Given by the Reverend Lesley McCreadie at the 9.30 Eucharist on 11 April 2021
I have often wondered if Jesus had been standing outside the door to the upper room before surprising the disciples and entering. If so, I wonder what conversation he might have overheard going on between his followers. Some might still have been questioning the women, especially Mary, as to whether she had really seen Jesus; after all, at first, she had thought she had been speaking to the gardener. Was she sure it was him or was it just wishful thinking? I am sure some were beginning to have second thoughts, doubts even. Faith is like that sometimes. We are absolutely certain of something and then over a period of time doubts start to creep in and we begin to question.
Was this why Jesus surprised his disciples? Did he know that they would be wavering in their faith? It is worth remembering that they were anxious too for their own safety. The authorities would surely be looking for them to question them about the disappearance of Jesus’ body. What did they know? Where were they hiding him? Had they taken his body and reburied it somewhere else, and so it just seemed as though he had risen from the dead? It is into this setting that Jesus suddenly appears; and his first word to them was ‘shalom’- peace -be still, be calm, it is only me. There was no rejoicing until Jesus showed them his hands and his side. It was certainly a long way away from the celebrations of Easter that we have experienced here in The Abbey with shouts and cries and bells and saucepans being banged as the Easter light is received.
Thomas of course missed this meeting with Jesus. How cross he was I am sure, to arrive back and find a buzz going around the room and all his friends telling him that Jesus had been there with them. And yes, it was true he really had risen from the dead. Even a week later Thomas had not been convinced, despite all that Jesus’ followers had told him. It acts as a reminder to us all that just because Thomas had not seen Jesus, didn’t mean that he had not risen. And likewise, when we are not aware of God’s presence, it does not mean that God is absent. And when we do not meet as a church it does not mean that the church is not here or that God has gone from us. On the contrary, I think our Covid experience has taught us that God is very much with us and that the church has been active in ways not seen before.
I wonder how long it took you believe, or to come to faith, as some describe it. Personally, I cannot remember not believing, but certainly my childish belief is very different from my faith today in many ways. I like to think it is more sophisticated and profound but at one level it is still the same. To say I believe at the age of 10 is not so different from saying the same today. For others coming to belief has been a long journey, gradually revealed until there is no other choice other than to believe. For others again, there may have been a Damascus experience; a sudden revelation that left you with no other choice other than to believe and for others again it may be a combination of all of these. There is no hierarchy about belief. No person’s belief is better or worse than another’s when we can all say ‘Jesus is Lord’.
Poor Thomas had to wait a whole week before he finally got to meet with Jesus and to do what he had wanted to do; put his hands into the marks made by the nails and the spear. This intimate action allows him then to utter profoundly ‘My Lord and my God’. His faith had now not only revealed to him the resurrection but actually the whole personality of who Jesus was – God. I often think Thomas gets a bit of a raw deal; known for ever more as ‘the doubter’, and yet there are so many ways he is like all of us, particularly in this age of requiring ‘proof’ to believe anything. The onslaught the Christian faith has experienced from some in the world of science has caused many to doubt to seek for proof. And yet very often the only proof we find is in the work of others. In the love shown to the unlovely, the destitute those in pain and those who suffer.
As we look at this gospel cameo, I wonder how many of us harbour doubts at times and yet we come back again and again and we find ourselves standing with Thomas saying with real conviction ‘My Lord and my God’. We are an Easter people and we know, we know, that Christ is risen and that makes all things new; that transforms our lives and gives us the power and strength to carry the gospel message with us wherever we go. The same power which so emboldened the disciples. Alleluia Christ is risen! He is risen indeed Alleluia!