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A Meditation From Pastor Neil

Simply, St. Thomas gets shortchanged from his clear thinking and the subsequent profound witness he renders in the resurrection story. The writer of the gospel of John puts Thomas’ reasonable human skepticism in the worst possible light and subverts Jesus’ blessing into a curse that has been used for two thousand years as an indictment of Thomas.

From what you know of your personal experience of death and an awareness of the apostles’ inability to understand Jesus’ teachings— would you have accepted the resurrection story the first time you heard it?

By my lights, Thomas is one of the bravest souls in Jesus’ story. Firstly, he asks the fundamental question in everyone else’s hearts, too—Jesus’ resurrection from the dead sounds like crazy-town. Secondly, how much credence would any prudent person give to a wild story that flies in the face of all human experience? Thirdly, Thomas actually has the courage to do as he said he would: that is, putting his fingers into Jesus’ wounds, particularly the gash in his side. And finally, in publicly expressing his conversion experience—“My Lord and my God!”—Thomas switches gears and becomes a believer in the impossible—in front of everyone else. He makes this intimate moment public. For his honesty, instead of being seen as coming to faith, he’s been considered by history to be faithless.

Thomas is an example of someone who has traveled a difficult personal journey whose steps and transitions we watch. He is what we used to call a “convert.” Converts have the reputation, rightly so, of having faith that is strong; that wants others to know what they know by telling their testimony to all who will listen. Our prayer should always be, “Bless my belief; forgive my unbelief.” Thomas is an example of great faith.

      Pastor Neil

 Alleluia. Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia.

Opening Collects

Almighty and everlasting God, the Paschal mystery establishes a new covenant of reconciliation to all that is broken. Grant that we all may show forth in our lives what we profess by our faith, as did Thomas. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

O God, who made these holy days to shine with the glory of the Lord’s resurrection: Stir up in your Church that Spirit of adoption which is given to us in Baptism; that we, being renewed both in body and mind, may worship you in sincerity and truth. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

A reading from First Peter, at the 1st Chapter

Inviting the Nation to Joy and Celebration

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

From Psalm 16

Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuge.

I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.”

As for the holy ones in the land, they are the noble, in whom is all my delight.

Those who choose another god multiply their sorrows; their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their names upon my lips.

The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot.

The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; I have a goodly heritage.

I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me.

I keep the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.

Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices; my body also rests secure.

For you do not give me up to Sheol, or let your faithful one see the pit.

You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

 

A Reading from the Gospel of John, at the 20th chapter

Thomas Has a Conversion Experience

Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with the [apostles] when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

A Confession of Our Sins to God

God of all mercy, we confess that we have sinned against you, opposing your will in our lives. We have denied your goodness in each other, in ourselves, and in the world you have created. We repent of the evil that enslaves us, the evil we have done, and the evil done on our behalf. Forgive, restore, and strengthen us through our Savior Jesus Christ, that we may abide in your love and serve only your will. Amen.

Almighty God have mercy on us ☩, forgive us all our sins, and

through the grace of Jesus Christ, strengthen us in all goodness, and by the power of the Holy Spirit keep us in eternal life. Amen.

 

Prayers of the People

O God of compassion, giver of life and health, we pray your healing mercies upon all who are in any way affected by the outbreak of the Covid -19 coronavirus. Comfort and sustain those who have been stricken; relieve their pain, and restore to them your gifts of gladness and strength. Grant to all in authority the courage to make wise decisions that are essential for the common good, and strengthen them to lead institutions that care for those whom they serve. Watch over all first responders and those in the medical professions whose duty it is to care for the sick; guard them from all danger, and keep them safe in the knowledge that is through their sacrifice and service that the health of the whole community is promoted. Mercifully accept these our prayers, O God of all comfort, and our only help in time of need.

 

In peace, we pray to you, Lord God—

For all people in our daily life and work; for our families, friends, and neighbors, and for those who are alone and in danger.

For this community, the nation, and the world; for all who work for justice, freedom, and peace; health and wellbeing.

For the just and proper use of your creation; for the victims of hunger, fear, injustice, and oppression.

For all who are in danger, sorrow, or any kind of trouble; for those who minister to the sick, the friendless, and the needy, particularly in the midst of this worldwide pandemic.

For the peace and unity of the Church of God; for all who proclaim the Gospel, and all who seek the Truth; for all who serve God in his Church.

For the special needs and concerns of our families and friends, loved ones, and for our congregation. Hear us, Lord; for your mercy is great.

We thank you, Lord, for all the blessings of this life. We will exalt you, O God our King; And praise your Name forever and ever.

We pray for all who have died, that they may have a place in your eternal kingdom. Lord, let your loving-kindness be upon them, who put their trust in you.

Almighty God, by your Holy Spirit you have made us one with your saints in heaven and on earth: Grant that in our earthly pilgrimage we may always be supported by this fellowship of love and prayer, and know ourselves to be surrounded by their witness to your power and mercy. We ask this for the sake of Jesus Christ, in whom all our intercessions are acceptable through the Spirit, and who lives and reigns forever and ever. Amen.

 

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, and the power, and the glory forever and ever. Amen.

A Thanksgiving        

Loving God, we give you thanks for restoring us in your image and nourishing us with spiritual food in the Sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood. Now send us forth a people forgiven, healed, renewed; that we may proclaim your love to the world and continue in the risen life of Christ our Savior. Amen.

The Blessing

Sisters and brothers, when we go out into the world in peace, we live and walk as part of God’s beloved community. May God help us all to be of good courage, hold on to what is good, return to no one an evil for an evil. Strengthen the faint-hearted, support the weak, aid the suffering, do justice and hope, honor all people, and let our gentleness be known by everyone. May God, who raised our Lord Jesus from death, lift us up and restore us to wholeness. And may God bless us all, ☩ in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. Amen.

 

ACCORDING TO ST JOHN’S GOSPEL, which is always read on the Sunday after Easter, Thomas missed one of Christ’s first appearances to the apostles after his resurrection. Thomas therefore announced that, unless he could thrust his hand into Christ’s side, he would not believe what he had been told. A week later Christ appeared, asked Thomas to reach out his hands to touch Him and said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” This drama of disbelief seems to have touched Caravaggio personally, as we see in the cover art of this bulletin. Few of his paintings are physically so shocking— his Thomas pushes curiosity to its limits before he will say, “My Lord and my God.” The classical composition or this painting carefully unites the four heads in the quest for truth. Christ’s head is largely in shadow, as He is the person who is the least knowable. He also has a beauty that cannot be denied, even in shadow. Thomas’s face shows surprise as Jesus holds his hand and guides it into the wound. Caravaggio emphasizes the corporeality of the risen Christ. The painting was immensely popular almost from the beginning. Caravaggio himself made a duplicate of his work, and copies by other artists floated around freely among the aristocracy and high church officials.