The Parishes of Crail and St Ayle
Reflections from Rev. John Murray
Sunday April 11th 2021
Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us worship God together.
The Risen Jesus brings peace
The Saviour died but rose again, triumphant o'er the grave
And pleads our cause at God’s right hand, omnipotent to save.
John 20:19-31: 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!’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again, Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’ And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.’ Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 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.’ 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!’ 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. ‘Thomas said to him, ‘My Lord and my God! ‘Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’
The purpose of John’s gospel
Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 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.
O God our Father, we have come to worship you, to praise you and to pray to you, and to hear you speaking to us. Unseen, your presence is among and within us, and may you lead us by your good Spirit.
Lord Jesus, as you came to the disciples: coming into minds full of regret and despair, guilt and tumultuous thought, come to us as we lay before you our very selves. And over our disorder and darknesses, speak peace and assure us that you desire to share good things with us. Show us the full extent of your giving of yourself for us, that we may again receive that forgiveness that was gained by your wounds.
And as we come in worship, we await in faith your voice and with it your breath. Breathe upon us Lord, breathe upon us and fill us with your life. Breathe upon us in our worry and fretting: and may that breath blow away all that we carry but do not need. Breathe your life within us with your Spirit and purify our hearts. And with your breath may you send us out to share your words and love: through Christ our Saviour and Lord: Amen.
O send your light forth and your truth, let them be guides to me.
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
Your kingdom come,
Your will be done on earth as in heaven,
Give us today our daily bread,
Forgive us our sins,
As we forgive those who sin against us,
Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil,
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours,
now and forever.
What a difference it must have made that the first words of Jesus were ‘Peace be with you’. By stating that Jesus then showed them his hands and his side, John may have been trying to imply that Jesus is able to offer peace to the guilty precisely because of his death on the cross.
Lockdown for the disciples
Imagine yourself as one of these disciples. Frightened, apprehensive, isolated behind four walls: and into that comes the risen Jesus and stands among them. And the first thing that he says is ‘Peace be with you’ and shows them the mark of his wounds. And then he breathes on them the Holy Spirit. For John in his gospel, he is mirroring the story of the first creation in Genesis, and this out-breathing of the Spirit is akin to that breath and word that brought order and light out of chaos and darkness.
And so, as we sit with this passage today, in faith let the Spirit of God breathe over and into you, know and feel the forgiveness won by Jesus, and know that such a breath is a free gift of God to all who come to Him in need and in faith.
In fact, John, as you can see from the last sentence of the reading, has that as his purpose as he writes his gospel. Let us have that purpose fulfilled and confirmed with us.
Behind closed doors… afraid. That was how your disciples found themselves that first Easter evening. Risen Lord, you appeared and said, “Peace be with you.”
In the world today so many places lack peace – people indoors struggling with lockdown, struggling in so many little and big ways. So we pray for your shalom breath to come into places of restriction, of body, mind and soul. And into situations needing your life-giving power.
Those wrestling with emotions because they have not been able to be beside some of their loved ones as they would have liked at significant moments – from birthdays to serious illnesses. Those patients, residents and staff, in hospitals and care homes in so many places around the world where staff are stretched, where resources are scarce, where illness either threatens or dominates. Countries of the world so much less well off than ourselves.
We remember today those suffering the pain of bereavement. Those living in places of turmoil where wars still rage. Those people and situations uppermost in our minds which we lift up to you now in this silence….
We pray for your church in all lands, in all her forms, that your church would embody peace. Send out your church we pray with the message of forgiveness, and the call to faith. Bless your church in our land and guide her into paths of peace and joy: favour us here with your living touch on us. Grant us all patience and love, and to love our neighbour,
Hear our prayers, the matters on our own hearts that we lift to you now in the silence.
We ask all our prayers spoken and unspoken through Jesus Christ, our risen Saviour, Amen
Come down, O Love Divine, seek out this soul of mine
In a time of quiet and stillness, you might like to think on your breath as it goes in and out. Your breath is a free gift from our Creator, and that breath sustains all our life. Give thanks to God for your breath.
Crown Him the Lord of Love
‘He showed them his hands and side’. The risen body of Jesus still carries the marks of his suffering. We might ask, ‘why were these not healed?’ But there is great significance in these glorified wounds. They speak of truths which as we consider them will inform our faith and give us hope. The passage we read shows how Jesus himself points these wounds out to his disciples as a means to belief. They show that the peace and forgiveness that Jesus declares have been won at that great cost. And to disciples who may have felt guilty and were certainly fearful, they show that the suffering of Jesus was there for a reason: so that through faith we can know that all our guilt has been atoned for and we are free to live new lives. Lastly, as Christ suffered, so he is mindful of all our suffering in our bodies. As he invites us in faith to know his wounds, so his touch can feel our sufferings and bring healing to areas of our lives scarred and sore. Pray for healing for those on your heart.
Behold His hands and side; rich wounds yet visible above, in beauty glorified
Peace be with you! And the blessing of God, who sent His Son, who spoke those words, who inspires us still, be with you all now and evermore. Amen