The story of Thomas and his doubts is familiar, and we are sure that we know how to read it. We identify with Thomas because we assume the issue is one of belief. And we think that we might be better believers – in spite of the commendation for those who have believed with out having seen – if we could just get some better evidence. Like how we imagine Thomas – we want some good first hand proof.
I want to suggest that to read todays gospel in this way – is to misread it entirely. The issue was not one of belief at all – not in Jesus or the resurrection. At issue in the demand of Thomas is not merely evidence. Look at the incompatibility of his confession with the evidence. For after Jesus shows Thomas his hands and side, he exclaims – My Lord and My God !
Now that is an extraordinary deduction on the basis of the evidence. Resurrection by itself, after all does not prove lordship – remember Lazarus he to was raised from the dead. So Resurrection must be different, of far greater characteristic and consequence, than simply the reanimation of a dead person. The first clue might be he marks of crucifixion that Jesus carries to this day that show that the resurrected Lord is no different from the crucified Christ. And, by our tradition, it is in the crucifixion that we truly see God. In the resurrection we learn that the same Lord – who from his cross forgave our sins, remains with us – even, and most important, in this present age.
Yet, to know that Jesus is Lord does not come from seeing nail holes, for we are only able to see the nail holes in a resurrected Christ for the simple reason that like Thomas, we have, first, learned to follow this Jesus. And because, we have also been trained to know how Jesus wills to be present.
Namely, Jesus is the Lord whose presence provides forgiveness and whose spirit creates a community capable of forgiving one another.
It is the part of today’s Gospel we often overlook in our rush to identify with Thomas – Jesus breathed on them and said to them, Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven. This morning’s Gospel isn’t so much about evidence as it is about forgiveness.
So in effect the schooling that Thomas had to undergo is not unlike the schooling that we must undergo in the face of our modern world. Like Thomas we have been seeking a God of Power – a Lord for the “Hour of Power” – a God that will make the reality of our very human lives – come out right.
But, all we get is a nail cut Lord whose presence and power resides in his suffering, and self giving love for you and for me. A God who is said to be most present to us when we suffer, when weakened by sickness, or emotional turmoil we are brought to our knees and admit our need of God.
Such a presence is easily trivialized, but when accepted it has a power that scares the wits out of us and our world. For the world does not seek or understand forgiveness but only the power to be in control. The world seeks to forgive only those whom it deems worthy. Our crucified Lord, seeks to forgive us all.
It might be true of you and I that we haven’t been looking for a God with the power to forgive, but only for a God with power. We want a God of power and might an almighty judge who will vindicate us from our imagined enemies and petty hurts. But, all we get is a God who calls us to forgive and be forgiven.
This is the message of the Gospel – that we have been forgiven – for the pain we have caused our selves and others. We have been forgiven ….. and here is the really important part…..we have been forgiven so that we might forgive.
. Easter is the clear sign that there is nothing that we can do to alienate us from the Love of God. God would make of you and I and this church a community capable of loving and forgiving one another.
We are , like Thomas, called to a new life. To live in a universe that is not dominated by a God of power, but, a God defined by self giving love, who calls us to the very same freedom – to love one another.
Obviously the ambitions that have driven us, of getting ahead and of being somebody important are undercut. In this new life we are called to live for self giving, not getting. What is more, the threat of death, the only power we human beings seem to know, is not a threat at all because – nonviolent, self giving love – has risen over death. We are not meant to drop out of the world. Just to live in it differently, as citizens of God’s new order. With bemused laughter at ourselves; courtesy and respect for those whom we work and live with. Love for one another in this place and all who will join us. We are called to a lifestyle that reflects the fact that we are forgiven and free.
Thomas called the nail cut and scared Jesus Lord. Can you do the same? Will you do the same? Right now I invite you to think about it. Is Jesus, who comes, not perfect, but with scars for all to see, the ground on which your life is lived. Is being a Christian making a difference in your life? Or if someone asked you to tell them what Jesus meant to you – could you tell them? Do you believe in the Resurrection? Do you believe that Jesus is Lord?
If your answer to any of these is no or just maybe – then perhaps we should change the name on our sign to read “St. Margaret’s Country Club”.
But, on the other hand if your answer is yes, then like Thomas it’s time to stop doubting and get to work – because we have good news to share and a mission to live out.
Thomas asked for proof, he was shown forgiveness – We are called to be a community of reconciliation and healing. Where people can come and be reconciled to God and each other, and were Jesus is present, still wounded from the cross, yet willing and able to heal our wounds through the sacraments of His Church.
Thomas asked for proof, Jesus offered forgiveness – have we the need or the right – to ask for or expect anything more from our risen Lord. Amen.