Well here we are a week after Easter day. I wonder what Easter means to you? Are you someone who has difficulty with believing in Jesus having a physical bodily Resurrection? Do you think those early apostles did have an experience of the risen Jesus but that it was a psychological one. Do you believe, as it says in the Creed we will shortly be reciting that “ that he descended to the dead and on the third day he rose again”.
Whatever our degree of belief or disbelieve there is probably part of us that resonates with Thomas. He was not with the disciples on Easter Day and when he saw them they told him that they had seen the Lord. Thomas, the realist says “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were and put my hand into his side, I will not believe”.
We talk about doubting Thomas but it would be more accurate to talk about conditional Thomas, Unless I see ........if I see.....then I will believe. At different times we have all heard people say and perhaps we ourselves have said, if God grants my prayer then I will believe there is a God. If there was historical proof ... then I would believe. If Jesus would cure such and such of their cancer then I would believe. Unless .. if such and such happens then I will make a commitment of faith. We are the ones putting down the conditions, wanting God to produce whatever proof we think is necessary.
We know what we would think if our nearest and dearest said if you do such and such for me then I will love you. Love doesn’t work that way. It is not love, if the basis is what can I get out of this relationship for me. Love is a mutual two way process where each loves and truly cares for the other. At various times in the Gospels we have people saying to Jesus “ If you are who you say you are prove it.” ! On Good Friday we have some of the bystanders and the priests taunting Jesus as he hung on the cross with “If you are the Son of God come down from the cross”. Earlier at the start of his ministry at the temptations in the wilderness we have the devil saying to him twice if you are the Son of God .....Remember in the parable of Lazarus and Dives when Lazarus in torment in Hades asks Moses to send Dives back to his brothers to warn them and Moses replies that they wouldn’t believe even if someone went back to them from the dead.
Belief, faith and trust are not about proof but we are lead to them usually gradually by experience. Thomas had returned to hear the others say that they had seen Jesus alive. Maybe Thomas thought the news too good to be true, how could it be? He was going to need some proof. We don’t know why Thomas was absent the first time Jesus appeared. It could have been that he was heartbroken about what had happened and needed to be alone with his grief. So often we are like that when we are in dark times of despair and disillusionment and maybe fear. We are so down we can’t see the glimmer of light of hope. So often we can find ourselves hiding as it were behind locked doors, of our own making. The temptation can be for us to let fear and uncertainty control our lives. A great grief or disappointment can lead people to shut themselves off from others and particularly from God.
Jesus comes and stands among them and says “Peace be with you”. Our translation lacks the full meaning of this greeting. The word Shalom, carries with it the national sense of hope that one day God’s order of peace and wholeness would come on earth and humankind would live together in harmony. Jesus comes and says Peace. He has come not just through the physical locked doors of the place where they were gathered, but thorough the locked doors of their paralyzed and fearful hearts and minds. Jesus presence was the sign of the new order of victory over death. He calls Thomas to come and touch the wounds on his hands and in his side. Thomas no longer needs to but makes the strongest statement of belief in the Gospel, “My Lord and my God”. Thomas calls Jesus God and worships him. Thomas believes that Jesus is God. Jesus replies “Because you have seen me you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen yet have believed”. That is us.
Bishop Stephen Verney wrote in his book “Water into Wine”: “But if we have come to faith then we know that faith in his resurrection lies beyond our faith that the tomb was empty, or that Jesus stood in his material body amongst his disciples. These mysterious events, in which earth and heaven interact, are stepping stones across the river of death, and if we cling to the stepping stones we will never get across the river. But happy are those, says Jesus, who have come to faith in me, for they already know that I am the Resurrection, and they have already entered into eternal life”.
So this Easter season, how can we let Jesus, the Lord of life bring more fullness of life and love into our lives. How can we let God’s love open us up and unlock our fears. How can we as the faith community here in Walton in Gordano be God’s people ? When people come to our Services, when people meet us do they experience something of the risen Christ in our midst. God calls us to be his people, his Easter people. The good news of Christ’s victory over death is not just for us but for all people. Jesus calls his disciples, his body the Church, us to make the good news known. We don’t have to go about preaching. Actions speak louder than words and it is as others experience us, as people who genuinely care and are concerned and respectful of others that they will be able to get a glimpse of the living Lord whom we serve. We seek to become people of peace in that wider way, praying in this and every Eucharist that God will fill us with his grace to do his will and bring in his kingdom here on earth in our lives.