When Jesus appeared, he said "Peace be with you." Let us take hold of his peace today and share it with each other.
(The children could be encouraged to share the Peace at this point)
Invitation to Confession:
Jesus, sometimes we don't bother to think about you.
Lord, have mercy.
Jesus, sometimes we we get things wrong.
Christ, have mercy.
Jesus, sometimes we find it difficult to believe.
Lord, have mercy.
When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you."  After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.  Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you."  When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."  But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them 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.
When children reach High School age, they begin to disappear from the church, partly because there's so much to do on a Sunday and partly because they begin to think for themselves. This is the position Tom found himself in when he reached the age of eleven.
"Do you believe in God the Father?" asked the Vicar.
"We believe in God the Father Almighty..." responded the congregation. Well, most of the congregation. All the congregation except Tom. Tom refused to answer, because he wasn't sure what he believed and he didn't much care anyway. Tom thought all this God stuff was really boring.
Tom used to believe in God, when he was young. But now he'd turned eleven and he was beginning to think for himself. He was quite sure that he'd rather be playing football than sitting in church, and he was also sure that as soon as he was old enough to escape, he was going to refuse to attend church ever again. What was the point of sitting there saying things you didn't believe and being bored out of your mind?
When the vicar said, "Do you believe in Jesus Christ...", Tom had his answer ready because he knew what was coming, all that stuff about "...suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again..."
"No," said Tom.
The vicar blinked and swallowed, and ignored Tom.
Tom sat down.
When the vicar said, "Do you believe in the Holy Spirit...?" Tom almost shouted, "No!"
"Really?" said a voice. Tom frowned and looked round.
"Yes, really," he said loudly.
"Tom, would you prefer to be outside while we finish the service?" asked the vicar, in quite a kindly way.
Tom nodded vigorously and shot outside.
"How do you know?" said a voice.
Tom looked round again. He was sure nobody had come out of church with him, and he couldn't see anyone at all. Maybe one of his friends had sneaked out and was hiding. Tom decided to play along.
"How do I know what?" he asked.
"Whether or not you believe in God?"
Tom laughed. "Don't be stupid! I know what I believe! It's for kids, all that stuff. I grew out of it when I grew out of nursery rhymes and fairy tales."
"Oh," said the voice, and paused. Then it added, "But there are lots of adults in church. How come you've grown out of it and they haven't?"
Tom tossed his head. "They're just old. When you get old, I 'spose you have to have something to believe in - like little kids, really. But you don't see any young people in church. We're the important ones, because we're the future. But we've got more sense than to believe things like the resurrection."
"Oh!" said the voice again. This time it was quiet for so long that Tom thought perhaps the game was over.
But then it spoke again. "So who are you talking to, now?"
Tom scratched his head and glanced furtively around, but he still couldn't see anyone. "Well - you, of course! But since you're hiding, I can't see who you are or where you are."
"Hmm," said the voice, "perhaps I'm Jesus."
"Oh yes!" retorted Tom, "and perhaps I'm David Beckham!"
"But how do you know?" persisted the voice. "You can't see me or touch me, so how do you know I'm not Jesus?"
"Because I can hear you speaking to me quite clearly," said Tom, "and Jesus died two thousand years ago, so you can't be Jesus."
"Are you sure?" said the voice. "Because if I came back to life again, it follows that I've been alive ever since. And if I've been alive ever since, what's to prevent me talking to anyone I like?"
"But - but - " stammered Tom, "you can't be! I can hear you so clearly."
"Are you sure?" repeated the voice.
And Tom found that he wasn't sure. He wondered whether perhaps the voice was in his mind, even though it was so clear. Then he remembered the almost-forgotten story of Samuel, whom God had called even though he was just a child.
Like Samuel, Tom suddenly blurted out, "Speak Lord, for your servant hears you!"
And the voice said, "Good. It's about time - I've been speaking to you for eleven years now and you've only just heard me!. Still, never mind about that now. Welcome home, Tom. Follow me, for when you're a little older I'll have a very important job for you to do."
Tom slipped back into church with his heart thumping and sat quietly in the back row. Suddenly everything sounded different. As Tom began to concentrate on the words he felt a new peace fill his heart. Now he'd spoken with Jesus, it wasn't boring at all, in fact it was really exciting. Tom knew now that he did believe, and that he'd follow Jesus for the rest of his life.
A number of mobile phones on different networks (the children could bring their own).
If you can, arrange beforehand for someone to ring the various phone numbers and speak to whoever is on the other end of the phone. Hopefully some conversations will be clear, others distorted and broken. Ask the children why some conversations aren't clear. They may blame the network, or it may be that the walls of the church are too thick to allow a clear signal, or the battery may be down, or the phone may be busy.
Since unlike Thomas we can't touch Jesus any more, ask the children how we might know that Jesus is alive today? How might we hear God speaking to us today? Sometimes our lives are too busy and we have no quiet time to meet with God. Sometimes the signals aren't clear, especially if we have something on our conscience. Sometimes the defensive walls we build around us are too thick. And sometimes our spiritual battery has run down.
Diary Time: For details, click here.
The children might like to write down or draw any experience of God they have had. This might be very simple, like an answer to prayer, or a more profound experience when they somehow felt the presence of God. Some might feel that Jesus is very much their friend, and they can talk to him at any time.
Risen Lord, help us to put aside a few minutes every day just to meet with you. Help us to quieten our hearts and minds, so that your signal can come through and we can hear your voice.
Risen Lord, be with all those who refuse to believe in you. Help them to tune into your voice and follow your guidance even if they don't realise they're following you. We pray especially for the leaders of the world, that they might hear you speak to them and work to bring about your reign in our world.
Risen Lord, be with those who are sad or sick or in trouble. May they know that you understand and accept them and that you are waiting to pour your love into them. May they open their hearts and minds and souls to receive your healing deep within their being.
Risen Lord, fill our church and our community with your presence. May we be overflowing with your Holy Spirit and may our excitement be infectious. Help all who come into contact with us to catch a glimpse of you and all that you do for us.
May God help you
in your struggle to understand,
in your ability to hear his voice,
in your efforts to follow him.
And the blessing of God almighty,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
be with you now,
be in your homes and in your families
and with all those whom you love
and for whom you pray,
now and always.