Pictures which illustrate the lives of Saints (with a capital S) almost always show those Saints with halos which seem already to be part of them, as if they were born with them.
We can forget that they were ordinary people like you and me – human beings, with strengths and weaknesses, successes and failures.
That capital S and the halo can hide the fact that we are all saints. The early Christian church referred to all believers in Christ as saints.
Paul says “you are citizens with the saints, members of the household of God”. We belong to the great company of saints in heaven and on earth; past, present and future.
And Paul says that together we form a spiritual dwelling-place for God.
But some Saints do have a capital S to go with their halos. Paul talks about the spiritual dwelling-place being built upon the foundations of the apostles – the earliest believers who walked the road of faith when it was very new and the way hazardous and uncertain.
And Saint Thomas belongs with those apostles complete with capital S and halo but how does he and all these Saints, with a capital S or not, fit into our journey of faith?
Perhaps, like me, you’re not comfortable with the idea of praying to the Saints.
But we ask saints in this church to pray for us or with us about a problem or situation we’re finding difficult.
So perhaps we can (and maybe already do) ask the saints who have gone before us also to pray for us and with us in God’s eternal kingdom.
We might especially ask the saints who we feel would understand us best because they’ve been in similar situations.
In preparing for this morning I collected a lot of notes and came up with enough ideas and thoughts for a one hour sermon. You’ll be glad to hear I’ve decided to keep it simple and just focus on the story we heard in our Gospel reading.
It’s the best known story about Thomas and as I read the story again I find a very human, ordinary man in extraordinary circumstances and in an encounter with the divine presence of God.
It seems to me that there are many ways in which Thomas would understand some of the things we experience in life and perhaps his story can teach us something more about our journey.
On that first Easter evening Jesus came to his disciples, greeted them, showed them his wounds and breathed into them the Holy Spirit.
That’s powerful stuff but Thomas wasn’t there. He missed out on it all.
We don’t know where Thomas was – but I suspect he may have felt that Jesus had deliberately waited until he was out of the way before appearing to the others.
I think Thomas probably felt a lot of anger and a very deep and painful hurt, that his inner demons were telling him he was unwanted, rejected and neglected, he felt the pain of loneliness.
We might recognise those inner demons and those hurts.
In his hurt and anger, in his struggle with inner demons, Thomas insists “I WILL not believe” – whatever you say, I won’t believe you not unless I can see and touch the evidence myself.
I think Thomas wants to believe but it sounds too good to be true and he daren’t take that step of faith whatever the other ten say.
Isn’t that also a very human reaction?
There are some things that we can believe or not believe and it won’t make any difference to our lives.
But think of the scale of what Thomas is being asked to believe. A man who he saw being arrested, a man who was tortured and who he knows died on the cross is no longer dead – he’s alive in a new way.
And think of the scale of some of the things we’re asked to believe:
Click … click … click – three children in Africa have just died in poverty.
Sometimes it matters very much what we believe because it will have huge implications for our lives and for the lives of others.
Thomas wants certainty before he risks so much of himself in such a huge step of faith.
What is it we want in our rich nations before we take the risk of making poverty history?
And how does God respond to Thomas?
Well, I see God meeting Thomas where he is and as he is and offering him the certainty he wanted – the sight and touch of Jesus and his wounds.
Thomas is not being rewarded for believing, but in his unbelief God has come to him and touched him to heal the pain in his heart.
And I believe that when we most need him, when our longing for certainty or guidance or comfort is at its strongest, God meets us where we are and as we are in ways that we might not expect and through people who don’t look anything like Jesus!
It may not even seem obvious at the time that God has met us but I have come to believe that He does meet us, often going unrecognised at the time but undeniably present when we look back from a distance.
I believe that he meets each one of us personally, reaching out to speak to us and touch us as individuals: perhaps through music, art, nature or our intellects.
And I believe that God is with the children in Africa who will die today. He needs us to meet their needs.
We don’t know if Thomas actually touched the wounds of Jesus. I suspect he didn’t need to.
And I don’t think we need to go to Africa ourselves and hold the dying children to believe that the world must act to stop many more thousands of needless deaths.
We can learn much from Thomas and he can be a compassionate and inspiring companion for us on the journey.
I’m sure that he would pray with us and for us when we’re hurting, grieving and lonely; when our inner demons tell us we’re unwanted and unloved and when we need certainty in our lives before we can move forward.
I believe Thomas rejoices when we recognise again that Jesus is Lord and when we step out in new faith to take to others the good news that we have received from Thomas himself and all the saints with or without a capital S.
Let us pray:
Lord Jesus, you came to meet Thomas when he needed your presence to bring him to faith in you as Lord and God.
Come to meet each one of us here this morning;
speak to us in ways we can understand;
reassure us of your presence when we feel alone and afraid
and be with us as we walk our journey of faith in the company of St Thomas, (St Andrew) and all your saints in heaven and on earth.