2nd Sunday of Easter 2019

Brian Reader

Acts 5:27-32 / Ps: 150/ Rev 1:4-8 / John 20:19-31 /

Today is sometimes known as Low Sunday, after all the excitement of Easter Sunday. It is also a time when Cathedral choirs are away on holiday. This is good, because it allows good parish choirs to fulfil the role of relief choir in a cathedral setting, and I consider myself very lucky to have had the opportunity to sing with relief choirs at Bury St. Edmund’s, Gloucester Cathedral, and twice at St. David’s.

So what impact did this Easter have on you? For me it surprised me in a number of different ways; ways I did not expect and ways I did not choose.

Firstly there was the Lent group, movingly centred on the book ‘The Nail’, some portions of which Veronica used in the services leading up to Easter. It was a good Lent course as it made us realise that through our sins, we all had a responsibility for nailing Jesus to the cross. But it wasn’t nails that held him to the cross – it was His love for us. And then last Sunday we had our Easter services to celebrate Christ’s glorious resurrection, and we met the risen Lord at the communion table. In the past I can remember waking up on Easter morning to find snow covering the daffodils. But not this year; Easter was late and we had fine weather! The daffodils may have faded, but the bluebells were out and the trees had a good covering of new leaves. For those of you who made the early Easter service it was magical. The sky was clear with an almost full moon and a couple of pink contrails crossing the dark blue sky; with the dawn chorus in almost full throat. Even the weather was warm and we didn’t really need the blazing fire, as we filed into a dark church with our candles burning. If you have never been to one of Veronica’s early Easter services, I certainly recommend it, as it is an experience never to be forgotten. And the 10.30 service was also memorable. We had a double Christening, and multiple Christenings at Easter used to be a feature of the early Church.

Today’s reading, taken from St. John’s Gospel, is part of the continuing resurrection story. Jesus appears in a locked room to some, but not to all the disciples, and he commissions them. “Just as my Father sent me, I send you.” But Thomas, the twin, was not there, and when they told him that they had seen the Master, he said that he would not believe unless he too could see the marks of the crucifixion on His Lord. Poor Thomas, nicknamed ‘doubting’ for the rest of time.

Why did he doubt; why is this story recorded? Just imagine if this had been a communist story, or even the report of an event or a meeting by a modern political party, would they have written anything about anyone possibly having doubts? Most unlikely. This part of the story would receive spin, it would be glossed over, or edited out. But some doubting is normal, it is not improper, unless it is hidden and not faced and overcome. So why was this bit about doubting Thomas recorded, and why did Matthew also record that some doubted? Well the Gospel writers would not have made it up, so it can be regarded as true. And if the doubting is true, then all the other resurrection eye witness reports can also be taken as true.

Back in 2004 there was a lot of hoo-ha about the film – ‘The passion of the Christ’. I saw the film, with all the gore and violence, and I think it gave me a better understanding of Christ’s love and the suffering He endured for me, for you, and for the whole world. We know that Pilate was pressurised by the Jewish priests but as the Roman governor, he was very happy to use their false accusations to rid himself of a possible trouble maker. Christ who came teaching love and justice for all, was put to death unjustly because of the fear and hatred of a powerful few. One thing that the film ‘The Passion of the Christ’ forcibly recalled to mind, was the great trauma that the two Marys and all the disciples felt as events unfolded leading up to the flogging and terrible death of their beloved Master.

Would I have denied Christ like Peter? Probably. Why stick out and be another victim when all you have worked for and believed in is being swept aside, rejected, and nullified before your very eyes? They did not know that he was to return, to make all things new, to gladden the heart and stiffen the sinew. He tried to tell them, but they just didn’t understand. Yet return to life He did. Risen in a new body which they failed to recognised till he spoke their name, broke bread in thanksgiving, or said “Peace be with you.” He also taught them afresh about himself – as the Son of God, and of God His Father, and He spoke of the Holy Spirit, who would come to fire them up for their work in the days to come.

Tom Wright, who was the Bishop of Durham, has said that “there is little justification for being a Christian unless one accepts that the Resurrection is a matter of historical fact.” In his TV programme ‘Resurrection’, he took an historical journey to the places where Jesus lived and died, in an attempt to build up a picture of what really happened in Jerusalem some 2000 years ago. He showed that the cross was not the end – NO, that was just the beginning.

The Resurrection that followed was an event of cataclysmic proportions which changed the way mankind viewed life and death for ever. The resurrection rejuvenated the grieving disciples. It galvanised the young Church which spread the Gospel through the eastern world like wildfire. It gave a faith in Jesus Christ by which, men and women were prepared to live their lives, and if – as was sometimes necessary – a faith to die for.

This is our faith, and yet we too sometimes doubt just like Thomas. He was able to see and feel the wounds inflicted on Jesus, and we can’t. We can’t prove there is a God in any scientific way, yet we can prove that Christ did live, that he was crucified unjustly for our sins, and that he did rise again. And Jesus tells us through his disciples and scriptures, that if we have seen Him, (or know Him as our personal saviour) then we have seen and know God the Father. And so we can believe with our minds and have faith, but we also need to trust with our hearts and reach out for His ever forgiving love.

He said, “Peace be with you.” So cast your doubts away, Jesus lives, Hallelujah!

Holy Week and Easter 2019

Maundy Thursday

The church was arranged in “café style” for our Agape meal of roast lamb with unleavened bread followed by baklava and fresh fruit.

The food was then cleared away in preparation for the more solemn meal of the Eucharist.

Ready for the Eucharist

After the meal there was a watch of prayer until midnight

Watch of prayer

Good Friday

In the morning there was a Children’s Workshop, following the story of Holy Week…

In the afternoon, members of our Lent Group shared reflections from the book “The Nail” by Bishop Stephen Cottrell. These were followed by the Liturgy of the Day.

Holy Saturday

Time for the flower arrangers to “spring” into action!

We listened to the final chapters from “The Nail” before saying Compline together.

Easter Day

We gathered outside the church before dawn. A fire was lit and blessed. The Paschal Candle was blessed and the “cruel nails” inserted. It was lit from the fire and carried into the church in a cloud of incense- “The Light of Christ”. The congregation followed, each carrying a votive candle. Canon Veronica sang the “Exsultet”, and then we listened to the biblical stories from creation through to the events of Holy Week, all read by candle light. Then following the Gospel reading, “Christ is Risen – He is risen indeed!”. The lights were switched on and everyone made “a joyful noise” on various instruments.

Following the First Eucharist of Easter, we enjoyed a shower of mini Easter Eggs and a glass of “Buck’s Fizz.”

At the 10.30am Family Communion Service we welcomed Megan and Maisie for their Christening and shared a special cake afterwards to celebrate the Vicar’s 25th Anniversary of Ordination to the Priesthood.

2nd Sunday of Easter 2018

Canon Roy Arnold

In the evening of that same day, the first day of the week, the doors were closed in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood among them. He said to them, ‘Peace be with you’, and showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord, and he said to them again, ‘Peace be with you’.


Bollington, we believe, came into being in Anglo-Saxon times, as did the small word “if” – a word that can convey many meanings, not least to do with doubt. As in “If it’s nice next Sunday we will go for a picnic” or “If I pick the winner of the Grand National I will take you out for a meal”.

But if we add the word “only” – as in “If only” – it changes from doubt to regret. So if only I hadn’t fallen down nine stone steps at the Bull’s Head in March 2017, I wouldn’t still be on crutches, and Hylda and I wouldn’t have experienced one of the worst years of our lives.

But accidents apart, the words “If only” can express other types of regret, as in “If only I hadn’t quarrelled with my brother” or “If only I had written that letter”. If you think about it, we might count those “If only” moments as sins – things done wrong or things not done right; things that can spoil our personal lives, or the life of the whole world.

Which is where Easter, and Jesus the Son of God enters through our locked doors, comes in and says “Peace be with you” as he said to the Apostles – Well, all but two of them – Judas and Thomas, the Thomas whose day we keep today. He had not been there when Jesus spoke those words of peace. Perhaps he had been experiencing one of those “If only” moments. If only it could be true about Jesus being raised from the dead. if only.

But then, so we are told, it really was true. Jesus had risen from the dead – as Thomas found out when he touched the wounds in the hands of Jesus. Then the doubts of Thomas disappeared – as they can for me and you if we can believe that Jesus does take away all our regretful “Ifs” and know ourselves to be forgiven through the love of God. And find ourselves in the middle of a Special Offer for Easter – two for one – not only our sins forgiven, but (as well) the hope of heaven, in the closer presence of God, and of those whom we have loved and lost a while.

Thomas was given the proof for which he craved when he met the risen Jesus. But for the time being, we must walk by the light of faith and with all our “Ifs” and “Buts” through our nights and days of doubt or joy. Onwards let us go, singing songs of expectation, marching to the promised land;
letting the love of Jesus fill us,
the joy of Jesus surprise us,
the peace of Jesus flood us,
the light of Jesus transform us,
the touch of Jesus warm us.

O Saviour Jesus, forgive us,
and in your wounds, heal us.
and in your risen life, take us with you,
to stay with us, and us with You.

Amen

Easter 2017

Before dawn, a small group gathered at the entrance to the Church.
The new fire of Easter was kindled in a brazier.
The Light of Christ was proclaimed as the lit Paschal Candle was brought into the dark Church.

The Exsultet was sung; a call to celebrate the transforming Easter event of 2000 years ago:

Rejoice, heavenly powers!
Sing, choirs of angels!
Exult all creation around God’s throne!
Jesus Christ, our King, is risen!
Sound the trumpet of salvation!
Rejoice, O earth, in shining splendour,
radiant in the brightness of your King!
Christ has conquered! Glory fill you! Darkness vanishes for ever!
Rejoice, O Mother Church! Exult in glory!
The risen Saviour shines upon you!
Let this place resound with joy.

By candlelight, we listened to familiar bible stories of Creation, of Noah, of Moses leading the Israelites across the Red Sea…

Finally in the light of dawn, the Gospel of St John was proclaimed.
Everyone was given a bell or other musical instrument to make a joyful noise accompanied by an organ fanfare echoing the mighty song of all God’s people:

Christ is risen – he is risen indeed! Alleluia

[After the Eucharist we enjoyed showers of chocolate eggs and a glass of Buck’s Fizz in a haze of incense!]