|Pen and Ink Reflections||
What is God’s work on earth and how do we participate in it? These seem to me questions that arise from our reading today - a reading that begins with Jesus appearance to his disciples, and ends with Him sending them out as witnesses to the work of repentance and forgiveness that is to be proclaimed to all nations...
If I were to ask 100 people to give me a nickname or adjective for the disciple Thomas, what do you think would be the most popular reply? I suspect it would be ‘Doubting’, don’t you? That is a shame. For there is much more to Thomas than an element of doubt. Ask any Indian Christian for example. They will tell you that Thomas was the great apostle of the ancient East, and that Indian Christianity traces its origins to him. In the very passage we have just read, we also heard Thomas confess Jesus Christ as ‘My Lord and My God’. What a powerful statement of faith! Historically many Christians have paid a great deal of attention to St Peter for saying something similar. Yet Thomas has been largely passed over. Makes you think, doesn’t it? I mean we don't go on talking about Betraying Peter do we? We might just as well do so. For Peter is manifestly more of a betrayer than Thomas is an iron-clad doubter. The fact is that Thomas is much much more than a doubter. You could even call him Affirming Thomas for that theological statement about Jesus as the Christ. However, I’d like to call Thomas something else altogether. Reflecting on today’s reading from John chapter 20, I’m inclined however to call him Bodily Thomas, or, maybe, as the Welsh might call him, Thomas the Body. For that name points us to some very important aspects of the Resurrection of Jesus…
I want to talk about being locked shut and about being breathed open. And I want to explore what it might mean, as Jackie will do today (as she comes to baptism as an adult), to begin again.
‘The doors of the house where the disciples met were locked for fear of the Jews’. Those early disciples were a pretty terrified bunch. Even as the possibility that Jesus could be alive was dawning on them, they remained uncertain, afraid of being arrested and killed. It seems to me likely that they met secretly for a long time. The texts of the New Testament compress what was probably a lengthy process, into the shorter units of symbolic time. But whether these things happened over a few hours and days, or many years hardly matters. What matters is that a change occurred and a new beginning became possible...
Today is April Fool’s day, and there can be no better day for foolery and laughter than Easter Day. For there is a tradition of laughter and joke telling on Easter Day that began hundreds of years ago. The story goes that a monk in Bavaria was pondering the solemn events of Good Friday and the earth shattering events of Easter Day and suddenly he had a new insight, and he began to laugh. Once he started laughing he couldn’t stop; he laughed and laughed and laughed. His hearty laughter startled his companions from their solemn contemplation and they looked at him with amazement and disapproval. ‘Don’t you see?’, he cried out, ‘it was a joke! The best joke ever. On Good Friday when Jesus was crucified, the devil thought he had won. But God had the last laugh on Easter Day when he raised Jesus from the dead.’ And the monk began to laugh again, and his fellow monks began to get it, and they laughed and it became known as the Easter laugh, and the tradition of laughing and telling jokes on Easter Day began. So I am hoping that in a little while over morning tea we can share all our best jokes and laugh together.
The laughter echoing through the ages is a tangible witness to the good news of Easter- that Jesus Christ is alive among us; that death does not have the last laugh; that darkness does not conquer light. All the forces that conspired to kill Jesus, the fury, the lovelessness, the betrayal - God makes of them all a laughing stock. God laughs...