So I have a sort of love/hate relationship with this reading. It lifts me up in so many ways, after all this is a great resurrection moment, but it also saddens me a little as there is still fear amongst the disciples even though they have been given wonderful news. Jesus is alive.
Text edited by Ian Wyllie from notes provided by Lay Minister Sally. We are starting to explore sharing talks in different ways in response to congregation requests. The way this happens will likely change as we gather more material. As delivered.
Of course the great opportunity for any preacher is to talk about the glaring in issue of doubt, and that is of course because Thomas is the disciple who has we gone call down in history with the dubious distinction as the doubter -‘Doubting Thomas’. Frankly I have always thought Thomas didn’t need to have this name stuck on him for ever, of course he doubted. But don’t we all?
This Sunday is called ‘low sunday,’ because congregations are usually poor today and there (are) not the same feelings as there was last week. Todays Gospel reading also feels a bit like arriving late for a party, when you seemed to have missed most of the fun. There is a real buzz around the place but when you arrive there isn’t the same excitement, something is missing. Thomas came late to the party.
He missed Easter by a week. All the others were in the upper room when Christ stood among them. He blessed them with Shalom (‘peace be with you’), commissioned them with His own ministry (‘as the Father has sent me, so send I you’), and equipped them with His abiding presence (‘receive the Holy Spirit’). They really had a party, but Thomas missed it because he wasn’t there.
Nobody knows where Thomas was. May be he was by himself caught up in shock and grief, wanting and needing to be alone. Or may be he was visiting the sick and imprisoned, clothing the naked and feeding the hungry. There is no way to know where he was, we are only told where he was not. Thomas was not locked up in fear with the other disciples in the upper room.
Our tendency is to berate Thomas for being absent. We berate him because there have been times when we have been late or absent and missed something important and that can hurt, it may even affect the rest of our life. We berate Thomas because he represents all those people we think we should be here, but aren’t. We berate him because when he was told about the resurrection he refused to believe it. We consider that incredible. Why wouldn’t he believe what the others told him? Of course Thomas was no different from the other ten apostles. When the women told them that Jesus was alive, they thought what the women said was nonsense and they did not believe them. Why don’t we berate the other ten? We know also very little about Thomas. Actually, we don’t even know his name. He is known by a characteristic. He was a twin. That is what Thomas means in Aramaic. So he identified simple as the twin.
As Thomas wasn’t present with the rest of the disciples when Jesus initially came among them after the resurrection, all he has to go on is the testimony of the others. And let’s face it, what they tell him is incredible. ‘We have seen the Lord’. So Thomas demands evidence. And, as (…) it turns out, he gets it. When Thomas finally encounters Jesus a week later, Jesus invites him to put his fingers in the holes in his hands and side, to touch him. But the reading never says that Thomas actually does that. Thomas just responds to the sight of Jesus’ wounds: “My Lord and my God.” We can imagine Thomas gazing at those wounds, and recognising in that moment the significance of Jesus.
All of the post resurrection stories in the gospels contain a moment of recognition. For Mary Magdalene it’s when Jesus calls her by name. For the disciples on the road to Emmaus it’s in the breaking of the bread. For Thomas it’s Jesus’ wounds. It’s the wounds that Thomas relates to. It’s the wounds that enable Thomas to recognise that it really is Jesus. They
are the identifying marks.
So now we are going to see a picture… This is the newest window in St John the Baptist up the road. The design on the window at St John the Baptis is very symbolic and represents the sacred hand of Jesus: the right hand of God (Dexter Mani Deus. It matches up to the handprint, medieval graffiti in the plaster on the doorframe of the church.
I would doubt that not one of s here today has gone through life without sustaining a wound or possibly a scar from an operation. I wonder when you first received your first significant physical wound? You probably don’t remember the cut knees, but you may remember falling of a bicycle,
climbing a wall or a mark on the flesh after an operation. We all have them. Scars, that is. Physical scars from falls taken, surgeries done, perhaps even abuse endured. Each of us knows where those wounds are. Maybe they are the most private badges we wear.
We all have other scars, too: emotional and spiritual scars, some buried very deep where no one can see, where we ourselves dare to peek only on our most courageous days. Scars of a hurtful relationship. Scars of childhood · Scars of a destructive spiritual upbringing. Scars of heartbreak. Scars of loss. Each one tells a story. Together they feed into the story of who we are. And what’s true of every individual is also true of whole communities. Over the past week there has been a lot of news about racial tension in the (United States) of America in the 1960’s. And many of us can certainly remember those days and in particular the shooting of Dr Martin Luther King a charismatic preacher famous for (among many others) his speech ‘I have a dream’ a dream of living together as one: black and white. But sadly there tension and division.
And take a church community. Take this one at All Saints. We have been through a lot in the last thirty years. Days we love to celebrate and love to remember with thankfulness and even joy. But there have also been challenging times, times when wounds of all sorts were born by this body, the church – still going on today: this week in fact.
(indeed) some of you are still nursing some of the wounds of conflict and division. But hop they are now healing through God’s power and love and grace, and through your strength and courage and grace we are walking together into the future of this church. But of course a wound that has healed does not mean the trauma that caused it is erased.
Indeed, the scar is a permanent mark of an event. But a healed wound does indicate that life goes on in a new way. Something about it changes us forever. It’s the scars that most make us like Jesus. It’s the scars that revealed to Thomas who Jesus really was. And it’s the scars that often reveal to others and ourselves who we really are, the life we’ve lived, the traumas we’ve endured, and the healing we’ve experienced.
The perfect page is the blank page. It’s pure and spotless without a mark on it. But because it’s blank, because it has no mark, it has no meaning. It’s only when someone writes on it-marks it with a pen or inkjet, or burns it with a laser printer, that meaning and significance emerge, that a story is told. Our scars are like that. At first we may not want to look at them and we turn away. first we may not want to look at them and we turn away. But when we allow them to help us make meaning of our lives, as
individuals and as a community, they become beautiful. “My Lord and my God,” Thomas says as he looks upon the marks on Jesus. And Jesus looks upon us, with all our wounds, and says, “My beloved.”
Perhaps we need to think more about our scars, especially our emotional ones and simply put them into the scarred hand of God for the healing he so longs for us. A time for reflection, reconciliation and realisation as we take our next step not he journey of faith.