Sermon for Easter 2 – 24.04.22

There are some phrases that when we hear them said bring to mind a certain game show host or film or TV character and I wonder if you can guess who I am thinking of when I share some of these with you.

There are some phrases that when we hear them said bring to mind a certain game show host or film or TV character and I wonder if you can guess who I am thinking of when I share some of these with you.

NB If you are reading this sermon online, then look at the end for the answers!

  1. “There’s no place like home!”
  2. “Ay Carumba!”
  3. “I tawt I taw a puddy tat”
  4. “Shut that door!”
  5. “I’ll be back!”
  6. “Nice to see you, to see you – nice!”

And similarly, there are some phrases in our scriptures that when we hear them, we immediately identify who said them,

7. “But how can this be since I am a virgin?”

8. “Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace”

9. “Let there be light!”

And today, in our gospel reading we hear someone utter a phrase that immediately puts us in mind of the speaker –

“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.”

Who do you think of? Of course – the disciple, Thomas!

That one sentence has left Thomas forever labelled Doubting Thomas.

That’s the Thomas with whom we are most familiar. But actually, I think there is another way of looking at Thomas and that’s the Thomas that wants to believe. That’s the Thomas Jesus appears to in today’s gospel.

This is a story about believing, not doubting. If it tells us anything it tells us that ‘resurrection’ is difficult to accept, to believe. It’s not just an idea or a fact to which we give agreement or assent. It is a whole new way of being.

If we’re not wrestling with what resurrection means, it’s place in our life, and how it manifests itself, then maybe it’s not actually that real for us.

Doubting Thomas may be the one that gets the label, but the other disciples also have difficulty believing. On the evening of the first day of the week, the day Jesus was resurrected, they are hiding.

God opened the tomb and they locked the doors. God emptied the tomb and they filled the house. Jesus appears to them in their locked room. He speaks to them. He breathes life into them. But a week later they are in the same place, behind the same locked doors. Nothing much has changed.

Despite how we’ve labelled him Thomas is not doubting. He is simply struggling with how to believe and what to believe in. He wants to see and touch for only one reason. So that he too might believe and there’s something faithful and authentic about that. It’s a struggle most of us have probably had at some point in our lives too and a struggle that some may well be going through right now.

What do we want to believe about Jesus’ resurrection? What gets in the way of our believing? What makes it difficult to believe? And I wonder how we are wrestling and struggling with the resurrection of Jesus in our lives?

Many of us want to believe that Jesus’ resurrection offers peace, but then we see wars across the world, families in conflict and relationships broken. We want to believe that Jesus’ resurrection overcomes death, but we still cry for (and feel the loss of) those friends and family who have died. We want to believe that Jesus’ resurrection is real, but we don’t see much difference in our lives this week compared to the week before Easter.

Sometimes it’s really hard to work out how our “belief” fits with what we see and experience day to day. We can quickly and easily get to the same place as Thomas. Unless we see wars cease, conflict resolved, and relationships reconciled, we will not believe. Unless we feel the presence of a loved one we have lost, our tears dry up and our pain goes away, we will not believe. Unless we experience some measurable difference in our  lives, we will not believe.

When it comes down to it, we’re not really all that different from Thomas.

We each live with at least one “unless clause.” Unless I see, unless I touch, unless I feel, unless I experience, I will not believe. It reveals our struggle with our desire to believe, but it also reveals some  misunderstanding about faith and the resurrection.

Far too often we condition the resurrection not on the power of God, but on the sufficiency of the evidence. Each condition becomes just another lock on the door. It won’t keep Jesus out, but it will keep us trapped inside and it won’t be long before our house becomes our tomb.

The resurrection of Christ does not appear meet the conditions we demand. But it does empower and enable us to meet those conditions. It lets us unlock the doors and step outside even when we don’t know what is on the other side.

The resurrection does not end wars, but it does reveal the sanctity and dignity of life, so that we might speak and work for justice, freedom, and peace. It is the compassion behind the tears we weep and the prayers we offer for all who are victims of hunger, fear, injustice, and oppression.

The resurrection does not magically fix relationships, but it is the energy and perseverance behind our work to reconcile relationships and resolve conflict. It is the power by which we love our neighbour as ourselves.

The resurrection does not eliminate our pain or tears over the death of a loved one, but it does give us the strength to meet the days to come with steadfastness and patience; not sorrowing as those without hope, but in thankful remembrance of God’s great goodness, and in the joyful expectation of eternal life with those we love.

The resurrection does not offer measurable results, productivity, or efficiency, but it does guarantee our life and our future with God.

Resurrection is not an idea to be grasped or a case to be proved. It is a life to be lived. Every time we live in the power of the resurrection, we engage with the world, one another, and our own lives in a new way. We move from saying, “Unless I see…,” to saying, “My Lord and my God.”

I don’t know if Thomas actually put his finger in the mark of the nails or his hand in Jesus’ side. Saint John doesn’t tell us. It doesn’t really matter what Thomas did. That’s not the issue. This story isn’t about Thomas. It’s about us. How will you live? What will you do? Do you truly believe in the resurrection of Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ?

May almighty God bless you and those you hold dear during this coming week.

Fr Simon

ANSWERS TO THE CATCH PHRASE QUESTIONS

  1. Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz
  2. Bart Simpson
  3. Tweetie Pie
  4. Larry Grayson
  5. Arnold Schwarzenegger as ‘The Terminator’
  6. Bruce Forsythe
  7. Mary, the mother of Jesus
  8. Old Simeon
  9. God

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