters as part of His body- the body of Christ.

It is rather tempting to see Thomas as a character to sympathise with in our culture. The postmodern culture we live in chides us for being certain about anything. And to cover our own lack of conviction about Christ and truth, we tend to take the line with Thomas that its very understandable that he should say ‘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’

But it’s actually quite an obstinate thing to say- ‘I will not believe it...’ Not only had Jesus clearly taught his disciples that he would die and in three days rise again on previous occasions, but here is the testimony of his fellow 10 disciples who say it has happened and are full of joy about it. In his pride Thomas comes with his own terms- unless I put my fingers where the nail marks are…and put my hand in his side…’ Thoroughly materialistic and slow to believe these witnesses; slow to perceive spiritual realities. There’s something of the feeling here of the person who has missed out and now they are going to make everybody else feel their disappointment.

Despite the disciples’ testimony and their obvious delight in what has happened, Thomas insists on provoking the others with his deliberate attitude of unbelief.

However, what I wish us to see is how kind and merciful Jesus Christ is toward him:

Jesus appears again to the disciples at the end of the week and this it seems is for the special benefit of Thomas. And then the Lord does not reject him or dismiss him for his attitude. Rather he meets Thomas where he is in the weakness of his heart and unbelief; rather like a mother does with her fretful child ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side’ if this is the kind of evidence Thomas needs, then the Lord will go the extra mile to try and supply that evidence he needs and so encourage him.

And how we see the Lord comfort Thomas here is given to us because the Lord wants us to know that that is how He is with each one of us. He knows we all have doubts from time to time. He wants us to tell him about these, our negative feelings our questions, and His Spirit will help us move forward- perhaps a particular Bible passage speaks into our question, perhaps good Christian literature that addresses our particular issue.

The Holy Spirit who inspired this passage, knows that all of Christ’s disciples have times where we are slow to understand, doubting, swayed by our emotion, easily provoked and provoking when it appears some other believer has their act together, obstinate in wanting things our way. The Spirit wants us to understand that Jesus is rich in patience with us. He bears with our weaknesses.

And Jesus wants us to bear with the weaknesses of others. To show this same spirit. When someone comes to us and their faith is feeble and their love for Christ is cold, let us be more like Christ towards them as He is with Thomas here. I know out of fear, how tempting it is to express urgency and paint the bleak consequences of falling away from Christ if they continue down this path. And take that line. Especially if that person is close to us. I have taken that line with others from time to time. But it would have been better if I could have asked the Lord to show compassion and tender mercy, as Jesus does here. ‘A bruised reed He will not break, a smouldering wick he will not put out’

The fact is we are all weak children in our Lord’s family and He bears with us all. We all suffer emotional doubt at times, and are slow to understand. We are provoking. We are obstinate. But like Thomas, we are still real and true believers, and most importantly clearly loved accepted by our kind and merciful Lord Jesus Christ. He even now is alive: risen, ascended and interceding for us as our Great High Priest.

Such power. Such love. Like Thomas I can only kneel at his feet, and in awe and wonder declare Him to be who He truly is: ‘My Lord and my God!’

…………………………….

Prayers

Prayer of Confession and Pardon

O Holy One, we call to you and name you as eternal, ever-present, and boundless in love. Yet there are times, O God, when we fail to recognize you in the dailyness of our lives. Sometimes shame clenches tightly around our hearts, and we hide our true feelings. Sometimes fear makes us small, and we miss the chance to speak from our strength. Sometimes doubt invades our hopefulness, and we degrade your wisdom. Holy God, in the daily round from sunrise to sunset, remind us again of your holy presence hovering near us and in us. Free us from shame and self-doubt. Help us to see you in the moment-by-moment possibilities to live honestly, to act courageously, and to speak with your wisdom according to your word.

Prayer about the Pandemic

Ephesians 1: 15-17:

“For this reason, ever since I have heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people. I have not stopped giving thanks for you remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better”

Gracious Lord, we thank you for people who love us. Who have cared for us and been there for us (we take a few seconds of silence to remember them). Thank you for their advice, their kindness and their prayers.

We thank you for your love for us that you have no favourites but you constantly love us fully and unreservedly. Help us to love others in your name.

Lord in this time of change and uncertainty, grant us wisdom and revelation. That we may make good decisions for ourselves and for others.
 

All mighty God, rich in love and full of tenderness. We pray for all those who feel wounded, weary and broken. For the bereaved, the anxious and the isolated.

We unite our hearts with them in tears of lament. God come in power, God have mercy, God bring healing, may the oil of your love bring peace.

In Jesus' name. Amen (Evangelical Alliance)

 

 

Prayer from Prisons Week

Lord you offer freedom to all people. We pray for those in prison. Break the bonds of fear and isolation that exists. Support with your love prisoners and their families and friends, prison staff and all who care.

Heal those who have been wounded by the activities of others, especially the victims of crime. Help us to forgive one another. To act justly, love mercy and walk humbly together with Christ in his strength and in His Spirit, now and every day. Amen. (The Bible Society).

TO

Hymn

 

  1. Oh, for a thousand tongues to sing
    My great Redeemer’s praise,
    The glories of my God and king,
    The triumphs of His grace!
  2. My gracious Master and my God,
    Assist me to proclaim,
    To spread through all the earth abroad,
    The honors of Thy name.
  3. Jesus! the name that charms our fears,
    That bids our sorrows cease—
    ’Tis music in the sinner’s ears,
    ’Tis life, and health, and peace.

He breaks the pow’r of canceled sin,
He sets the pris’ner free;
His blood can make the foulest clean,
His blood availed for me.

  1. He speaks, and, list’ning to His voice,
    New life the dead receive,
    The mournful, broken hearts rejoice,
    The humble poor believe.
  2. Glory to God, and praise and love
    Be ever, ever giv’n
    By saints below and saints above,
    The church in earth and heav’n.

Charles Wesley

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X-dEfvz6Vms

Ascription

And now to him who is able to keep us from falling, and lift us from the dark valley of despair to the bright mountain of hope, from the midnight of desperation to the daybreak of joy; to him be power and authority, for ever and ever. Amen

 

David Barnes 14/10/20