A sermon preached
Jn 20:29 Jesus said to
[Thomas] ‘Because you have seen me you have believed.
Happy are they who have not seen and yet have believed’
Thomas was not there when Jesus first appears to the
they tell him what they saw, and doubtless painted a vivid picture in words -
but Thomas says he won’t believe them
unless he can see Jesus in the flesh and actually touch the wounds in his body.
Jesus appears and invites Thomas to do just that –to see and to touch.
We don’t know whether Thomas did actually touch the
many painters have portrayed the scene as he did just this.
The Bible doesn’t say one way or another.
What the Bible does tell us is that (either way) Thomas believes,
and Jesus commends his belief –
but Jesus goes on to say how much better still is it for those
who do not see but still believe.
This word of Jesus may be in part addressed to
but it is also a word spoken in part over Thomas’ head
and directed down through time exploding in the lives of every generation.
So we hear the word of the Lord to us saying in our
You do not see the Risen Lord in the flesh –
you cannot see and feel the wounds –
but you in this Church can be as blessed as St Thomas himself –
for you have the Gospel, the words of the disciples –
oh that though you have not literally seen and touched me,
you might hear their word and believe!!
We are not Dr Who, we are not Timelords
we cannot transport ourselves back
to the Garden Tomb or the Upper Room or the Emmaus Road -
but nonetheless as Christians through faith
we can spiritually touch and know the Lord.
We can’t physically touch or see his risen body,
but with the eyes of faith we can find how
“Happy are they who have not seen but have believed.”
And that is what our faith offers us –
I read one of the many pieces written about John Paul
II yesterday –
Speaking of the Pope a day or so before he died, it simply said
“in his agony he is already touching the hand of the Lord”
And I thought of Thomas -
and the Holy Father,
and of you and me, and I thought,
Oh that we all, though some of us are 2000 years from the Upper Room,
might through faith still feel the touch
But let me turn for a moment to our OT lesson -
Moses stands on Mount Pisgah on the edge of the desert and he sees the Jordan –
and beyond it, the Promised Land, flowing with milk and honey –
symbol of God’s coming Kingdom.
is April 3. On 3 April 1968 in
Martin Luther King delivered what was to be the last speech of his earthly life -
I don’t know if he knew he was not much longer for this world,
but he knew his life was threatened:
And I think of Moses -
and Martin Luther King,
and of you and me, and I think,
Oh that we all, though some of us be over 3000 years away from the Exodus journeyings,
might through the eyes of faith
still be granted a vision of the Promised Land and God’s glorious future Kingdom.
The vision of the Promised Land can take many forms -
Often in Christian spirituality it stands for God’s Kingdom beyond death:
This week’s news has been full of different kinds of
the Pope’s death, Terri Schiavo’s much argued death in a US hospital.
And behind the news
so many thousands and tens of thousands of unreported grievings and losses.
And really whether a death is in headlines or not,
the key thing for us to know is that in the power of the Easter resurrection,
death is not an end but a new beginning –
for the famous and forgotten alike.
I tread the verge of Jordan
bid my anxious fears subside
Death of death and hell’s destruction,
Land me safe on Canaan’s side…..
Let us see with eyes of faith – albeit it through a
God’s coming Kingdom,
and we need not fear or grieve for those who die.
In Christian spirituality the Promised Land
often stands for the Kingdom of Heaven after death –
something we can only see with spiritual vision.
But of course is has another symbolic meaning –
God’s coming Kingdom on earth -
“Thy Kingdom come on earth as in heaven”
And actually when Martin Luther King spoke this day 37
and talked of seeing the promised Land –
for al his faith and trust in life after death –
he wasn’t actually speaking of heaven above –
but God’s rule on earth –
he's allowed me to go up to the mountain.
And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land.
I may not get there with you.
[he is speaking to his fellow civil rights activists]
But I want you to know tonight,
that we, as a people will get to the promised land.
And I'm happy, tonight.
I'm not worried about anything.
I'm not fearing any [man].
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord."
Martin Luther King is talking of a vision of a
living in peace and harmony in God’s name-
the result of the struggle for social justice
which he may not live to see on this earth….
Indeed later in the speech he make
it very clear
that he talking about and looking forward to justice on earth.
all right to talk about "long white robes over yonder,"
in all of its symbolism.
But ultimately people want some suits and dresses and shoes to wear down here.
It's all right to talk about "streets flowing with milk and honey,"
but God has commanded us to be concerned about the slums down here,
and his children who can't eat three square meals a day.
It's all right to talk about the new Jerusalem,
but one day, God's preachers must talk about the New York,
the new Atlanta, the new Philadelphia, the new Los Angeles, the new Memphis, Tennessee.
This is what we have to do.
Has God touched you?
Has he given you the eyes of faith to see the Risen Lord?
Has he given you a vision of the coming Kingdom on earth below
and in heaven above??
The Risen Lord sent the disciples out to make
disciples of all nations –
and it is said that Thomas met a martyr’s death in South India far far from home.
Oh that we might one of that apostolic number
Oh that we might see the Lord,
Oh that we might see his Kingdom yet to be.
O that we might give our lives in his service.
O that at the end of life’s journey
we might at last see not the dim glimmerings of the mirror of faith,
but see rather the glory of the coming of the Lord,
and know ourselves home indeed.