This week's readings can be found here John 20 19-end
Reflection - Honest Doubt Meets Greater Love
Judges tell juries that they must weigh all the evidence before reaching their decision. In some cases, it will all boil down to which of two witnesses they think is telling the truth, but the jury must do that impartially and in a reasonable and rational way.
As a member of the legal profession, I have always sympathised with Thomas for his honest doubt and understandable scepticism about the other disciples' account of their meeting the risen Jesus. Wouldn't we have been equally incredulous? Unlike us, who so often take the easy option and simply go with the majority view on a contentious topic, Thomas does not default to popular opinion. He wants to encounter the risen Jesus for himself, so that he can really trust in the truth and meaning of the cross and resurrection, and commit himself to following in Christ's footsteps.
In the intervening week before Christ comes to the disciples again, including Thomas this time, they must surely have talked about Jesus' appearances on Easter Day over and over again, trying to convince Thomas. The other 10, along with Mary Magdalene and the women who had seen Jesus, were unable to persuade him, but their excitement must have been infectious and their desire for Thomas to share it must have been very strong. I am sure that this influenced Thomas. It makes me ask myself whether my excitement about the good news of Easter is equally infectious and whether my desire for my family and friends to know the love of God in Jesus Christ is genuinely strong.
In a very challenging environment of uncertainty and fear during that week, the lives and relationships of those women and the disciples must have changed radically, as their new relationship with God took hold and as what will eventually become the Christian church started to take shape. Thomas must have seen how their encounters with the risen Lord transformed their lives and relationships. Do people see the same in us?
I think we can assume that Thomas himself genuinely wanted to believe that Jesus had indeed risen from the dead. Maybe he echoed the prayer of many of us who have said "Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief." He may have been sceptical, but it was with the healthy scepticism of a mind open to change and searching for truth. Is our scepticism equally healthy?
When Thomas does see the risen Jesus a week later, he does not need to look at the nail marks, or put his finger where the nails had been or his hand into Jesus' side, even though he had previously said this would be essential. His words "My Lord and my God" are spoken with complete conviction.
Despite a judge's directions, how a jury tests the truth is always a less than perfect process. By contrast, the truth of Easter has been tested in the most hostile situations and attested to by the transformed lives and relationships of disciples like Thomas. It is being attested to now in the transformed lives and relationships of you and me, and of all who have met the “greater love (has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends)” alive and at work today. Happy Easter!
A List of Praises by Anne Porter
Give praise with psalms that tell the trees to sing, Give praise with Gospel choirs in storefront churches, Mad with the joy of the Sabbath, Give praise with the babble of infants, who wake with the sun, Give praise with children chanting their skip-rope rhymes, A poetry not in books, a vagrant mischievous poetry living wild on the Streets through generations of children.
Give praise with the sound of the milk-train far away With its mutter of wheels and long-drawn-out sweet whistle As it speeds through the fields of sleep at three in the morning, Give praise with the immense and peaceful sigh Of the wind in the pinewoods, At night give praise with starry silences.
Give praise with the skirling of seagulls And the rattle and flap of sails And gongs of buoys rocked by the sea-swell Out in the shipping-lanes beyond the harbor. Give praise with the humpback whales, Huge in the ocean they sing to one another.
Give praise with the rasp and sizzle of crickets, katydids and cicadas, Give praise with hum of bees, Give praise with the little peepers who live near water. When they fill the marsh with a shimmer of bell-like cries We know that the winter is over.
Give praise with mockingbirds, day’s nightingales. Hour by hour they sing in the crepe myrtle And glossy tulip trees On quiet side streets in southern towns.
Give praise with the rippling speech Of the eider-duck and her ducklings As they paddle their way downstream In the red-gold morning On Restiguche, their cold river, Salmon river, Wilderness river.
Give praise with the whitethroat sparrow. Far, far from the cities, Far even from the towns, With piercing innocence He sings in the spruce-tree tops, Always four notes And four notes only.
Give praise with water, With storms of rain and thunder And the small rains that sparkle as they dry, And the faint floating ocean roar That fills the seaside villages, And the clear brooks that travel down the mountains
And with this poem, a leaf on the vast flood, And with the angels in that other country.
To Pray for
The families of loved ones who take their own lives, may they find peace
Reassurance as we enter the next phase of our Lockdown exit
Our beautiful wildlife who are busy bringing new life into the world
The Royal Family as they mourn the loss of Prince Philip, who passed away today.
God of our lives,
we give thanks for the life of Prince Philip,
for his love of our country,
and for his devotion to duty.
We entrust him now to your love and mercy,
through our Redeemer Jesus Christ. Amen.