Is it a mystery to you? Doubting Thomas

Listen along!


Readings: John 20:19-31. Acts 2:14a, 22-32.

Somewhere, in the distance
Hidden, from a view
Suspended in the atmosphere
Waiting, to come through
Sometimes it’s so far away
Sometimes it’s very near
A sound being carried by the wind
Just loud enough to hear
I feel its power within me
Bells ringing in my head
So often I have heard its cry
But forgotten what it said
It’s a mystery, Oh it’s a mystery
I’m still searching for a clue
It’s a mystery to me. Toyah Wilcox

Yes, I am a child of the 80’s and these lyrics came to mind as I thought through the readings for today. Toyah sings about a mystery or as she puts it “the big question mark in history”, and asks “Is it a mystery to you?”
Sometimes music can give us an insight into the unfathomable. Music can touch that part of us where words, knowledge and understanding pale into insignificance. We are lifted to a place beyond our mere intellectual thoughts.
I wonder what thoughts were going through the minds of the disciples as they sat locked up in their room? I am sure they felt bewildered, frightened and now, with their large following reduced to a handful, were alone, fearful of the outside world. They had shut their doors to the threatening world outside. Too scared to venture out and face the cacophony of music from the peoples hostile shouting. This was their reaction to Jesus dying despite being told by Mary and John that they had seen the Lord. The reality of Jesus’ resurrection had still not yet sunk in with any degree of conviction.
However, suddenly, Jesus appears amongst them. He just appeared! He didn’t use the door because it was locked. Neither did he climb in through a window as I guess those were locked too and they were upstairs. Locked doors are no barrier to Jesus as he suddenly appears in the midst of them. A mystery.
We can imagine the disciples standing there, mouths a gape, gasps of unbelief arise silencing the music of groans and cries. And what does Jesus do? He simply says Shalom! Peace be with you. Jesus’ first act is to meet the needs of his disciples, his friends. He seeks to comfort and calm them. Not with the simplistic, sympathetic comforting of there, there, to bring inner calm but with a blessing of deep well-being. A call to learn to live in the promise that God is indeed active and real, bringing all things to God’s own self, and mending the world.
Jesus gives not only words of comfort but also reassures the disciples that is truly himself they see. Not a ghost or a phantom but here, in a transformed body, through showing his wounded hands and side. In fact, Jesus actively invites Thomas to come and touch his wounds! I wonder who amongst us here would dare do such a thing? Yet this is the only way Thomas says he will believe. He needs concrete evidence seen with his own two eyes. We can all be like Thomas sometimes. Desiring to believe but not wanting to believe what we hear but rather to know for ourselves, to see, first hand, the truth. How full of doubting Thomas’ is our society who depend upon their reasoning and intellectual thoughts before determining what is true! In the current climate, where truth can no longer be trusted and designed to deceive hearers, Jesus shows God’s truth with his scars! Jesus then tells Thomas he believes because he has seen but then says Blessed are those you have not seen and yet have come to believe. This is like Jesus looking out from the pages of the Bible, turning to us and speaking to us directly. We are blessed for we have not seen and yet we believe.

So now the disciples are reassured and believe all that Jesus said was going to happen has happened. But Jesus also gives them another gift. The gift of the Holy Spirit. Just as God breathed life into Adam, Jesus breathes the new life of the spirit into the disciples. This new life empowers them to stop being afraid, to stop doubting and begin again to trust in God. They needed to experience and learn this new life before the full outpouring of the spirit at Pentecost which gave them the power for ministry. Just like the disciples we need to give ourselves time to learn what living in the Spirit of God means. The gift of the spirit is the intrusion of God’s future upon each one of us. We live in hope and the future rather than being bound by the limits of the present.
For like the disciples, Jesus meets us at our point of need. We too can lock ourselves away within invisible walls as usually the deep nature of our need is the last thing we want anyone to know. Yet despite all our self-protecting schemes, God knows our needs before we do. The Holy Spirit mysteriously works through and in us enabling us to ask the difficult questions about our needs. What holds us back from those who would discern our needs? What walls prevent us from experiencing a full life in the spirit? Is it that we fear the fast-changing pace of the outside world and fear our church changing because it is our last place of stability? Or can we learn to recognize the ways we are avoiding God, even in the way we live our faithful lives? What changes do we fear that prevent this place from being life giving?
Jesus has already has already come inside our walls. He has past the locked doors. Now is the time to let go of our self-protecting ideas and strategies because when Jesus meets us at our point of need, he sees us as God would have us be. We can trust the wounded one standing before us. We can trust God’s agendas, His purpose, we can trust we will be receivers of the peace bestowed by the spirit, like the disciples. A peace that results in the surprising confession of Thomas that Jesus is our Lord and our God!
With this peace comes healing and wholeness because just as God mends the whole of creation in Christ, Christ mends us too, making the way for our future with him.
However, there are times when we feel spiritually dry and we cannot sense the spirit working within us. Then it is time to turn back to God again and ask again for his spirit. Holy communion is very important to me as it is a time when I can ask to be filled afresh as the mystery of the Spirit given to us continues to nourish us in every sacrament. I find this best summed up in the prayer after communion from the BCP which reads: “Almighty and everliving God, we most heartily thank thee, for that thou dost vouchsafe to feed us, who have duly received these holy mysteries, with the spiritual food of the most precious Body and Blood of thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ.”
The mystery of how we are freed from our fears and our unhealthy desires is not by knowledge or understanding but by flesh – crucified and resurrected flesh of Christ. As Thomas and the disciples saw the wounds of Jesus remain even though he is glorified. The wounds are transformed into signs of forgives, sources of healing, places of compassion and faith-confession. The gospel prevents us from hiding our own wounds, partly because what is hidden may not get healed, and what is not healed cannot be a blessing to others. God continually mends and renews us through the risen and ascended One.
For this, as it says in Peter, we are to rejoice! To revel in the glorious joy of the resurrection that no words can describe. And live in the transforming spirit of God who invites us to step away from our safe, comfortable lives and out into the unknown.


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