Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Sermon on Thomas

Last Sunday I was at St Peter's Pedmore and I preached on the appearance of Christ to Thomas:

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.
John 20:19-31
I focussed on the idea of seeing is believing, picking up on the idea of there being many things we see which are not true (the amazing things peopel can do with airbrusing photos and film) and things which we can't see but which we know are true - electricity, magnetism, dark matter etc.

I got the congregation making windmills out of pipe cleaners, some beads and a little template I knocked up which had the words "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe" on. I said that people can't have God proven to them and they can't see God but they can see God working through people if people allow the Holy Spirit to move them. I challenged them therefore to be like the windmill - to be a visible sign of God working in the world.

One of the funny things about preaching is that often you come out with something in the middle of a sermon which you hadn't been expecting to say. I had that on Sunday. I had a teeny idea about covering the fact that many people have doubts but I took up the theme of contrasting this with the coomunity of faith. I said that we gather in such communities so that they are always communities of faith. Even if we have our own doubts that day, the community of faith still has faith and so we are still within that community of the faithful. I assured the people that ALL CHRISTIANS have doubts at some point, using the example of Mother Theresa and this wonderful quotation from Archbishop Desmond Tutu on the revelation that Mother Theresa had doubts:

“Mother Teresa wonderfully was no plaster cast saint. She has helped to affirm many who are passing through this period of desolation and dryness when God seems so remote. St Theresa of Avila after one such bout cried out in frustration to God, ’No wonder your friends are so few given how you treat them!’ My regard for Mother Teresa has been enhanced. Doubt can be an integral part of faith, when the evidence is never so overwhelming, so incontrovertible. St Thomas is our patron Saint for doubters. We live by faith not by sight and frequently the evidence does not make the leap of faith redundant.”

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