Saturday, 26 April 2014

doubting Thomas?


Some sermon thoughts...

Poor Thomas.
Much-maligned Thomas.
Doubt for one little minute and they
never
let
you
forget.
Poor Thomas: forever typecast as the one who really just doesn't cut the mustard when it comes to faith.
Thomas: the one you're told *not* to be like -
in Sunday School,
or youth group,
or even from the pulpit:
'don't be a doubter, like Thomas!'
Poor, poor Thomas:
here's a man who's gone through nigh-on 2 000 years of suffering from a persistent image problem.
It's high time we rescued Thomas, the disciple who draws the short straw, who gets a raw deal, because let's be blunt: he was not the only follower of Jesus who doubted on that Resurrection day.

According to the Gospel of Luke, when Mary Mag returns from the garden after her meeting with the resurrected Jesus the disciples dismiss the news as 'nonsense'.  They hunker down in the upper room, lying low, with the doors firmly locked in a room stinking of fear.
But the locked doors are not impenetrable: they 'cannot keep out God's grace...neither the doors nor fear can prevent the risen Christ's coming to his disciples.  They may be able to lock others out, but they cannot lock him out.' [Feasting on the Word, yr A, Vol. 2, 399]
There, in that fear-filled room, Jesus stands among them bringing words of peace, embodying resurrection's promise.  They see his pierced hands, his side, and immediately upon seeing, are filled with joy.
Now, now, they believe...after they've seen.
Not unlike Thomas....
It is not unreasonable, then, that Thomas wants to see Jesus, after all, the rest of them have.
I think the silence regarding the reaction of the disciples is telling:
no laughter,
no mocking,
no exasperation,
no judgement...
just silence.
It appears that over the course of history, the judgement on Thomas as a 'doubter' has been left for others to make.

But what is it they believe, I wonder, these 10 out of 11 disciples?
For having seen the risen Lord, a whole week later, there they are, still hunkered down in that room, with the doors still firmly locked...
These guys are not in a hurry to go anywhere, even though Jesus had indicated that as the Father had sent him, so he was sending them out into the world.

Again Jesus appears.
Again, he offers words of peace.
And then, he turns to Thomas, and gives to him what has already been given to the others:
Thomas sees, is invited to look, to feel the nail marks, the wounded side.
But unlike the rest of the disciples, Thomas sees beyond the physical.
He sees with the eyes of faith.
Unlike the rest of the disciples, Thomas gets it.
This is something different, something other.
Is he perhaps remembering a conversation from the past - this in John 14 - 'now you have known me, you will know my Father also, and from now on you do know him and you have seen him'?

In front of our eyes, as we read the text, we see Thomas have a kind of 'aha!' moment.
And it causes him to utter that great statement of faith that the other disciples have not yet made - because they've not yet clicked:
'my Lord... and my God!'
While for centuries Thomas has been called out for not having enough faith because he 'needed' to see Jesus, I wonder...in the end, is it Thomas out of all of those gathered, who has the greatest faith?
While he does indeed see Jesus with his own eyes, he also sees with his mind, his heart, his faith:
to see Jesus...is to see God.
To say 'my Lord and my God' is not just a statement of faith, it is an expression of worship.

Perhaps it is less a case of Thomas doubting, and more a case of us doubting Thomas...

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