I’m sure many of you - like me, have close relatives or friends who do not believe in God. Religion may be a topic on which you have lively debates. But it might also be something you’ve learned not to discuss.
When I think about what faith means, I understand how they feel. It is a difficult concept isn’t it? That someone could come back to life after dying.
I’d like to share something of my own journey to faith with you.
When I went to college to train for ordination, having been out of education for over 20 years, the first essay question I had to answer was “Convince Richard Dawkins that belief in God is different from belief in Thomas the Tank Engine”
It was the most mind bogglingly frustrating essay ever and in my family, that essay became legendary!
For a whole month TTTE was all I could think about, to the extent that I was threatened with a Thomas the Tank Engine toy for Christmas.
I knew that believing a toy was real, was nothing like believing in God but finding the right 2000 words to say that was so difficult!
Well today we are thinking about another Thomas, Thos the disciple. Like Richard Dawkins, another doubter. Poor Thomas, he gets such a bad press, but I like him, probably because he always seems to ask the questions I’d want to ask myself!
Like at the last supper, it was Thomas who asked how could they possibly know the way to where Jesus was going if they didn’t know where that was?
And in today’s reading, Thomas demands that if he is to believe Jesus is risen from the dead, he has to touch his wounds.
It reminds me of how one of my daughters, when she was about 3 yrs old, wanted to know what the glowing light bulb in her bedside lamp felt like – so she touched it and to her cost she found out!
Thomas needs to touch. Touch the wounds. Only then then will he truly believe. Once he has felt the wounded hands, he cries My Master! My God! Jesus makes it clear to Thomas though that proof was a privilege not a right.
This passage in John’s gospel is said to be the equivalent of the day of Pentecost in Acts chapter 2. Whereas in Acts the Holy Spirit comes in wind and tongues of fire, here in John, the HS comes when Jesus breathes over the disciples. It’s funny how that image takes on new significance in these times of covid!
When Jesus breathes the HS upon them, they are empowered to be his body on earth, to take the gospel to the whole world.
And you can see the results in the reading from Acts ch 4. The new Christian community lived as one big family, sharing everything and ensuring no one went without. What a pity we find it so hard to live out that model in the world today.
Faith requires more than imagination, it is a two-way relationship with God that gives us a purpose in life, that sustains and inspires us to become better people, living our lives for the benefit of others and sometimes paying a costly price. Tradition has it that Thomas travelled to India where he established many churches, and was eventually martyred.
I really identify with this description of Jesus breathing the HS upon the disciples. After my confirmation (at the age of 37) I felt God’s presence in and around me for days afterwards, like the Holy Spirit was breathing through me, and with every breath I was breathing out God’s love.
My life changed dramatically, although there was nothing particularly wrong with my life before, it was like I had been living life in black and white. Now I had stepped out of a dark and enclosed box, into a vibrant multi-coloured world. So much so that rather than telling people I went to church I was able to say I am a Christian. I was in love with Jesus, and I wanted to commit my life to him.
This Easter, ask yourself, are you a church-goer or a disciple? Do you have any questions you’re dying to ask? If you’re not sure, pray for Jesus to reveal his wounds to you, to breathe the HS upon you and roll away the stones in your life so that you can discover the glorious light and love he has for you. And then take courage from Thomas and share your story with your loved ones. Jesus is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
- if you could time travel and be physically present at any event in the Bible in order to strengthen your faith which one would you choose?
- Where are you in that locked room when Thomas touches the wounds on Jesus’ hands?
- If you haven’t already, identify five people – close friends or family members – who are not Christians and pray for them to be filled with faith.