Sunday, July 03, 2005

Without a shadow of a doubt

This was what I wrote for my sermon this morning. However I never actually read them out as I find I make much more sense if I simply talk rather than read and the original text is never what comes out.

Visual aids included a hairdryer, some of those handheld windmill things and an inflatable cube.

We had the story of Thomas today. Thomas didn't believe it when his friends told him that they had seen Jesus.

Imagine if someone said to you that yesterday there was a TEN HOUR concert and 9 concerts in total with BILLIONS of people watching it? If you'd not seen nything about the Live8 concerts you might not believe that.

Some people will tell you that I once launched a large inflatable into this church.

Would you believe them?

Do you think that I would have been ALLOWED to send a big bouncey cube to float about during the service? Sounds rather strange.

Well it’s true I really did.

But you don’t always believe things people tell you.

Just like Thomas in our reading this morning sometimes we feel we have to see them for ourselves.

Thomas had been away when all his friends had seen something amazing. Something so WONDERFUL the best thing they could possibly imagine. Their friend was not dead but alive. The hope they had put in Jesus was justified.

Thomas would have wanted to believe that but just imagine it. What one thing would you REALLY want to happen. If someone told you it had happened – wouldn’t part of you not really believe it? Would you believe it though if you hadn’t seen it for yourself?

Thomas said he wouldn’t. He said he needed not only to SEE Jesus alive again but to touch his wounds to prove he wasn’t a ghost a trick or some other person who just looked a lot like him.

Then of course Thomas DID see Jesus and what was his response. He saw JESUS. A man who had died and who was alive again. Not just any man. A special man. Unique no-one had ever been like Jesus before. Seeing this amazing man back from the dead Thomas KNOWS that he is really something special. He KNOWS how special as he says to Jesus

My Lord and my God

This is a fantastic statement. FINALLY one of the disciples has really got it. Jesus isn’t just another preacher. He’s far more than that.

Yet Jesus isn’t as pleased as u might think he would be. He says to Thomas

"Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe."

Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe."

Who is Jesus talking about there?

Who but us? Pope Gregory the Great who lived 1400 years ago cherished this passage of the bible because it spoke directly about those of us who believe in Jesus without having seen him. Gregory lived 600 years after Jesus and we live 2000 years after Jesus but that passage can still speak about us.

"Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe."

Well they say that seeing is believing

We believe in lots of things because we can see them. Yet that’s not really BELIEF it’s not faith.

In our modern world, so often, things are not always what they seem computers can now do amazing things with film and pictures to create things that have never really happened.

But believing isn’t always about seeing.

Can we believe in things that we don’t see? Can we believe the things that are said in the bible when we didn’t see them ourselves?

Well there are many things that we believe in that we can’t see

We can’t see electricity and yet we KNOW that it’s there.

We can’t see air but it’s clearly around us

It’s the same with heat or the power of a magnet

Someone told me we can’t see Dark Matter and yet apparently it’s what makes up most of the universe.

Well there are many things that we believe in that we can’t see as such but we can see their effect.

So you can’t see electricity but you know that there is electricity running through this cable when it makes this hairdryer blow

And you know the air is there because you can see it make the windmill turn.

There are much bigger things too.

We can’t see LOVE but we know it’s there by the effect it has.

We cannot see Jesus. Thomas had not seen Jesus but he could have SEEN the effect Jesus had had on the other disciples and WE can see the effect Jesus has on the lives of others.

Whenever somebody challenges me to PROVE that God exists I say I can’t and I won’t. God IS THERE. I know it. I believe it. I don’t think it’s a matter of PROOF. But I see God’s effect on my life

There are many people in this world who will tell you about Jesus and the amazing thing he did – the fact that he died for us and rose again from the dead to put an end to death.

None of those people has seen Thomas but each of them was told it by someone else and each of them has seen the effect that Jesus had on their lives and the lives of others.

Just as the electricity is the power we can’t see, and the air it sets moving is something we can’t see, so God is an unseen power in our lives but God’s effect is very visible.

The disciples and Thomas SAW Jesus and the effect that had on their lives was great enough that hundreds of people followed them while they were alive and NOW millions of people believe in Jesus’ message because of those first disciples.

What is that message of Jesus? Well I think it is summed up pretty well in what Paul wrote to those people in Ephesus

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God,

This is the amazing truth that YOU are loved and accepted just as you are. There’s no need to wear the right clothes, drive a particular sort of car, listen to certain kinds of music. God loves you and it’s that LOVE that you can see in the lives of people who are active Christians.

And how did all those people become Christians? Well it was like I said and as Paul says
you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.

It is an amazing message. I think it is the best news in the world. It’s not just the good news It’s the best news.

It doesn’t end there though.

Just as you are loved by God so is everyone else in this church, in this town in this country in this whole world.

As Paul says about Jesus
In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.
Being loved by God isn’t the end of the message of Jesus but only the beginning. It demands a response from us. If someone says to you “I love you” you don’t just say “oh that’s nice” It effects you. It has an impact on the way you are and on your relationship with that person. You might do things that person wants you to do.

Because God loves us we become people who show God’s love to others together the church is what Paul calls the dwelling place for God.

In sending his son to die on a cross and to come back to life again. God was telling us he loved us. That was the wonderful news Thomas couldn’t quite believe without seeing the proof. So because God tells us that He loves us, we should build our relationship with him. We should talk to him and we should listen to him. Just like Habbakuk we need to listen for God’s call to us:

I will stand at my watchpost, and station myself on the rampart; I will keep watch to see what he will say to me, and what he will answer concerning my complaint

What does God say to us? To all those people who he loves? What does he say to you? I think his call to all of us is to remember that God loves every person on this earth. God loves the people who watched Live8 yesterday. God loves the people in Africa who are in poverty. God loves the people who can make a difference about that and God loves each of you. You are people who can make a difference and God can show you how. You just need to listen.

In response to what he saw when he met the risen Jesus, Thomas is said to have traveled through many countries taking the message of Jesus with him. What will you do to show this unseen God to other people?

Not just each of us as individuals but as a church what will we do to become that dwelling place of God?
We too need to pass on that message that Thomas passed down to so many who passed the message on. So that we can truly say
"Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe."


Mitsuko said...

that is a great sermon. i would have loved to have heard it :)

Mark said...

Hey, I mentioned Gregory in mine too :-) but in a slightly different context! I was talking about recieved wisdom and how Thomas a) has a bad rep, even though the real picture we get of him from the three stories in John (Lazarus, The way, truth and life question and here) - they show him as a brave man (where was he when the others were hiding in the locked room? Getting the shopping in!)who was also prepared to ask questions (brave and vulnerable) so I also metioned Mary M, whose reputation as a prostitute in our cultural knowledge was cemented by Gregory (even though there is no Biblical connection) and only recanted in 1969 by the vatican.