Toorak Uniting Church

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"Coping with Change"

John 20: 19 – 31
Rev. Ian Brown
7 April 2002

I wonder if for us, the character of Thomas is more alive and akin to our experience than most others in the Bible.

He was late, or tied up with some other engagement and he missed some event at church - at what would become church at least.

Thomas has trouble believing, he has trouble coping with changing his mindset to a new reality - their dead friend was meant to be alive again and Thomas, he has trouble coping with the whole concept. This was major change and Thomas knew it!!

Thomas was not there when the risen Christ met the disciples in the upper room. Isn’t it awful to miss out!

No matter how enthusiastic the recounting of the story was - he had missed the all important event, missed Jesus, missed rebirth of hope. He was on the outer and he knew it!! Poor Thomas!

But we shouldn’t expect him to just believe on the word of his friends.

The reality is, if we are honest about it, that all of us are doubters in some shape or form at least some of the time, though to differing degrees and for different reasons.

There are those of us who doubt the faith because so many wrong things are done by people in the name of religion. When something drastic happens we are quick to blame religious enthusiasts who may be involved. The actions of people of faith, even in the name of faith, have given faith a bad name.

And then our experience of events such as the horrific Middle East situation with it's religious divisions makes many ask how can God - any God allow this suffering?

And there are people who doubt that there is a God, because of all the tragedy and unfairness in the world. "How can God let disaster kill the innocent?"

Then there are those who doubt the reality of anything that can't be touched, prodded, or analysed in a laboratory.

Then there are those more advanced doubters who doubt everything, knocking out one belief after another in a process of searching for some solid grain of truth or certainty.

And there are mature doubters who have few certainties, but many open questions that are lived with, unresolved.

For some of us the Easter message of resurrection and new life belongs with these open questions. We can be, and often are, like Thomas, following Jesus, seized by his Spirit and yet standing perplexed and puzzled before the Easter stories.

Easter reminds us that the courage to live is often crucified - but the miracle of new life and the finding of new hope keeps on happening. Our Thomas needed something of that miracle in himself!

Thomas found that he needed to trust in God's creative power. Trust that the power of the one who created the world out of nothing could enter human life, - in fact as Thomas in the gospel experienced, that power could enter even through locked doors when Jesus comes to a doubter, bringing his peace to Thomas just as much as to the believers, he comes to them despite their fears and uncertainties, coming to help bring change.

He comes to us too, when he is not expected, when our defenses are up, Jesus has a way of getting around our guard and he comes, did you notice in the story? not to chastise or admonish the disciples for their lack of faith and fear - Jesus comes to this frightened little group of believers and doubters, locked away in a room together, to give them his peace - to breath his spirit on them and he calls them to continue his own ministry.

That is, to go with the message that the power of Easter faith is able to go on rolling away the stone of anxiety about death and meaninglessness and other debilitating doubts, that change is possible and real, that there can be a new way of being.

The power of Easter is addressed by Thomas who has come to believe when he says to Jesus; "My Lord and my God."

John tells us that his entire purpose for writing the gospel is "so that readers may believe and have the life of Jesus in them".

Here, after Easter, John tells us the story of one who will not believe even when told by eye witnesses, he doubts when he shouldn't have, but the story of the doubter ends with the greatest confession of the gospel from the mouth of the same doubter - that Jesus is God - God come to give us his life, to breath on you and me, even on the worst of doubters, saying "blessed are those who have not seen, yet have believed".

And may the peace of God which passes all our understanding and our doubts, keep our hearts and minds in Jesus Christ our risen Lord,

Amen.

© Rev. Ian Brown, 2002


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