“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe” (John 20.29b)
It’s as if night has suddenly fallen and the church is dark, visibility low. In the gloom a man makes his way to the front and stands facing us. What until now has been an ordinary Sunday morning service is becoming anything but ordinary.
Daylight returns. The stranger speaks. “My name is Thomas and I’m here to tell you my story”. We look at each other in consternation. Who did he say he is? Where has he come from? Thomas? – Thomas who?
“Yes, Thomas,” he continues, “Doubting Thomas; Thomas the Twin; Thomas, who said he’d go with Jesus even if it meant dying with him; Thomas, who needed hard evidence before he would believe Jesus was alive; that Thomas.”
We believe him and we listen to him, spellbound, as he does indeed tell us his story.
“We were afraid, so very afraid. We ran away; away from the soldiers, away from Jesus. We ran back to where a short time ago we’d shared our last meal together. We locked the doors and hid ourselves away, ashamed and terrified.
And there we stayed until that morning when Mary found us and told us about an open and empty tomb. Peter and John went rushing off. The rest of us stayed where we were, locked in, afraid. That was a long day. So much speculation, tension and still the fear.
Eventually I couldn’t stand it any longer. The streets might be dangerous but I had to get out of that room, away from the reminders of our last meal with him and the madness of thinking he’d come back to life.
When I went back the doors were still locked but they let me in, all talking at once: “We’ve seen him” they said, filled with some sort of supernatural energy.
I was stunned, as if a great boulder had knocked me off my feet, taking my breath away and shattering my sense of reality. Then came the anger – white hot, searing anger. Why did they have this experience and not me? They knew I’d be back – why didn’t they ask him to stay until I got there. Why did Jesus come when I wasn’t there. How dare he? Yes, even that thought flashed in my mind – how dare he exclude me?
My refusal to believe came from that anger and fear. I wasn’t going to believe unless I saw him, like the others did, and touched those wounds of crucifixion – why should I?
That was a long, long week. I was locked into my own mind, my own misery and fear. I locked out the pleadings of the others, the attempts to persuade me to believe, to eat or to drink. I locked them out as surely as we locked our doors against our enemies. I would not believe.
Then he appeared again, out of nowhere. I believed then. He looked straight at me and his eyes told me that I was loved and cared for, that I did belong and he still wanted me still to follow him. He offered me exactly the proof I’d demanded but I already knew within me the certainty I was longing for.
I heard my voice say, “My Lord and my God” and knew I had spoken the Truth.”
As Thomas finishes speaking we became aware of another Presence among us, a Presence as light and elusive as breath yet powerful and life-giving.
“My friends” says Thomas, “I believed because I saw Jesus alive after his death. I tell my story so that you may come to believe without having that experience yourselves. I tell my story so that you may see that our Lord and our God loves us and forgives our lack of belief, frees us from guilt and shame, heals the wounds of our hearts and minds and teaches us to forgive ourselves.
I’ve come to unlock tightly closed minds and hearts and to let in the breath of the Holy Spirit; I speak so that you too may come to believe fully that Jesus is the Son of God and to find new life in his name and in all its abundance.”
The church is suddenly full of blazing light radiating from that still elusive Presence – a light so bright we have to cover our eyes. And out of that light comes a new voice, clear and true, “Peace be with you” he says as the light fades and a gentle breeze touches our faces leaving behind it a fresh scent of new life.
Believing that the risen Christ is alongside us we pray to our loving Father trusting that he always hears us when we call upon him and responds with an open and loving heart.
We pray for today’s disciples of Jesus especially those whose faith is being tested almost beyond endurance and those who meet behind locked doors for fear of persecution, torture and death.
We pray for the peoples of this world especially those who long for peace, for freedom from oppression and for justice. We pray that the good news of resurrection, new life and salvation will reach into even the darkest places of suffering.
We pray for ourselves, our neighbours, our colleagues, families and friends that we may see the risen Christ in them and that they might see him in us.
We pray for those who are wounded, distressed, lonely or afraid especially those whose earthly lives are drawing to a close that they may know the healing presence and peace of Christ alongside them.
Heavenly Father we offer these prayers to you trusting that you hear us and answer us in your love and compassion. We pray that your will may be done in our lives and in the lives of all those for whom we pray and that you will show us what we need to do to bring your kingdom into our world. Amen.