Wednesday, 12 May 2021

Future is bright if we stick together

EASTERTIDE is always one of my favourite times of year: the sense that winter has lost its grip in the face of the gathering strength of spring fits perfectly with the triumph of love over death that we celebrate in church.

This year there is an added poignancy, because there is a sort of spring taking place within human society, as we reconnect with one another, and social and economic life returns to our communities.

There is, for that matter, a spring taking place within the life of the church, with numbers at our services beginning to recover, and such joyful things as baptisms and weddings beginning to make a welcome return.

The several resurrection appearances of Jesus which we find in the gospels are each of them fascinating in their own way. The moving story of the encounter between Jesus and St Mary Magdalene in the garden, in which she mistakes Him for the gardener, gets me every year but, on this occasion, it is the story of St Thomas that I should like to write about.

St Thomas has become known as “doubting Thomas”. He happens not to be present when the Risen Christ first appears to the disciples in the Gospel according to St John, and so he does not believe the others when they tell him what has happened.

He is quite adamant about it: “Unless I see the mark of the nails in His hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in His side, I will not believe.”

It is worth noting the response of the other disciples to Thomas. They can’t have appreciated his attitude, and they can’t have got much out of his company at this point. No doubt they found him negative, a bit of a downer. But they stick with him nonetheless.

They could have told him to shut up, they could have thrown him out. They could have said “take your doubts and your negativity somewhere else”. But they didn’t. He continues to be welcome among their number.

In time, once Jesus has appeared to them again, Thomas’ doubts turn into faith and not only Thomas but all of the disciples are drawn into a deeper recognition of the light and love and truth that is found in Him.

This, I think, has implications for us as we experience a sort of social resurrection this spring. How do we respond to dissent? How do we respond to doubters, to critics, to those who raise uncomfortable issues? Do we allow people to share their doubts, their fears, their concerns?

We might find such things rather a bore at the moment as we are beginning to enjoy the spring sunshine and the simple pleasure of a pint of ale in a beer garden. But if we were to try to shut such people up, if we were to try to cast aside those who tell us things we do not want to hear, I wonder what we would miss?

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