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Do you sometimes have doubts?

April 6, 2013

Do you sometimes have doubts? Honestly, do you sometimes wonder? … Am I wrong? Do you? Then John chapter 20 is for you. Here Thomas, who was one of the 12, was not there when Jesus came to the other apostles. Thomas didn’t see Jesus so he refused to believe the others. It just couldn’t be true. The others must have been having him on: Laughing at gullible Thomas. So Thomas didn’t believe.

 It seems strange to us. Then we know the rest of the story. Thomas was grief stricken and in shock from all that had happened to Jesus and the mission that they had all shared with Jesus. Thomas, like the others had given up everything to follow Jesus but all their hopes and dreams had died with Jesus on the Cross. Thomas had let himself believe the impossible once, and that hope had been brutally ripped away. Thomas was not going to make the same mistake twice. Now wasn’t the time for fanciful stories. No, now was the time for slipping quietly away and maybe, just maybe, he and the other followers of Jesus could escape from Jerusalem with their lives.

 I have a lot of sympathy for Thomas. He, like Peter, is shown to be human with human weaknesses. Peter denied Jesus, the other disciples ran away, and now Thomas doubts the resurrection of Jesus. These stories give me hope. Hope for myself, because I know myself to be far from a perfect disciple of Jesus. Hope also for most of the people that I meet, those who try but fail: Those who believe but also doubt.

 The story of Thomas, allows me to be honest with God about my doubts. I do not have to pretend. Indeed, it is crucial that I am honest about these things because it is only when I am honest that Jesus can sort me out. When I bring my honest doubts and my weaknesses to Jesus, then he can cure them, just as he cured Thomas’ doubt. Thomas believed and later died willingly for that belief.

 It is like a story told by the late Jesuit Priest, Anthony de Mello in his book The Song of the Bird:

 A preacher put this question to a class of children: “If all good people were white and all bad people were black, what colour would you be?”

 Little Mary Jane repled, “I’d be streaky!”

I am streaky, you are streaky, Thomas, Peter, and the other disciples were all streaky. That is how I am, because that is how God made me. I might want to be something else, but that isn’t God’s plan for me; at least not yet. Perhaps I’m streaky so that God’s wisdom and power can be all the more obvious through my weakness. I am not the important one, God is.

 At a prayer meeting last week I had a picture. In this picture I was nailed to a cross like Jesus and so were lots of others. Then a hand came to help me off. I went to take the hand and found that my hand came away from the nails as I did. I was lifted off the cross, well most of me was. All that was good, all that was holy in me, came off the cross; this part of me looked bright and red like living flame in the picture. All the rest looked black and oily, and that stayed nailed down to the cross. All the evil, cruelty and sickness that is in me was firmly nailed to that cross forever, but I had a chance of holiness, and all people have a chance of holiness.

 I am streaky, good and evil all mixed up in one human body and soul. But through the resurrection I have the hope of being more good, less evil. Indeed, I have the ultimate hope of being made into the perfect Nigel Tuffnell that was in the mind of God before I was born. It’s quite a thought.

 This picture, was a vision of hope. Hope for me, for the churches here, for the people and hope for the town itself and the villages around it. Hope of a holy future, where goodness can flourish. I need to pray a lot more about this, I ask you to do the same. But it may well be that if I, and the people here, can get over our doubt then God will do great things here.

 I have this picture of a better future, I have this hope, but I am still streaky. So, I pray that Jesus will place my fingers onto the wounds and place my hand in his side, so that I can believe in his promise. I pray that God’s Spirit will work in my weakness. You are streaky and I pray that the Spirit will work in your weakness too. When he does just think what our future will be together!

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