Whilst talking with some of our youth the other day they were saying that they would like to get to know more about the different members of the church, so they can get to know us all a little better. I have been here at St Margaret’s for just over 9 months so I thought that I would give you a little quiz to see just how much you have, or possibly haven’t, learnt about me whilst I’ve been here. I can tell that you are starting to wish you had read my articles in the newsletters a little more closely and listened just a bit more attentively to some of my sermon illustrations now!
So all I want you to do is to put your hand up if you think that something I tell you is true, and keep your hand down if you think it is false.
Ok, question number 1. I’d better start with something simple. Who believes that I have 2 brothers and a sister? (True)
Question 2, a little harder, who believes my favourite colour is yellow?
(False, you are going to have to concentrate now, they aren’t all going to be true!)
Who believes I used to be a computer programmer and wrote and tested software for power stations and aeroplanes? (True)
Who believes that when I was a teenager I was the music director of a national dance squad and have performed across the world? (True)
Who believes that I have driven a car that my husband and I built in our back garden across Australia and it was powered only by the sun? (True)
Who believes that I took part in the World Field Archery Championships in Australia? (True)
And so we come to Thomas in our Gospel reading, Thomas known through Church tradition as the doubter. Thomas who has just been told a pretty wild claim by his friends that his previously dead friend Jesus has come back to life, Thomas who probably quite like some of you with my stories was giving out quite a sceptical face. The bible passage doesn’t tell us where Thomas was, when the other disciples first saw Jesus. The other disciples were scared and frightened hiding behind a locked door. But not Thomas. Thomas who only a few days before had encouraged his friends to go to Judea ‘to die with Jesus’. Thomas who shortly after Jesus death was still bold enough to be out in Jerusalem, bold enough to still be ready to die. Yet whilst he was out, Jesus appeared to his friends, his cowardly friends hiding away.
How hurt Thomas must have felt if his friends were telling the truth about seeing Jesus. I’m sure too that as well as not daring to believe his friends’ wild outrageous story he must have been doubting himself. Doubting that this own boldness had been the right thing to do. Doubting his friendship with Jesus as his friend had left him out.
And it takes another 8 days before his mind is put to rest. 8 days of questioning himself, his motives, his friendship. 8 long days where his friend Jesus appears to have abandoned him, whilst the other disciples are excitedly recalling and retelling their experience.
And yet, during this time, Thomas did not walk away. He had enough faith to continue to meet, stay and wait with his friends, to hope, to trust, that Jesus would come back. That Jesus would give him the gift of the Holy Spirit too.
So when Jesus did appear to Thomas and greets him with the words “Shalom, peace be with you”, it must have meant so much more to Thomas than just a peace required because he was scared at seeing a previously dead man, but a peace from the inner turmoil he must have been experiencing those previous days.
How often do we need to hear those words ourselves “Peace be with you”. I know we share these words each week in our service, but really hear them, hear them deep within our soul. Times when we may be struggling in our faith. Our faith in God, our faith in humanity, our faith in ourselves. Times when we doubt that God is with us, times when we doubt that he loves and cares for us. Times when not just our own, but our families and friends suffering makes the presence of Christ seem so far away.
Yet in these times of doubt as we also trust, and we become aware of Christ’s presence among us again, breathing his peace and his Spirit into our lives, our faith deepens. Doubt and faith are not opposites but work together hand in hand.
I am sure there will be, in fact I hope that there will be, times during each of your own journey of faith that you doubt, doubt yourself, doubt that God loves not just everybody but loves you as an individual, possibly even doubt the existence of God, because through the ensuing questioning, meeting and debating with your church family, your faith will become stronger. Because as you learn that if you continue to trust in Christ even in times of doubt, then you will become the people of faith that God desires.